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Josiah Gorgas

Josiah Gorgas (July 1, 1818 – May 15, 1883) was one of the few Northern-born Confederate generals in the American Civil War. As chief of ordnance, he managed to keep the Confederate armies supplied with weapons and ammunition, despite the Union blockade and even though the South had hardly any munitions industry before the war began. He kept diaries during the Civil War which are now a popular subject of study for historians.

Early life[]

Josiah Gorgas was born in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. He was graduated from West Point in 1841 and was assigned to the Ordnance Department. He served in the Mexican-American War and was promoted to captain in 1855. In 1853, he married Amelia Gayle, daughter of former Alabama governor John Gayle. Their first son, William Crawford Gorgas, was born in 1854. William would later become Surgeon General of the U.S. Army. Gorgas served in arsenals in different parts of the country before the Civil War broke out. He was commanding the Frankford Arsenal when he resigned from the United States Army.

Civil War[]

He followed his wife into secession, moved to Richmond and became chief of ordnance for the Confederacy. In this capacity, he worked to create an armaments industry almost from scratch. The South had no foundry except the Tredegar Iron Works. There were no rifle works except small arsenals in Richmond, and Fayetteville, North Carolina, plus the captured machines from the Union armory in Harpers Ferry. Gorgas established armories and foundries, found alternative sources for saltpeter, and created a huge gunpowder mill at Augusta, Georgia. Thanks to his efforts, the Southern armies never lacked weapons, though they were short on almost everything else. On November 10, 1864, Gorgas was promoted to brigadier general.


After the war, Gorgas accepted a position at the newly established University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. In 1878, he was elected president of the University of Alabama and moved to the house that is still known as Gorgas House. In 1883, he died, after which his wife became the university's librarian. The main university library is named the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library.

See also[]


  • Frank E. Vandiver, ed., The Civil War Diary of General Josiah Gorgas (University of Alabama, 1947)
  • Frank E. Vandiver, Ploughshares into Swords: Josiah Gorgas and Confederate Ordnance (Austin, Texas, 1952)
  • McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (1988)
  • Wiggins, Sarah Woolfolk, ed., The Journals of Josiah Gorgas 1857-1878 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1995)

External links[]

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