Civil War Wiki
Tredegar Iron Works
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark District
Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia, USA, photograph by Alexander Gardener
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Location: Richmond, Virginia
Coordinates: 37°32′8″N 77°26′43″W / 37.53556°N 77.44528°W / 37.53556; -77.44528Coordinates: 37°32′8″N 77°26′43″W / 37.53556°N 77.44528°W / 37.53556; -77.44528
Built/Founded: 1841
Architect: Davis, Reev; et al.
Architectural style(s): No style listed
Governing body: Private
Added to NRHP: July 2, 1971
Designated NHLD: December 22, 1977[2]
NRHP Reference#: 71001048


Tredegar Iron Works is a historic iron foundry in Richmond, Virginia, United States of America. The site is now the main visitor center for NPS Richmond National Battlefield Park and the location of a private museum called The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar.

Founding and management under Davies (1833-1838)[]

The foundry was named in honor of the town of Tredegar, Wales, United Kingdom, where iron works of the same name were constructed in the early 1800s, and which was also the hometown of Rhys Davies, the man originally in charge of constructing the facility. In 1833, a group of Richmond businessmen and industrialists hired Davies, then a young engineer, along with a number of fellow iron workers from the Welsh valley town, to construct the furnaces and rolling mills that later became the Tredegar Iron Works and Belle Isle Iron Works.

Rhys Davies died in Richmond in September 1838 as a result of stab wounds received in a fight with a workman and was buried on Belle Isle in the James River.

Management under Joseph Reid Anderson (1841-Civil War)[]

In 1841, the owners turned management over to a 28-year-old civil engineer named Joseph Reid Anderson who proved to be an able manager. Anderson acquired ownership of the foundry 1848 and was soon doing work for the United States government, and began introducing slave labor to cut production costs — by the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, half of the 900 workers were slaves, including many in skilled positions.[3] The commissioning of 900 miles of railroad track in Virginia, largely financed by the Virginia Board of Public Works between 1846 and 1853, offered a market in steam locomotives and rail stock.

One of those attributed with starting the Tredegar Locomotive Works with John Souther was Zerah Colburn, the well-known locomotive engineer and journalist. By 1860, Anderson's father-in-law Dr. Robert Archer had joined the business and Tredegar became a leading iron producer in the country. The company produced about 70 steam locomotives between 1850 and 1860. From 1852 to 1854, John Souther also managed the locomotive shop at Tredegar. Its locomotive production work is sometimes listed with combinations of the names Anderson, Souther, Delaney, and Pickering.

Prior to the Civil War, industry expanded at the Tredegar site under Anderson's direction to include a new flour mill on land leased to Lewis D. Crenshaw and a stove works on land leased to A.J. Bowers and Asa Snyder.[4] By 1860, Crenshaw and Co. had established the Crenshaw Woolen Mill on adjoining land they owned. This enterprise employed more than 50 people.[5] The Crenshaw Woolen Mill became "the principal source of supply for the [Confederate] Army's requirements of uniform material" during the first half of the Civil War.[6] A May 16, 1863 fire on the Tredegar/Crenshaw site damaged the mill, which was not rebuilt, and Tredegar purchased the land from Crenshaw and Co. by 1863.[7][8][9]

By 1860, the Tredegar Iron Works was the largest of its kind in the South, a fact that played a significant role in the decision to relocate the capital of the Confederacy from Montgomery, Alabama to Richmond in May 1861.[10]Tredegar supplied high-quality munitions to the South during the war. The company also manufactured railroad steam locomotives in the same period.

  • Tredegar Iron Works made the iron plating for the first Confederate ironclad warship, the CSS Virginia which fought in the historic Battle of Hampton Roads in March 1862.
  • Tredegar is also credited with the production of approximately 1,100 artillery pieces during the war which was about half of the South's total domestic production of artillery between the war years of 1861-1865.
  • Tredegar also produced a giant rail-mounted siege cannon during the conflict.

As the war continued with more and more men conscripted into the Confederate armies, Tredegar experienced a lack of skilled laborers. Scarce supplies of metal also hurt the company's manufacturing abilities during the war and as the conflict progressed it was noticed that Tredegar's products were beginning to lose quality as well as quantity. In the summer of 1861, after the beginning of the Civil War, the initial quantity of metal was so scarce that the iron works failed to produce a single piece of artillery for an entire month.

Anderson was a strong supporter of southern secession and became a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army as the American Civil War broke out. He was wounded at Glendale during the Seven Days Battles of the Peninsula Campaign in 1862 and served in the Ordnance Department for the duration of the Civil War.

Tredegar survives the evacuation of Richmond[]

During the evacuation of Richmond by the Confederates on the night of April 2-3, 1865, the retreating troops were under orders to burn many of the munitions dumps and industrial warehouses that would have been valuable to the North. Joseph Anderson, the owner of the Tredegar Iron Works, reportedly paid over 50 armed guards to protect the facility from arsonists. As a result, the Tredegar Iron Works is one of few Civil War-era buildings that survived the burning of Richmond.

At the outset of hostilities, Anderson had wisely secured Tredegar assets overseas for the duration of the Civil War and, therefore, was able to restore his business when the Confederate currency collapsed. He petitioned U.S. President Andrew Johnson for a pardon for himself and Tredegar and was back in business before the end of 1865, regaining full ownership in 1867.

Reconstruction Era[]

By 1873, Tredegar Iron Works was employing 1,200 workers and was a profitable business. The neighborhood of Oregon Hill cropped up as a company town-like development.

When Joseph Anderson died on a vacation in New Hampshire in 1892, he was succeeded by his son Colonel Archer Anderson. The Tredegar company remained in business throughout the first half of the 20th century, and supplied requirements of the armed forces of the United States during World War I and World War II. It was destroyed by fire in 1952.

Post-Industrial uses[]

In the 1990s, the Tredegar Ironworks was host to the short lived "Valentine on the James" extension of the Valentine Richmond History Center. Later, the main visitor center for Richmond National Battlefield Park opened at the Tredegar Ironworks site in June, 2000. The National Park Service visitor center/museum is located in the restored pattern building and offers three floors of exhibits, an interactive map table, a film about the Civil War battles around Richmond, a bookstore, and interpretive NPS rangers on site daily to provide programs and to aid visitors.

The idea of another museum on the site was later realized on Saturday, October 7, 2006,The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar opened to the public. James M. McPherson described the museum as "a truly comprehensive exhibit and education center weaving together Union, Confederate, and African-American threads ... much needed for future generations to understand how the Civil War shaped the nation." The Center contains interactive theaters, plasma-screen maps, and artifacts. The museum's exhibits were put together by a team of historians that included James M. McPherson of Princeton, Bill Cooper of Louisiana State University, John Fleming of the Cincinnati Museum Center, Charles Dew of Williams College, David W. Blight of Yale and Emory Thomas at the University of Georgia.

Lincoln statue[]

In 2000, the former Tredegar Iron Works facility overlooking the James River near downtown Richmond became the site of the main Visitor's Center of the Richmond National Battlefield Park. Sculptor David Frech of Newburgh, N.Y was commissioned by The United States Historical Society of Richmond to commemorate the historic arrival of Abraham Lincoln and his son Thomas Lincoln and their tour of the burnt-out Union captured Richmond Virgina, April 4th, 1865. 10 days before his assassination.

Funds were raised by the Historical society through donations and the selling of miniature versions of the statue as well as bronzed resin copies.[11] The statue, much like the Arthur Ashe Monument, received a wide array of criticism for its placement. Traditionally reserved for statues of key figures of the Confederacy protests were held at the unveiling April 5th, 2003 namely by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Robert H. Kline, chairman of the historical society, the Richmond-based nonprofit company that commissioned the statue stated that the statue was for the purpose of reconciliation "He came on a mission of peace and reconciliation and I think the statue will serve that purpose for a very long time"[12]

Opponents of the statue claim that the statue commemorates Lincoln's arrival into Richmond a proud victor. Bragdon Bowling, Virginia division commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans was among the speakers protesting the statues unveiling stating that it represented "a slap in the face of a lot of brave men and women who went through four years of unbelievable hell fighting an invasion of Virginia led by President Lincoln."[13] and that "As a Southerner, I'm offended. You wouldn't put a statue of Winston Churchill in downtown Berlin, would you? What's next, a statue of Sherman in Atlanta?".[14] Other notable protesters include Fred Tayor, president of the Heritage Preservation Association; and Elliott Germain, chairman Virginia League of the South.

Dignitaries at the installation ceremony included Douglas Wilder, former Mayor and Lt. Governor Tim Kaine, Mayor Rudy McCollum, and former governor Gerald L. Baliles.

The statue is made of a Bronze caste depicting Lincoln and his son Tad on a bench with Lincolns arm over his sons. The bench was deliberately made long enough so that viewers may sit next to either statue on the bench to take photographs. The words '- To Bind Up The Nation's Wounds -' are carved in to granite behind them.[15]


In Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 alternate history series, in which the South wins the Civil War, the Confederate Army's standard rifle is called the Tredegar, produced by what is by then called the Tredegar Steel Works.


  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15. 
  2. "Tredegar Iron Works". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-27. 
  3. Bumgardner, Sarah (November 29, 1995). "Tredegar Iron Works: A Synecdoche for Industrialized Antebellum Richmond". Antebellum Richmond. 
  4. "A Guide to the Tredegar Iron Works Records, 1801-1957"
  5. Richmond Dispatch, 10/31/1860, p. 1, c. 6.
  6. "Captain William G[raves] Crenshaw, C.S.A., The War Years," William G. Crenshaw III, Virginia State Library, Richmond, VA, Archives #25261.
  7. Richmond Dispatch, Saturday Morning, 5/16/1863, p. 1.
  8. Richmond Examiner, 7/4/1863.
  9. Richmond Sentinel, 12/17/1863, p. 1, c. 2.
  10. "Richmond During the Civil War". Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Retrieved 2010-01-23. 

External links[]

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