Gun Manufacturing During the Civil War

By: Richard D. Steuart

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: January 23, 2020

At the beginning of the Civil War there was a increasing scarcity of guns. Governor Edward Clark adopted a policy of keeping the remaining state-owned weapons within the confines of Texas. Clark also sent agents into Mexico, Cuba, and Europe in a near fruitless effort to make contracts to purchase foreign guns. With only a trickle of guns coming in from the outside, weapons and ammunition were in critically short supply. The state encouraged the establishment of local arms and powder plants. According to a report read in the Confederate Congress on August 18, 1863, Texas had four gun factories making 800 arms a month, two powder mills, and a percussion cap factory. The gun factories were those of Billup and Hassell at Plentitude, Whitescarver and Campbell at Rusk, N. B. Tanner at Bastrop, and Short and Biscoe at Tyler. Powder mills were established at Marshall and Waxahachie. Cap factories were established at Austin, Houston, and Fredericksburg. A cartridge factory was set up in the old land office building in Austin. Arms were repaired at Houston, San Antonio, and Bonham. Cannon were cast at the state foundry at Austin and by Ebenezar B. Nichols at Galveston. When Little Rock, Arkansas, was evacuated in September 1863, the arsenal was removed to Arkadelphia, and in October 1863 the Little Rock and Arkadelphia machinery was removed to Tyler, Texas, as headquarters of the Trans-Mississippi Department. The Tyler gun plant was bought by the Confederate government for $100,000, and a Colonel Hill was placed in charge to make rifles of both the Enfield and Austrian models. Some 200 persons were employed. Near the close of the war Gen. Joseph O. Shelby carried 2,500 Tyler rifles with him on his retreat into Mexico. Texas had been the proving ground for the Colt revolver, and the state undertook to manufacture that popular weapon. Tucker, Sherrod, and Company of Lancaster was given a contract to make revolvers on the Colt dragoon model, and 1,464 were delivered up to September 30, 1863. The superintendent of this factory was John M. Crockett, mayor of Dallas and lieutenant-governor. One other pistol factory in Texas was that of Dance Brothers and Park. George and William Dance had started at Old Columbia what is said to have been the first machine shop in Texas, and during the war the plant made both army and navy revolvers on the Colt model. When the federals captured Old Columbia and burned the pistol factory, the firm had time to remove the pistol-making machinery to Anderson, where it was set up again. See also CIVIL WAR INDUSTRY.

Allan C. Ashcraft, Texas in the Civil War: A Resume History (Austin: Texas Civil War Centennial Commission, 1962). John N. Edwards, Shelby and His Men, or the War in the West (Kansas City: Hudson-Kimberly, 1897). David Y. Thomas, Arkansas in War and Reconstruction (Little Rock: United Daughters of the Confederacy, 1926).

Time Periods:

  • Civil War

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Richard D. Steuart, “Gun Manufacturing During the Civil War,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 21, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 23, 2020

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