ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Confederate Powder Works, Georgia
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Confederate Powder Works, Georgia
Confederate Powder Works
The brick chimney of the Confederate Powder Works
complex in Augusta is the last standing permanent
structure built by the Confederate government.
Confederate Powder Works
The tall chimney at left is the
last surviving part of the
Confederate Powder Works
complex in Augusta, Georgia.
Powder Works Chimney
The historic chimney stands
153 feet tall and was saved
as a monument when the rest
of the powder works was
demolished in 1872.
Confederate Powder Works Chimney - Augusta, Georgia
Gunpowder for the Confederacy
Copyright 2012 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
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Civil War Sites in Georgia
Confederate Powder Works
The marble tablet attached to
the side of the chimney was
placed when it was saved at
the request of its builder, Gen.
George Washington Rains.
Sibley Mill in Augusta
The Sibley Mill complex,
which stands by the chimney,
was built using bricks from
the original Confederate
complex. It was built in 1880 -
1882.
The last standing permanent structure built
by the Confederacy, the towering chimney of
the Confederate Powder Works is a noted
landmark of Augusta, Georgia.

When the Civil War erupted between North
and South in 1861, many on both sides
hoped for a quick end to the conflict. That
failed to happen, however, and both the U.S.
and Confederate governments moved to
prepare for a long war.

For the South, which had limited capability for
manufacturing, the immediate necessity was
to create a wartime military industrial
complex that could supply its armies in the
field with ammunition, weapons, uniforms,
food, medicine and other necessities.

Without gunpowder, the Confederacy could
not wage war. The development of a stable
source of powder for the Southern armies
became a major priority for the still forming
government and Richmond. With its ready
source of power thanks to the Augusta Canal
and position astride key railroad links, the
Georgia city of Augusta became an obvious
location for the manufacture of gunpowder.

The task of making the Confederate Powder
Works a reality was assigned to Colonel
George Washington Rains by President
Jefferson Davis. He was the man who picked
the site in Augusta and he appointed Major
Charles Shaler Smith as architect for the
project.

Construction of the complex began in 1862
and when finished it included 26 buildings
and stretched for two miles along the
Augusta Canal. In an early example of the
assembly line type of manufacturing later
used by Henry Ford, the Powder Works
brought raw material in one end and shipped
finished gunpowder out the other.

The Confederate Powder Works was the only
permanent structure ever commissioned by
the government of the Confederate States of
America. Its main refinery building reminded
many of the British House of Parliament. The
project was wildly successful. From the time
of its completion until the end of the Civil War,
the facility produced 2,750,000 pounds of
gunpowder.

The Confederate Powder Works produced
more than enough gunpowder to supply the
Confederate armies even the field, even
though transportation difficulties sometimes
prevented it from getting to the points where it
was needed. By the end of the war the
operation had proved its worth, however, and
even had a surplus of 70,000 pounds on
hand when the Stars and Bars finally came
down over the factory.

There was great fear that the facility might be
targeted by Union general William Tecumseh
Sherman during his March to the Sea in late
1864. Augusta was heavily fortified and
Confederate troops came in to man earthen
forts, breastworks and other positions. Even
the brick wall of Magnola Cemetery was
loopholed as a defensive position.

Sherman did not come, however, opting
instead to march on for the prisoner of war
camp at Magnolia Springs and then the vital
port city of Savannah.
Having survived the scare posed by
Sherman, the Confederate Powder Works
returned to operation and continued to
produce gunpowder until the end of the war.

Because the property on which it was built
had been assigned to the U.S. Arsenal at
Augusta prior to the war, the facility fell into
the hands of the federal government when it
shut down in 1865.

The land was sold off in the following years
and by 1872 a canal widening project had led
to the destruction of most. Only the towering
153 foot tall chimney survived. Colonel Rains
had requested that it be preserved as a
memorial to those who fought for the
Confederacy.

The chimney, with its marble memorial
tablets still stands along the Augusta Canal.

The adjacent Sibley Mill is not part of the
original Confederate Powder Works, but was
built using bricks and other material from the
demolished complex. It was constructed in
1880-1882 and was one of the largest cotton
mills in the region.

The Sibley Mill continued to operate until
2006. In fact, its water-driven turbines still
generate electricity, which is sold to Georgia
Power Company. It remains in private hands
and is closed to the public.

The chimney of the Confederate Powder
Works can be visited anytime during daylight
hours. It is within the limits of the Augusta
Canal National Heritage Area.

The chimney is located at 1717 Goodrich
Street in Augusta, Georgia. In addition to the
marble tablets installed in its base in 1872,
there are new interpretive panels. Please
click here to learn more about Augusta Canal.