Pittsburgh in the American Civil War

Pittsburgh in the American Civil War

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was a thriving and important city during the American Civil War, and provided a significant source of personnel, war materiel, armament, ammunition, and supplies to the Union Army. Situated at the confluence of the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio rivers, Pittsburgh was an important transportation hub for both riverine and rail transport, as well as overland via its system of roads.

Production of war materiel

The antebellum iron industry in Pittsburgh had thrived, fueled by access to coal, iron ore, and other raw materials, as well as transportation routes to get the iron to markets. In 1859, the Clinton and Soho iron furnaces introduced coke-fire smelting to the region. Within three years, the growing needs of the military effort during the Civil War had boosted the city's economy with increased production of iron and armaments, especially at the Allegheny Arsenal and the Fort Pitt Foundry. [Boucher, "A Century and a Half of Pittsburg and Her People".] Arms manufacture included ironclad warships and the world's first 21" heavy artillery gun. [Thurston, "Allegheny County's Hundred Years".] By war's end, over one-half of the steel and more than one-third of all U.S. glass was produced in Pittsburgh. [Meislik and Galloway, "History of Pittsburgh."]

During the war, Pittsburgh's heavy industry provided significant quantities of weapons and ammunition. The Fort Pitt Foundry made mammoth iron castings for giant siege howitzers and mortars, among the largest guns in the world. One of the largest was a 20-inch bore Rodman Gun, a large black powder, smoothbore, muzzle-loading coastal defense gun. [Cite web |title=The Strip District: Rodman's Great Guns |url=http://www.clpgh.org/exhibit/neighborhoods/strip/strip_n41.html |accessdate=8-1-2008] [cite journal |title=A Twenty-Inch Gun; Casting at the Fort Pitt Foundry |journal=New York Times |year=1864 |issue=Feb. 21] The foundry produced 1,193 guns (15 percent of the total U.S. wartime artillery production) and almost 200,000 artillery projectiles. Other prominent Pittsburgh area factories included Singer, Nimick and Co. (maker of 3" Ordnance rifles) and Smith, Park and Co., which produced more than 300,000 projectiles. Pittsburgh industries collectively manufactured 10 percent of the total U.S. wartime production of artillery rounds.

The Allegheny Arsenal was the primary military manufacturing facility for U.S. Army accoutrements, as well as saddles and other cavalry equipment. In addition, the sprawling factory produced as many as 40,000 bullets and cartridges every day (more than 14 million per year), supplying between 5 and 10 percent of the Army's annual small arms ammunition requirements. A significant explosion on the afternoon of September 17 1862 (ironically, concurrent with the Battle of Antietam in central Maryland), killed 78 factory workers, mostly young women.

Five "Ellet"-class rams were converted from civilian towboats at Pittsburgh. In addition, four ironclads were built from the keel up—the USS "Manayunk", "Marietta", "Sandusky", and "Umpqua". Pittsburgh's rolling mills supplied the armor for many of the ironclads that were built in New York City and Philadelphia for the Union Navy.

Defending Pittsburgh

Concerned that the Confederate Army might target Pittsburgh for invasion, the U.S. War Department established the Department of the Monongahela to provide a formal Federal military presence in Western Pennsylvania during the Gettysburg Campaign, with departmental headquarters in Pittsburgh. The Army dispatched Maj. Gen. William T. H. Brooks to organizes the defenses of Pittsburgh. Brooks authorized the construction of several miles of earthworks and a series of small forts to control access to the city. He suspended liquor sales, closed the bars and taverns, and put the citizenry to work digging trenches and erecting forts.

Among these bastions was Fort Robert Smalls, a redoubt built by free blacks on McGuire's Hill at the mouth of Becks Run in Arlington Heights. [cite web |title=Greater Pittsburgh Area |url=http://www.northamericanforts.com/East/pa-pitt.html |accessdate=8-1-2008] Another of these emergency fortifications was the circular earthwork known as Fort Laughlin, constructed by the employees of Jones and Laughlin Steel on "Ormsby's Hill", now part of Arlington Park on Arlington Avenue. It was also known as "Fort McKinley" or "Fort Ormsby". [cite web |title=Greater Pittsburgh Area |url=http://www.northamericanforts.com/East/pa-pitt.html ] Concurrent with Fort Laughlin, Jones and Laughlin Steel employees constructed Fort Jones, named for the mill's co-owner, Benjamin Franklin Jones . Fort Jones occupied the top of a hill in Mount Oliver. [cite web |title=Greater Pittsburgh Area |url=http://www.northamericanforts.com/East/pa-pitt.html |accessdate-7-04-2008] It was sometimes known as "Fort Jackson", in honor of Brig. Gen. Conrad Feger Jackson, killed in the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia in December of 1862. [cite book |last=Fox |first=Arthur B. |title=Pittsburgh During the American Civil War, 1860-1865 |year=2002 ISBN=0976056305]

Notable leaders from Pittsburgh

The greater Pittsburgh area was the birthplace or long-time residence of several Union army and navy officers, as well as some leading politicians of the era.

Other important personalities of the Civil War born in the immediate Pittsburgh area included Col. Daniel Leasure, Congressman Robert McKnight, industrialist William Metcalf, and Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Rowley.

Among the recipients of the Medal of Honor for gallantry in action during the war were Alexander Kelly, a free black who fought in the 6th U.S.C.T..

The mayors of Pittsburgh during the Civil War were George Wilson (1860-62), Benjamin C. Sawyer (1862-64), and James Lowry, Jr. (1864-1866).

Civil War attractions in Pittsburgh

The Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial is a National Register of Historic Places landmark. It is the largest memorial in the United States dedicated solely to honoring all branches of military veterans and service personnel.


* Boucher, John Newton, "A Century and a Half of Pittsburg and Her People", The Lewis Publishing Company, 1908.
* Meislik, Miriam, and Galloway, Ed. "History of Pittsburgh," Society of American Archivists Annual Conference, Pittsburgh, PA, 1999.
* Thurston, George H., "Allegheny County's Hundred Years", Pittsburgh: A. A. Anderson Son, 1888.


ee also

*Pennsylvania in the American Civil War
*History of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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