The timing of the Civil War coincided with the industrial revolution. While the North was well on its way toward a commercial and manufacturing economy, the Southern economy was based on agriculture. This had a direct impact on Confederate army’s access to the precious iron, copper, tin and steel that they needed to supply their troops with artillery.
Southerners were called upon to donate any type of old metal to the war effort. Church bells, steeples, gates, pots and pans, farm equipment and scraps were gathered to be recycled or reused. Even military officers like General P.G.T. Beauregard, asked the people to supply metal that could be cast into cannon.
Metal was also needed to build ironclad gunboats that would be used to protect southern coasts and rivers from Union forces during the early years of the War. Throughout the South, ladies societies were established to raise funds for the building of these boats. The societies also made appeals for donations of scarce metals such as lead, brass, and iron that could be melted down and used to build a boat.
On the battlefields, soldiers gathered spent ammunition and rifles from the fallen to be sold as scrap or reused. Scrap metals were also recycled into bowls, cutlery and cooking utensils to provide some small personal comforts to the soldiers so far from home.
This exhibition has been created by the City of Manassas Citizen’s Advisory Committee on Solid Waste with the gracious help of the Manassas Museum, Library of Congress and the American Civil War Museum.