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"Manufactured Enfield-type rifles. In 1863 plant moved to Columbia, S.C. Building was located 1/4 mi. SE. Burned in 1865." With the outbreak of the Civil War, the production of firearms extended to the mountain region of North Carolina. In Asheville, a company owned by Col. Ephraim Clayton, Col. R. W. Pulliam, and Dr. G. W. Whitson manufactured Enfield-style rifles. Their factory stood on the corner of Valley and Eagle Streets. Their first products, however, were rejected as inferior by the Confederate government, which took over the facility in the fall of 1862. Maj. Benjamin Sloan (a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point), formerly an inspector of ordnance manufactured by the Tredegar Ironworks in Richmond, was sent to Asheville to take charge of the armory, which soon began to generate superior weapons.
Though a much smaller operation than the former U.S. Arsenal in Fayetteville, the Asheville armory was productive; and resourcefulness made up for a relative lack of machinery and equipment. Raw materials were supplied by iron mines in Cranberry near the Tennessee line. By the spring of 1863, the armory was yielding about 300 efficient muzzle-loading rifles per month.
During the course of the war, the armory was constantly threatened with raids by organized bands of disaffected mountaineers. The groups were encouraged and backed by disaffected citizens of East Tennessee. Raids by Federal troops from East Tennessee were also a concern. As a consequence, the men of the armory were drilled in infantry and artillery practice, and two Napoleon fieldpieces were brought to the site. An earthwork battery was also constructed overlooking a nearby approach up the French Broad River.
Late in the war plant equipment was later moved to Columbia, South Carolina, and operated until the Union army of Gen. William T. Sherman captured that city in February 1865. The armory building itself was destroyed in 1865 when Federal troops finally entered Asheville. After the war, Benjamin Sloan became a professor of mathematics and physics (in his native state) at the University of South Carolina.
George W. McCoy, “Confederate Armory Here Turned Out Superior Weapons,” Asheville Citizen-Times, January 13, 1952
F. A. Sondley, A History of Buncombe County, North Carolina (1930)
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
North Carolina Civil War Historical Markers.