Atlanta Armor Shipping Impact

A look at the shipping of armor from Richmond to Portsmouth for the CSS Virginia is found here

   Navy capital ships have always been very expensive in terms of money, manpower and resources. For the Confederacy, the cost of its ironclads was mostly in terms of iron and railroad shipping used. The shipping had to include the movements from the source of the iron, to the rolling mill and then to the shipyard. (The requirements for wood shipping were also large, but the records are too incomplete for analysis.) 
   Below is presented the information derived from the Confederate Navy construction documents in the National Archives, as far as the data is present. The source of the iron is rarely shown, though there is one document listing 53 tons of scrap iron going from Charleston to Atlanta. The source of the armor plates is the Schofield & Markham Rolling Mill in Atlanta. The destinations are rarely known, but must have included every ironclad building site, except Richmond, Yazoo City and Shreveport (yes, there was a shipment to Norfolk). Unfortunately, the railroad documents are so incomplete that we cannot track the shipments, so this data is based on when the plates were presented to the Government for payment (ie, after rolling and sometimes after drilling the bolt holes).
Date Tons Plate (1) Cars f/Plates Tons Iron (2) Cars f/Iron
4/25/62 150 21 (3)    
5/17/62 175 25    
6/30/62 372 52 (4) 819 102
7/12/62 293 41 295 37
7/23/62 160 22 (5) 286 36
8/19/62 119 17 119 15
8/30/62 211 30 211 26
9/13/62 211 30 211 26
9/29/62 58 8 191 24
10/8/62 196 27 196 25
10/24/62 270 38 270 34
11/1/62 89 12 89 11
11/21/62 154 19 154 19
12/15/62 120 17 (6) 120 15
12/26/62 235 33 235 29
1/9/63 117 16 117 15
1/16/63 100 14 100 13
2/23/63 117 16 117 15
3/3/63 116 16 116 15
3/21/63 164 23 164 21
3/28/63 115 16 115 14
4/4/63 59 8 59 7
4/18/63 214 30 214 27
4/25/63 160 22 160 20
5/8/63 143 20 143 18
5/16/63 103 14 103 13
6/15/63 140 20 (7) 140 18
6/30/63 194 27 194 24
  4555 635 4938 619
Notes: (1) Long tons, 2240 lbs
(2) Short tons, 2000 lbs
(3) To Charleston, 522 bars
(4) To Norfolk
(5) To Savannah for the "Atlanta"
(6) To Charleston, 812 bars
(7) Production reduced because of a shortage of iron
   An additional 26 tons / 4 carloads appear to have been rolled at the Etowah Iron Works, drilled in Atlanta and then shipped to Selma in late 1862.
   The data above shows us two ways the Navy's ironclad building program impacted the railroads of the central South. First, there were at least 1,234 car loads of other supplies that were not delivered because of the Navy's armor shipments. That is about 100 train loads of supplies that got left at depots, waiting transportation, when the most common complaint against the railroads was lack of capacity.
   Second, the iron used to make the armor (at least 5102 short tons) would could have made enough rail to have laid a bit over 51 miles of track, both rails. Where was this rail needed? The Piedmont RR, the Blue Mountain extension, the Montgomery to Selma line -- and maintenance on the main lines throughout the eastern Confederacy.
   Focusing on the cost of the armor alone does not show the full cost of the ironclad program. Ironclads also required very large amounts of timber, months of labor by scarce mechanics, large quantities of building iron and the guns (some 125 big ones) to arm them.
   All of the above cost must be balanced against what the ironclads did or reasonably could have done. My belief is that the ironclads did or could have impacted the war only at Charleston and Wilmington.

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