Alabama Arms Manufacturing Company

Birmingham did not exist during the Civil War – the town had not been started. The mineral resources were well known, but the means to access the resources and take them to mill and market – rail transportation was still a dream when the Civil War began.

As often happens when men think that war is a good idea, few apparently realized the dreadful lack of manufacturing facilities located in the southern states.  The Confederate arsenal was located at Richmond, and when Richmond fell, the Confederacy depended primarily on the arsenal at Selma, Alabama.  


Selma Arsenal was served by railroad, the Alabama and Tennessee River Railroad.  But there were few blast furnaces for making iron in the south and there were limited rail connections to the furnaces that existed.  For example, neither Irondale Furnace nor Tannehill were located in rail lines during the Civil War.


The Alabama Central Railroad [later the South and North Alabama] had been located on paper and recommended to the Alabama Governor and Legislature in 1858 – but there were many who could not see the value of a railroad to the north.  After all, Alabama’s economy depended on cotton.


But there were practical men who knew the Confederacy must have arms, and arms required iron.  These same men knew of the opportunity to make iron in Jefferson County.  McIllwain's Irondale furnace was under development at the same time.  Two of these men, Frank Gilmer and John T. Milner, went to Richmond to meet with the Confederate Secretary of War, James Seddon, to get financial support for their venture.  They were not taken seriously by Seddon at first, but soon gained the attention of Confederate President Davis, and were then granted a contract to build a blast furnace and railroad to provide a means to ship iron to Selma Arsenal. 


This new venture, the Alabama Arms Manufacturing Company sought to answer the need for armament, for iron, with a contract for a new blast furnace and railroad located in Jefferson County along the line of the Alabama Central, later called the South and North Alabama Railroad.  This company soon became the Red Mountain Iron and Coal Company and the location came to be called Ox Moor, later Oxmoor.


Of course, Gilmer and Milner were key to the location and planning of the Alabama Central RR, later to become the South and North Alabama line.  Among others, Daniel Pratt was a board member of the railroad.  Pratt was heavily invested in the cotton economy, with his cotton gin factory in Prattville, north of Montgomery, Alabama.  It is interesting that Pratt also saw the merit of the rail and iron development, when many "cotton men" did not.


Note that the image above is labeled "Ironton" which is believed to be the earlier name for Oxmoor.  It is not to be confused with Irondale, the site of another Civil War era Birmingham furnace.  This image came from the Alabama Department of Archives and History, but the original source and date of publication is not known.

Red Mountain Iron and Coal Company


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