Coal & Iron | Pennsylvania Civil War 150
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Pennsylvania Civil War 150

Pennsylvania Civil War 150

Then & Now

Coal & Iron

Pennsylvania also led the nation in providing coal to run the trains and iron to build the rails on which they ran—not to mention the guns with which men fought. Coal production in the state, both the anthracite coal in the east and bituminous coal in the west, rose from 12 million to 20 million tons during the war.

Pennsylvania produced 80 percent of the iron used by the Union. Philadelphia boasted C. Sharps and Company, which developed the breech-loading rifle in the 1850s. With the Frankford Arsenal, Krider, Tryon and the Union Rifle Factory, it made Philadelphia the leading small arms producer in the nation. The Philadelphia Navy Yard was the nation’s leading builder of ships, including ironclads and the gunboats which blockaded the South and opened the mouth of the Mississippi to the Union forces.

Pittsburgh, for its part, specialized in artillery. Thomas Jackson Rodman of the Fort Pitt Works invented the 15- and 20-inch cannon, the latter weighing 114,000 pounds and firing a 1,000-pound shot. By the war’s end, he was directing the largest artillery installation in the world. Pittsburgh’s Ohio River steamers and flatboats were drafted into the Union fleet, and the new boats constructed there accompanied General Ulysses S. Grant’s forces and secured control of the Cumberland, Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers.

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Primary Sources

  • Charles Winston Smith and Charles Judah, eds. Life in the North During the Civil War: A Source History (Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1966).

Secondary Sources

  • Brian Butko and Nicholas Ciotola, eds., Industry and Infantry: The Civil War in Western Pennsylvania (Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, 2003).
  • Matthew Gallman, Mastering Wartime: A Social History of Philadelphia During the Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 1990).
  • Walter Licht, “Civil Wars: 1850-1900,” in Randall Miller and William Pencak, eds., Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth (Penn State Press, 2002), pp. 202-56.
  • Grace Palladino, Another Civil War: Labor, Capital, and the State in the Anthracite Regions of Pennsylvania, 1840-1868 (University of Illinois Press, 1990).
  • Phillip Shaw Paludan, “A People’s Contest”: The Union and the Civil War, 1861-1865 (Harper and Row, 1988).

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