Support Services - Blacksmith

Tom Elmore

2nd Lieutenant
Member of the Year
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Jan 16, 2015
Other threads have discussed Blacksmiths and their duties, but the focus here is on estimated numbers within an army, specifically the CSA Army of Northern Virginia and USA Army of the Potomac in summer 1863. I do not assert the following numbers are definitive, but merely present them for debate. Given the daily demands of shoeing animals, making minor repairs to metalwork, and some major repairs to artillery spindles, etc., it may be reasonable to claim that both armies employed a few hundred Blacksmiths and Assistant Blacksmiths, the demand being greatest while on the march.

CSA Infantry/Cavalry: One principal Blacksmith was assigned to the staffs of the Army (1), Corps (3), Division (10), and Brigade (44); total 58. Rare mention is made of a regimental blacksmith, but these men may actually have been detailed to one of the above staffs. Evidence of assistants seems scarce. Blacksmiths were paid an extra 25 cents per day. Several have been identified as a Blacksmith in the cited commands:

McLaw's Division - M. D. Thomson (15 SC)
Kemper's Brigade - R. M. Hawkins (18 VA)
Hays' Brigade - Edouard Wagnon (9 LA)
Nicholls' Brigade - James R. Miller (1 LA)
Wilcox's Brigade - Abner B. Euton (9 AL)
? - J. B. Johnson (15 AL)
? - Israel P. Dellinger (10 VA)
? - David Mooman (7 VA Cavalry)

CSA Artillery: It is presumed that each battery was allotted one Blacksmith (with the forge), as well as one on each battalion staff; total 85. Other Blacksmiths were assigned to ordnance wagon trains; estimate total 14.

Grand total of principal CSA Blacksmiths: 157 Assistants: ?

----------------------------

USA Infantry/Cavalry: One principal Blacksmith was assigned to the staffs of the Army (1), Corps (8), Division (21), and Brigade (61); total 91. A recent post on this board (david_n) containing an early 1863 letter from the Quartermaster of Carr's Brigade states his brigade staff employed one Blacksmith and six (!) Assistant Blacksmiths, the former paid an extra 40 cents per day and the latter 25 cents per day. Here are some identified Blacksmiths from Maine:

Army - Stephen E. Welch (10 ME BN)
Bartlett's Brigade - William C. Phinney (5 ME)
Ward's Brigade - Allen P. Farrington (4 ME)

USA Artillery: Batteries had one principal Blacksmith; total 64. Presumably so did each brigade; total 14. Ordnance wagon trains likely had an assigned Blacksmith; estimate total 30. Every battery may have had one Assistant Blacksmith as well (an extant example is Battery E, 1st Rhode Island).

Grand total of principal USA Blacksmiths: 199 Assistants: ?
 

Mike Serpa

Major
Joined
Jan 24, 2013

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Thanks for putting this link in the newer blacksmith/farrier thread, Tom! Missed it first time around. We never hear of them- can NOT imagine setting up forges and shoeing anywhere in that shambles but they really had to. You just know some of them wrote post war memoirs - somewhere one will show up in Hathitrust or Archives or one of the college collections.
 

damYankee

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 12, 2011
My g g grandfather George W. Davis was a blacksmith before the war, he volunteered for the Fourth Iowa Cav and is listed as a farrier and in some accounts as a blacksmith. He was also wounded three time and received a medical discharge and a pension.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
We need to define our terms.

Blacksmiths were artificers; farriers shoed horses. They are very different crafts. A blacksmith began by tending the fire & worked as an apprentice for years before becoming a journeyman. It took years to become a master blacksmith.

This is true today. My granddaughter had her first “Green Coal” class at our local forge last night. She will learn the craft via the same set of 15 projects that are taught throughout the English speaking world. The craft is alive & thriving.

The craft of the farrier is very different from that of a blacksmith. For one thing, knowing how to shoe a horse involves much more than just banging a few nails into a hoof. Trimming the hoof & shaping the shoe to keep a horse healthy is a subtle skill all its own.

The farrier was taught how to forge & fit horse shoes. They could also work with strap iron for making basic repairs. If you ever get to see a traveling forge in action, you will be struck at how small the hot part of the forge is. There was no way a farrier could have worked a large piece of metal like an axel. For that kind of thing, they carried spare parts on the battery wagon.

After a battery made the thirty mile trip from Nashville To Murfreesboro on the MacAdamized Pike, 1/2 To 3/4ths of the hundred or so horses would have to be re-shod. The soft iron of the shoes was ground away by the gravel road surface. At the same time, the tires of some of the wheels would need replacing. Farriers likely had little time left over for anything but horse shoeing.

Of course, there were blacksmiths who also shod horses. My paternal great grandfather did just about everything in his blacksmith shop, including shoeing horses, mules & oxen. In the army, however, the distinction between blacksmith artificers & farriers was very real.
 
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Carronade

Captain
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Location
Pennsylvania
After a battery made the thirty mile trip from Nashville To Murfreesboro on the MacAdamized Pike, 1/2 To 3/4ths of the hundred or so horses would have to be re-shod.

Quite a statistic! It suggests that all shoes would have to be replaced after 40-60 miles, or that a horse shoe was good for about 50 miles on average. I assume they'd last longer on softer surfaces, but it gives an idea of the demand for shoes and re-shoeing.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Quite a statistic! It suggests that all shoes would have to be replaced after 40-60 miles, or that a horse shoe was good for about 50 miles on average. I assume they'd last longer on softer surfaces, but it gives an idea of the demand for shoes and re-shoeing.
According to experienced farriers, the ground being covered makes all the difference. A saddle horse that lives in a paddock or field & is ridden on dirt needs shoeing twice a year or so. Show horses like Tennessee Walking Horses that only exercise in a closed, sand covered arena, regularly wear out shoes & have them replaced every few weeks. A horse twists it’s foot as it steps, so on a rough surface it is like very coarse sandpaper taking down the shoe.
 

damYankee

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 12, 2011
We need to define our terms.

Blacksmiths were artificers; farriers shoed horses. They are very different crafts. A blacksmith began by tending the fire & worked as an apprentice for years before becoming a journeyman. It took years to become a master blacksmith.

This is true today. My granddaughter had her first “Green Coal” class at our local forge last night. She will learn the craft via the same set of 15 projects that are taught throughout the English speaking world. The craft is alive & thriving.

The craft of the farrier is very different from that of a blacksmith. For one thing, knowing how to shoe a horse involves much more than just banging a few nails into a hoof. Trimming the hoof & shaping the shoe to keep a horse healthy is a subtle skill all its own.

The farrier was taught how to forge & fit horse shoes. They could also work with strap iron for making basic repairs. If you ever get to see a traveling forge in action, you will be struck at how small the hot part of the forge is. There was no way a farrier could have worked a large piece of metal like an axel. For that kind of thing, they carried spare parts on the battery wagon.

After a battery made the thirty mile trip from Nashville To Murfreesboro on the MacAdamized Pike, 1/2 To 3/4ths of the hundred or so horses would have to be re-shod. The soft iron of the shoes was ground away by the gravel road surface. At the same time, the tires of some of the wheels would need replacing. Farriers likely had little time left over for anything but horse shoeing.

Of course, there were blacksmiths who also shod horses. My paternal great grandfather did just about everything in his blacksmith shop, including shoeing horses, mules & oxen. In the army, however, the distinction between blacksmith artificers & farriers was very real.

Great post, how many blacksmiths joined cavalry units and ended up being farriers?
When my g g grandfather joined he was 32 and already had a blacksmith shop,. I would postulate that he probably did more than shoe horse's, but as you say, in a cav unit that would be the primary concern.
As a blacksmith in a small pioneering settlement on the prairie of Iowa, I would think he would have had to shoe horse's, and do a lot more, as would be the case with any blacksmith in the west.
But as cavalry also field light artillery and wagons wouldn't blacksmiths or farriers be wearing more than one hat? So to say,
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Blacksmiths were artificers; farriers shoed horses. They are very different crafts. A blacksmith began by tending the fire & worked as an apprentice for years before becoming a journeyman. It took years to become a master blacksmith


Yes, it's funny. Son looked around for training in hot shoeing, best way to go as a farrier and of course forge work is first. He disliked the various school approaches, large classes, paper tests, etc., ended up in a very small, very old school forge under a guy who is 80 now, been doing it for as many years as you'd think. 500 horses before their first classification, another 3 years until the next, it's tough stuff. He's most interested in medical shoeing which can require specifically forged shoes anyway. The thing is there's a fairly new push for barefooted, all natural trimming, no shoes and the specialists in that have some crazy intensive training.

Farriers were once also horse doctors- the old books are full of the usual horse diseases, how-to-cure, what to do, etc. Handing 100% of this stuff over to vets is still a point of contention, the old school farriers still really, really know their stuff. There's a great story, farrier carefully crafting a course of care, specific shoes and packing for a problem. Came out to the barn one day to find the vet had talked to the owner into a medicinal approach, pulled all the shoes. Vet happened to still be there which was unfortunate- farrier got him by the overall straps and stuck the guy up on a wall, on a bridle hook. That's a true story. It's not always a wonderful relationship.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
I would postulate that he probably did more than shoe horse's, but as you say, in a cav unit that would be the primary concern.

I think the term blacksmith, as applied to the local blacksmith where the whole town took their horses meant all that went with both terms? Guessing in industry there could be a separation but there wouldn't have been a different shop for each, it wouldn't make sense to have to different forges, you know? Plus like I said, they could be looked on as horse doctors, too. He'd have been awfully valuable inside a cavalry unit. That's an awesome piece of family history, gee whiz!
horse infirmary.JPG


Here's another, 1863, to be found at " at Charley Byers Blacksmith's Shop ". Love this one, he's been mustered out as regimental farrier of the 6th Kansas.
farrier ad 1863.JPG
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Just one note, a blacksmith forge is different from a farrier’s forge. The farrier does not want to be running in & out of the shop with a hot shoe. They need to have the forge at close hand as they adjust the fit of the shoe. Because of the nature of the work, a farrier forge is small & portable.
Could you use the fire pot of a big forge to work a horse shoe? Of course you could. Would it be convenient? No, it would not.
I realize there is a certain to shepherds sheep are different quality to this. However, to the person doing the job, the difference between The equipment used in blacksmithing & horse shoeing is enormous.
The person left out of this discussion is the white smith. When the blacksmith is finished, the metal is black. It is the white smith who filed & finished the metal, making it white.
 
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Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I think the term blacksmith, as applied to the local blacksmith where the whole town took their horses meant all that went with both terms? Guessing in industry there could be a separation but there wouldn't have been a different shop for each, it wouldn't make sense to have to different forges, you know? Plus like I said, they could be looked on as horse doctors, too. He'd have been awfully valuable inside a cavalry unit. That's an awesome piece of family history, gee whiz!
View attachment 363118

Here's another, 1863, to be found at " at Charley Byers Blacksmith's Shop ". Love this one, he's been mustered out as regimental farrier of the 6th Kansas.
View attachment 363119
As always, you have the best newspaper images.
 

damYankee

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 12, 2011
I think the term blacksmith, as applied to the local blacksmith where the whole town took their horses meant all that went with both terms? Guessing in industry there could be a separation but there wouldn't have been a different shop for each, it wouldn't make sense to have to different forges, you know? Plus like I said, they could be looked on as horse doctors, too. He'd have been awfully valuable inside a cavalry unit. That's an awesome piece of family history, gee whiz!
View attachment 363118

Here's another, 1863, to be found at " at Charley Byers Blacksmith's Shop ". Love this one, he's been mustered out as regimental farrier of the 6th Kansas.
View attachment 363119

I'm sure that a blacksmith operating on the plains, prairies and frontier would find his primary source of income mending wagon hardware, making hinges, hammers, shovels, plow blades, other farming tools, tongs, branding irons, shoeing horse's, and running a stable.
After the war G. W. Davis worked for the railroad for a few years then opened a shop building wagons and buggies, a thriving business post automobile
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
I'm sure that a blacksmith operating on the plains, prairies and frontier would find his primary source of income mending wagon hardware, making hinges, hammers, shovels, plow blades, other farming tools, tongs, branding irons, shoeing horse's, and running a stable.
After the war G. W. Davis worked for the railroad for a few years then opened a shop building wagons and buggies, a thriving business post automobile


That's so funny- it looks like everyone worked for the RR at some point doesn't it? You do wonder why a blacksmith would have, sounds like he did too. Post automobile there'd still be a huge demand for all those items- those things couldn't haul goods for quite awhile for one thing, rural areas especially remained ' horse ' for an awfully time, you can't actually replace a cow pony for some ranch work and it sounds like it took awhile before tractors entirely replaced draft horses. Your ancestor is an amazing look at our frontier, gee whiz. I mean no disrespect to anyone, honest, saying this but I've frequently thought the monuments we should have dotting our landscape should be people holding tools.
 

damYankee

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 12, 2011
That's so funny- it looks like everyone worked for the RR at some point doesn't it? You do wonder why a blacksmith would have, sounds like he did too. Post automobile there'd still be a huge demand for all those items- those things couldn't haul goods for quite awhile for one thing, rural areas especially remained ' horse ' for an awfully time, you can't actually replace a cow pony for some ranch work and it sounds like it took awhile before tractors entirely replaced draft horses. Your ancestor is an amazing look at our frontier, gee whiz. I mean no disrespect to anyone, honest, saying this but I've frequently thought the monuments we should have dotting our landscape should be people holding tools.

Today you would be hard pressed to find a blacksmith shop in the US, we once lived in central Washington State. The last blacksmith shop which actually had a forge closed down in 1994.
How vital was that trade to the nation at one time? Studying the years 1700 to 1900 and the settlement of the wilderness, the two most important establishments for a promising settlement or village was a grist mill and a blacksmith.
But I don't want to sidetrack us any longer, let's get back to the OP.
I have a question regarding farriers and blacksmiths in uniform, when the fighting started did they also become combatants? Seems inevitable. Not to bore everyone, but in G.W. Davis's case, he was discharged due to wounds.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
One of the men who taught me blacksmithing was both a blacksmith & a highly regarded farrier. His name was Larry Mullens. He shod horses for stud farms & prize winning stables. He took the time to explain to me how he could diagnose a problem just by looking at the wear on a shoe. He was also a blacksmith with a broad range of skills who generously gave his time to do demonstrations. He was the one who schooled me on the big difference between a blacksmith & a farrier.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Today you would be hard pressed to find a blacksmith shop in the US, we once lived in central Washington State. The last blacksmith shop which actually had a forge closed down in 1994.
How vital was that trade to the nation at one time? Studying the years 1700 to 1900 and the settlement of the wilderness, the two most important establishments for a promising settlement or village was a grist mill and a blacksmith.
But I don't want to sidetrack us any longer, let's get back to the OP.
I have a question regarding farriers and blacksmiths in uniform, when the fighting started did they also become combatants? Seems inevitable. Not to bore everyone, but in G.W. Davis's case, he was discharged due to wounds.
Blacksmithing is alive & well here in Tennessee.
The artificers were not line of battle troops. Their place was with the support elements that n the rear. Did some artificers get caught up in fighting, of course they did. However, highly skilled craftsmen were too valuable to risk in the battle line.
 

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