By John B. SnyderDecember 7, 2017
Gibbonsville, N.Y. (July 14, 1813) -- The U.S. War Department announced today the purchase of 12 acres of land in the Village of Gibbonsville, N.Y., for the purpose of establishing an arsenal that will provide ordnance supplies and munitions to soldiers in the northern and western frontiers.
When the U.S. Congress voted for war to redress the wrongs of England in June 1812, the U.S. Army was virtually nonexistent, said Col. Decius Wadsworth, Colonel of the Ordnance. Since that time, the War Department established the Ordnance Department with the first order of business being to form forward-base ordnance stores from which Army units may draw from.
Wadsworth, who once served as the superintendent of the military academy at West Point, said that he spent nearly a year traveling throughout upstate New York and Vermont for the right place. Weary of his travels, and the embolden presence of the British in Canada and the Great Lakes, now was the right time to decide on a strategic forward-base location from which to supply the troops.
"What a great location for the arsenal at Gibbonsville," said Wadsworth. "If the British attack at Lake Champlain, we can quickly resupply using the Hudson River and Lake George. If the British attack from Lake Ontario, supplies could be quickly shipped along the Mohawk River. And, if New York City came under attack, we can provide quick shipment to the south. This is the perfect site."
James Gibbons said he was pleased to sell 12 acres of his farmland to support the war effort.
"My wife, Esther, and I bought a large parcel of land in this area in 1805 and never thought that it would be of such value to our country," Gibbons said. "Although 12 acres is not much to me, it will become such an important part of the war effort in the western and northern frontiers."
Wadsworth explained that he will establish three main establishments from which to support the war effort. The principal foundry will be at Georgetown, near Washington, for casting cannon, mortars, and howitzers. Pittsburgh arsenal has been selected to construct gun carriages. And the Gibbonsville arsenal will be the principle establishment for making fixed ammunition and all the small articles of equipment.
Other key considerations made by Wadsworth in selecting the small site on the Hudson River is due to its close proximity to Troy, N.Y. The citizens of Troy have long held that their community is the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution due in large part to the significant number of manufactures in the local area. The Arsenal will have a high and immediate demand to hire skilled laborers to not only build the arsenal, but also to man production areas.
Additionally, the Army's main provider of food rations in the New England area of operations is Samuel Wilson, who has his business located in Troy. Wilson said that he will keep the Arsenal well supplied.
Although the commanding officer of the Arsenal is Maj. James Dalliba, Capt. Thomas Campbell will be in temporary command of the Arsenal as Dalliba is currently stationed at an Army depot in Buffalo.
"My first order of business is to hire carpenters, bricklayers, and masons to begin construction of 10 buildings in the next month or so," Campbell said. "Once the buildings are in place, I will hire laborers at a great rate of $9 a month. Due to a shortage of male labor, Children, 12 and older, as well as women may apply."
Campbell added that this Arsenal is only temporary and will probably close once the British threat has been removed.
It is not known if the U.S. War Department had sent out a news release in 1813 about the arsenal that would become the Watervliet Arsenal. But if it did, this is what it may have looked liked.
The Watervliet Arsenal (pronounced water-vleet) is an Army-owned and -operated manufacturing facility located in Watervliet, New York. The Arsenal is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States having begun operations during the War of 1812.