The ability to produce iron in sufficient quantities to supply the wants of a nation under all circumstances of war or peace, constitutes an element of strength never before so fully estimated or exemplified as in the present contest. Our ability to produce iron is equal to our wants, and, conse quently, we make use of that element of strength to its fullest extent,—in the production of iron-clad ships, the fabrication of superior guns, the manufacture of the most effective small arms, and an unlimited supply of rails and rolling-stock, &c. &c. And not only have we the iron in abun dance for all those purposes, but our iron and coal enable our mechanics to multiply their labor or productive ability over a hundredfold, as com pared with the productive power of the unskilled brute labor of the South.
The amount of iron produced in the South since the commencement of the war has not only been deficient for ordinary purposes, but not equal to the requirements for the materials of war. No railroad iron has been pro duced for repairs or otherwise, and but little iron has been spared for the replacement of worn-out rolling-stock. The ability to produce iron, and the cost of its production, have both been on a par. All the iron produced in the South during the last four years, from '60 to '64, has been made with charcoal, either in the rude cold-blast furnace, using from eight to thirteen cords of wood to the ton of metal produced, or in the primitive Catalan hearth, with "water-blast," and, in some cases, the old "stone hammer" of our ancestors who lived a thousand years ago.
For the production of one ton-2000 pounds—of wrought iron in the Catalan forge, under ordinary circumstances, 75 days' labor is required in the various processes; while the amount of labor required to produce a ton of iron at our improved rolling-mills does not exceed 20 days from the miner to the finisher. Nearly the same difference exists in the production of cast iron between the rude charcoal furnaces of the South and the improved anthracite furnaces of the North. The rebellion, therefore, lacked the permanent strength imparted by iron, and decayed rapidly in consequence. Had the Confederates the means and ability to build iron clad rams in proportion to their numbers and mineral resources, our great superiority on the water would have been neutralized, and their cotton made available for war purposes. But, depending entirely on brute force, their resources and means of defence have depreciated in ratio with their loss of able-bodied men by whatever cause.
Virginia contains more coal than Pennsylvania: yet, though the oldest State, she has never made it available by development, and not one pound of her coal has been used for the production of iron in the blast furnace since the commencement of the war, and but a few tons before; the Rich mond coal being too impure for such purposes. Tennessee was the only Southern State in which iron was made from mineral coal; and the produc tion there ceased on the occupation of Chattanooga by the Federal forces.
In our description of the coal and iron regions of the Southern States, we will give the details of their mining and manufacturing status both before and since the war. But the facts here presented forcibly illustrate the value of coal in peace or war.
We may boldly state that the anthracite coal of Pennsylvania has been our greatest source of strength, whether considered as augmenting in a hundredfold ratio our industrial resources in the mechanical line, or supplying the means and material of war, exclusive, of course, of the men and the money. But even these are influenced to a great extent by the strength imparted to our national resources through the dynamic agency of coal.
Philadelphia and New York, and all the manufacturing cities and towns of New England, have the greatest source of their productive power in the mountains of Pennsylvania.
Those anthracite basins represent but a spot in the coal area of the United States,—only 470 square miles of anthracite in a total area of 206,939 square miles. But its present available value is greater than the entire area of bituminous coal; and all, except the 470 square miles, is of that class, exclusive of a doubtful and unproductive field of 100 square miles in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Of the 22,000,000 tons reported as the coal production of 1864, nearly 10,000,000 tons were anthracite. But this vast preponderance cannot always exist in favor of the anthracite mines, when the Western coal-fields are more fully developed to meet the increasing wants of Western growth and improvement. The fact, however, that those anthracite fields are the only known or available deposit of the kind, and that the entire East and a portion of the Northwest, representing a population of over 12,000,000, draw most of their supplies of fuel from thence, and must continue to do so, will always attach superior importance and value to the anthracite coals of Pennsylvania.