February 28, 1862
We yesterday visited the foundry of Messrs. Sweeney & Co., in the First Ward, to witness the process of making shell, for the manufacture of which they have quite a large contract for government. The establishment if full of these instruments of destruction, a sufficient number, we should judge, if properly deposited, to kill, slay and disperse all of the secesh now congregated at any one point. Not being a “manne of warre,” we had to depend upon Mayor Sweeney for an explanation of the process of making the shell. They have cast iron patterns made expressly for the purpose, in which the shell are moulded. The core of the shell is composed of sand, and when the metal has cooled, the sand is raked out, and they have a shell thirteen inches in diameter and two inches and a half thick. The process of moulding requires the greatest care and precision, and the facilities of the establishment are apparently equal to all demands upon it. After the shell is moulded, it is taken in charge by another class of workmen, who remove the sand which always adheres to a casting, by hammering it; and in this process, if there are any imperfections, they are discovered, and the work cast aside. In finishing the shell the greatest accuracy is necessary to be observed. There are two accurately formed rings—gauges [sic]—between which there is a difference only of six one-hundredths of an inch. The shell must be so accurately formed, filed and smoothed, that it will be large and regular enough to pass through one of them but not large enough to pass through the other. The shell is then rolled through a cylinder, which is just as large and no larger than the mortars by which the shell are to be sent upon their errands of destruction. The shell is not perfect, and will not be accepted by the inspecting officer unless it stands this severe test. The shell when finished weights two hundred and fifteen pounds.
The shell are, of course, not filled here. They are shipped wherever directed, and filled by those familiar with that part of the work. These large shell are filled generally with Shrapnell shot and other destructive missiles—the more destructive the better. The shot and shell are made to adhere together, and to the shell be a sort of a pitchy substance, and in the middle of this, and on a line with the fuse hole, a cavity is left into which is poured two or three pounds of powder, which is secured simply by a wooden plug. The fuse is connected with the powder, and regulated in length by the distance which the shell is intended to carry, as estimated by the proper ordinance officers.
Messrs. Sweeney & Co. are turning out about forty finished shell per day, but will soon be able to turn out twice that number. The firm shipped about two hundred a day or two ago for Cairo, and have about eight hundred more intended for the same point, to be used by the gun boats which have been doing such signal service under Commodore Foote.
March 1, 1862
In addition to the establishment mentioned by us yesterday, Hamilton & Clark, of the Quincy Foundry, have a contract for making three thousand shell for the Government. We had the pleasure of walking through this establishment yesterday, and we are sati[s]field from our own observation, and from the expressed opinions of experienced gentlemen, that no better castings can be made anywhere than in this city, and that when the work of our foundrymen has been properly tested, they will have as many contracts as they can well fill.
Hamilton & Clark are now turning out forty of the destructive instruments per day, but in the course of the week, they will be able to make as many as a hundred in the same length of time. The pattersn in which the shell are moulded, are all made expressly for this purpose, and the construction of them involved the expenditure of a great dal of time, labor and money. This firm are now manufacturing a "cleaner," by which the sand is to be removed from the shells, the old and tedious mode of scraping having proved impracticable. When this machine is completed as many as one hundred shells per day can be finished. In looking at a shell after it is finished many are puzzled to determine, there being but a single little hole in the hollow ball, hot the core is taken out. The core is composed of sand and flour, and after being properly moulded and finished it placed in an oven and baked like a loaf of bread, until it become hard. The hot metal when it is poured in to the mould burns the flour our and the sand crumbles so as to be easily taken out.
A single shell of this large size--13 inches in diameter and weighing 220 pounds--costs the government between seven and eight dollars. When filled and ready for use they cost about ten dollars.
We had an opportunity of observing that the establishment of Hamilton and Clark in all its details is much more estensive than we supposed. They make a great proportion of the heavier castings used in this part of the country and have always given the greatest satisfaction.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: Undated: February 1862