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Sibley Mill and Confederate Powder Works Chimney

Sibley Mill Photo 1

Sibley Mill and Confederate Powder Works Chimney
Rebecca Rogers
Augusta Canal National Heritage Area

At the beginning of the Civil War gunpowder supplies for the Confederate armies were insufficient.  In 1861 Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, charged Colonel George Washington Rains with solving this issue by creating a local supply of gunpowder.  Rains chose the flat lands by the Augusta Canal as the most suitable site for making the much needed gunpowder.  He named Major Charles Shaler Smith as architect to design the Confederate Powder Works.

Work on the plant commenced in 1862 with materials gathered from the southern states including Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina.  When completed, the powder works lined the banks of the Augusta Canal for two miles. The plant was organized for manufacturing efficiency.  Raw materials entered at the first of 26 buildings and exited as gunpowder at the last. The most prominent of the buildings was the refinery, which resembled the British House of Parliament.  Constructed directly in front of it was a tall smokestack in the shape of an obelisk, the only structure remaining today from the powder works.

The Confederate Powder Works, the only permanent edifice constructed by the Confederate States of America, was in operation until April 1865.   During its lifetime, the facility produced approximately 7,000 pounds of gunpowder per day for a final total of 2,750,000 pounds.  The Augusta Powder Works produced enough gunpowder to fully meet the needs of the Confederate armies and still retained a surplus of 70,000 pounds at the end of the war. 

Confederate Powder Works Photo

Sibley Mill and Confederate Powder Works Chimney
Historic Augusta, Inc.

The Federal Government confiscated the powder works land and sold it between 1868 and 1871. By 1872, the buildings and structures remaining were deemed useless, and a project to widen the canal caused the demolition of most.  At the request of Rains, the smokestack was left standing as a memorial to those who fought for the Confederacy.

As an early economic development project, a group of local business men formed the Sibley Manufacturing Company in 1880 and procured the site of the former Confederate Powder Works along the Augusta Canal.  Brick from the demolished powder works was used in the construction of the Sibley Mill between 1880 and 1882. With the appearance of a medieval castle or fortress, the mill resembles the powder works it replaced. Designed to the specifications of Jones S. Davis by local architect Enoch William Brown, it is architecturally impressive and distinctive with its crenellated façade and corner towers, its massive size. and its Sibley Family Coat of Arms emblazoned on the towers. 

Soon after the mill began operation, it became one of the largest and most successful cotton mills in the region, a model of good management and worker relations.  Eventually, Sibley Mill became a part of the Graniteville Mills. Modernized in order to compete in an ever-increasing world market, the mill continued in operation until 2006, making denim used by major clothing manufacturers. Although no longer used for textile production, the mill's water-driven turbines still generate electricity which is sold to Georgia Power. Local businessman Clayton Boardman, who successfully rehabilitated the Enterprise Mill in the 1990s as living and office space, acquired the Sibley in 2007.

Plan your visit
 Sibley Mill and the Confederate Powder Works Chimney are located at 1717 Goodrich St. within the boundaries of the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area/Historic Augusta Canal and Industrial District, a National Historic Landmark. The Powder Works Chimney is accessible anytime free of charge.  Sibley Mill is not open for tours.  Sibley Manufacturing Company and the Confederate Powder Works Chimney have been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Engineering Record. 
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