The national tragedy that was the Civil War began in April of 1860 and did not cease until April of 1865. Every state in the Union committed troops to the fight and became a prelude to the Industrial Age military war machines that dominated the battlefields of Europe. For Chester, New Jersey, however, the first shot on Fort Sumter began a boom time that it had never experienced before or since.
Chester, like most of Northern New Jersey, was blessed with an abundance of iron beneath the soil. As the demand for cannonballs, mortar shells and other weapons of war increased, Chester joined the mines of New Jersey and those in Ohio in arming the Union army. As iron production increased in the mines the small mountain town grew into the vibrant municipality we know today.
This web site will aim to study Chester’s mining industry during the Civil War. We will seek to understand how the development of the mining industry, who worked in the mines and cannonball factories, quantify the amount of ammunition produced by the Chester mines and explore the social aspects of the town during it’s boom times.
New Jersey is not often thought of when the issue of ammunition production during the Civil War is raised. Often the more famous ironworks in Pennsylvania and Ohio come to mind despite Northern New Jersey’s rich mining history. Through careful research and firsthand local knowledge, we can now attempt to establish Chester’s place in this important aspect of US Military History.