The idea to set up shop in southwest North Carolina came from H. Ashton Ramsey, chief engineer of the late CSS Virginia. With Union ground and naval forces moving in on Gosport Navy Yard, Ramsey had his men pack up as many industrial tools and machines they could carry and load them onto rail cars. Working with ordnance expert John Brooke, the two men identified an abandoned machine shop located on the main line of the North Carolina Central railroad. Most important to Ramsey, it was safe from interference of both Union ground and naval forces.
After convincing the property owner to sell on a promise to pay when the war ended, workers from Gosport immediately started unloading several pieces of heavy industrial equipment. The workers’ families arrived a short time later. Many of the families settled down permanently in Charlotte after the war.
For the rest of the war, Ramsey’s men manufactured and assembled several shafts, propellers, ordnance, and torpedoes for use by the Confederate Navy. Most of the parts were used in building mid to late war ironclads such as CSS Virginia II, CSS Albemarle, CSS Georgia, and CSS Tennessee. Read more about the operations of the yard here.
|CSS Albemarle, one of several ironclads whose parts were assembled by the Charlotte Navy Yard|