Saturday, April 3, 2010

An Iron Will

Magnet # 208: Tredegar Iron Works Photo

Material: Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By: Me

It was at this time back in 1865 that the city of Richmond, Virginia was being evacuated due to the approaching Union Army. The evacuation began on the second of April and lasted until the third. During this time, the retreating soldiers were ordered to set anything that might be used by Union forces to further their cause. Unfortunately, the fires spread out of control, destroying much more of the city than planned and mobs broke out, looting what was left. Many historic places were forever lost. General Sherman may not have actually have led his troops through the city, but it certainly must have looked as though he had.

The evacuation and burning of Richmond helped give an even greater importance to the Tredegar Iron Works, which is featured on this magnet. The iron foundry was built in the 1830's to merge many of the smaller iron businesses that had been competing in the town. It was named in part for its engineer and his fellow workers who came from Tredegar, South Wales, as their involvement was so critical in the foundry's development. Tredegar had its own iron works that all of them had been involved with and the facility was also named in honor of this original site. The foundry initially struggled and fell into decline but that all changed when the owners had hired a manger named Joseph Reid Anderson. He was so capable that he managed to buy the site for himself. Under his control, Tredegar became one of the United States' most productive iron producers. It was also the largest iron foundry in the South and its importance to that region during the Civil War was one of the reasons why Richmond was made the capitol of the Confederacy. Anderson was a staunch supporter of the South and even took up arms to fight on their side. But, as the war went on, Tredegar lost many of its skilled workers as they were conscripted into the Confederacy. Also, the scarcity of metal made it hard for the business to produce much iron at all. Sometimes nothing would be produced for a month at a time. But Anderson was a smart man and had secured Tredegar's assets overseas when the war broke out and didn't bring them back until it was over. And when Richmond was going to burn, Anderson was said to have hired more than 50 men who were dubbed "the Tredegar Battalion" to make certain his building did not go up in flames. It was one of the few Civil War-era structures that still stood once the fires had died out. After the war was over, Anderson was able to receive a pardon from President Johnson and commence producing at Tredegar - interestingly, he refused to hire any Northern workers. Although he passed away in 1892, the foundry kept going, producing supplies for the troops during both World Wars before burning in 1952. The building lay dormant for many years, but in the 1990s it was briefly annexed by the Valentine Richmond History Center and displayed some of its historical collection. Although the public wasn't interested in visiting the building then, it did bring it back into their minds. Before long, though, plans were being made to create The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar. It opened in 2006, giving new life to a building that had played such an important role in our country's history. The museum combines artifacts from the past with cutting edge modern technology such as interactive theaters and plasma-screen maps. It's said to be an impressive site with lovely views of the nearby James River.

I didn't get a chance to see Tredegar or its Civil War Center on my trip to Richmond last year, but I would definitely try to stop by if I visit the city again. I bought this magnet at a very reasonable price at the city's Welcome Center. One of the ladies working there was a bit upset that I was only staying in her home for a day and I can understand why. Richmond has truly rebuilt itself since its devastation during the Civil War and it had many impressive sites to offer tourists. Evidence of the city's Confederate leanings can still be found scattered throughout it, from monuments to Jefferson Davis and other Confederate heroes on Monument Avenue to the former White House of the Confederacy to the statue of Robert E. Lee in the state capitol on the exact spot where he accepted his commission. And when I was offered sweet tea in a restaurant in the city's downtown area, it was a sign that I was truly back in the South after days of traveling thought the Mid-Atlantic. Richmond was of great importance to the Confederacy and it's still a great place to see, particularly if you're a Civil War buff. Much of it may have been lost during that time, but plenty of historic places still stand in Richmond, from the Virginia State Capitol designed by Thomas Jefferson to the stunning Gilded Age mansion, Maymont, to Hollywood Cemetary, where two U.S. Presidents are buried and a trip to any would be impressive, but when all of these sites are combined in one place, it makes for a rather compelling tourist destination.


  1. What a great idea for Richmond to use the foundry as a Civil War Museum. It sounds like something worth visiting.

  2. Yes, it's great that they were able to make this historic location available to the public and ensure it will not be torn down.