The Palmetto Armory was established by William M. Glaze, a South Carolinian whose many activities serve to puzzle and confuse historians. Above all, Glaze was an accomplished entrepreneur who readily attracted financial backing. His political ties also added to his success.
Sometime around 1849 the South Carolina State Legislature authorized the purchase of locally made weapons. Shortly thereafter Glaze received a contract from the state for 274 rifles and 100 muskets. The rifles were made on M1841 Rifle machinery purchased from Eli Whitney.
The origin of the muskets are not real clear. It is likely they were on hand inventory from the defunk New England manufacturer, A.H. Waters & B. Flagg Company.
In 1850, pleased with the work, South Carolina gave Glaze another contract, this time for 660 percussion muskets. At this point Glaze persuaded Benjamin Flagg to purchase the musket machinery and move to Columbia, South Carolina.
Glaze also negotiated the purchase of the pistol machinery belonging to Asa H. Waters.
The Palmetto Armory was a three-story building on Arsenal Hill, with a one story wing. The Armory's building's were approximately 64 by 154 feet. Included with the other machinery he installed was a 'large fast-acting trip hammer and a steam driven fan for the furnaces. Among the 40-odd workers he imported were machinists and iron workers, stockers and burnishers, all highly competent, many of whom brought their families with them and settled in Columbia. The net result was the largest arms manufactory south of Harpers Ferry, Virginia.
On April 15, 1851 Glaze received a third contract for 1000 percussion rifles. 6,000 percussion muskets, 1,000 pairs of percussion pistols (2,000), 1000 dragoon sabres, and 1000 artillery sabres. The contract specified times and month delivery quotas and began January 1852. The expectation was that the rifles conform to the U.S. M1841, the muskets to the M1842, the single shot paired pistols to the U.S. M1842, the dragoon sabres to the U.S. 1840, and the artillery sabres to the M1840. The state later amended the contract, dropping half of the pistols and changing the 1000 dragoon sabres and 1000 artillery sabres to 2000 dragoon sabres after 526 had been made and accepted.
Sometime in 1861, Glaze received a contract for rifling smoothbore muskets. By the end of the year the Iron Works had rifled an estimated 4500 (?) muskets.
Days before Sherman took Columbia, on a Friday in February, 1865, Glaze destroyed buildings, machinery and all inventory.
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