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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

Janney Iron Furnace 1863~Alabama

This is a summary of a discussion at a recent meeting of the AlaBenton Genealogical Society in Anniston, Alabama. The Janney Iron Furnace is a local historic attraction. It is located near Ohatchee.

History in the Making
In 1863, the Union Blockade was chocking the flow of munitions throughout the Confederacy. Respondeing to the need for more pig iron to make cannons, cannon balls and other munitions, Montgomery businessman, Alfred A. Janney commissioned Janney Iron Furnace.

A "Dr. Smith", fleeing advancing Union forces in Tennessee with his 200 slaves, was hired to build the structure. The hand-carved sandstone furnace was completed in 1864.

Janney Iron Furnace was strategically located to exploit natural resources. The Coosa River, less than one mile West, was used for transportation of machinery and any pig iron produced. Clay from the river was used to make brick and mortar.

On November 13, 1863, Union forces under command of General Lowell H.
Rousseau, blew off the furnace stack and burned the supporting structures including the blower and charcoal houses. The only remaining original structure is the furnace itself.

Furnace Operations:
Iron ore, limestone and charcoal, the three ingredients used in iron production, were shoveled into the top of the furnace where a fire inside the structure smelts the ore. Smelting forces "impurities" out of the ore where they attach to the liquefied limestone forming slag. The "purified" iron ore is tapped in the front of the furnace and flowed down a chute called the "sow" into smaller channels called "pigs" where it cooled into manageable ? that could be re-smelted into munitions and other iron products.

To smelt iron ore, a constant temperature between 2600-3000F must be maintained 24 hours a day. A steam engine provided a hot blast of air to fuel the fire. The air entered the furnace through side portals called Tuyeres. A reservoir dug by slaves held the water needed to create the steam for this process.

The entire operation was managed by the iron Master and his Company Clerk. A dozen or so people were needed to operate the furnace but over 100 were needed in support roles.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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