A National Military Treasure: Small Arms Review Visits The Springfield Armory National Historic Site (Part I)

By Frank Iannamico

The Springfield Armory, located in Springfield, Massachusetts, was the federal center for the development and manufacture of U.S. military small arms from 1794 until its deactivation in 1968; making it the longest continuously operating industrial facility in the U.S. Springfield Armory manufactured weapons that pioneered modern industrial methods such as mass production and interchangeable parts, transforming American industry.

During America’s War for Independence against Great Britain, France had been the major source of weapons and supplies for the struggle. However, by 1794 France had undergone its own revolution, and future support was in doubt. It became clear that foreign countries could not be relied upon to supply weapons. At the time, few private contractors had sufficient capital to risk in the volatile arms manufacturing business. The solution was for the national government to establish its own arsenals for the manufacture of military weapons. On April 2, 1794, Congress passed “An Act to Provide for the Erecting and Repairing of Arsenals and Magazines.”

The site of the Springfield Armory had been suggested to George Washington by General Henry Knox. The location, near the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, offered many geographical advantages: it lay at the intersection of three rivers and four major roads. Additionally, Springfield is located just north of the Connecticut River’s Enfield water falls, which could not be navigated by enemy war ships, a serious threat at the time. General Washington visited the site and approved the location for the future Springfield Armory. A second site for a national armory was Harpers Ferry, Virginia, which was destroyed during the American Civil War.

Armory Square represents only one portion of the Springfield Armory, as it existed during its operation. Several components within the city comprised the Armory. A second complex was the Federal Square installation, located across Federal Street, on the adjacent block to the east. Armory Square and Federal Square were collectively recognized as the Hill Shops. The Water Shops, another component of the Armory, was a manufacturing complex located along the Mill River approximately...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N10 (December 2018)
and was posted online on October 26, 2018


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