Reviewing the West Point Foundry History and the Parrott Gun

This blog is part of examining the current literature concerning the West Point Foundry and the Parrott Gun. The last efforts of the author in attempted research, analysis, and cohesive conclusions on this story were back in 1999. As part of looking into a digital narrative for Digital Media class, it is the effort of this author to find what there is on the topic.

I already know the basic narrative: War of 1812 and the British burn the White House. This is not a good thing. American military efforts decide this will never happen again and choose to improve and increase the military technology and begin or improve production of American ordnance. In order to make sure that no one would try attacking the U.S. ever again, the war department sent emissaries to  the battle fields of the Crimean War and came up with new materials that hurt anyone who tried to attack us.

These efforts included the foundry at Cold Spring, illegally importing engineers from Scotland to make better munitions, and establishing ways of moving about ordnance following its development through New York Harbor.

Years later, the Civil War breaks out and production increases. Testing continues, and various people die in the efforts including a distant relative. Lincoln reviews the foundry during this time, although not concerning the explosion. During the war, the guns heat enough that they explode and there are complaints. Either during or after the war (I am a little fuzzy on this part because I have not looked at my research in a decade) a scandal comes out about the Parrott Gun and there are Congressional hearings on the matter.

Along with this is the economic depression that occurred at the end of the war when the government stopped buying munitions. The engineers formerly employed at high wages protest and the New York state governor unleashes Confederate POW’s on the townspeople. The results are that half the town burns down.

Fast forwarding more than a hundred years later, and the foundry became a battery factory for Duracell and the environmental toxicity is such that the EPA requires Superfund Site cleaning and the archaeologists discover otherwise buried artifacts in the silt. All of the archaeologist’s findings go to his alma mater, Michigan State, because he did not know who else to give them to. Dependent upon what published during the past ten years, I want to revisit this project paper and flesh it out for a monograph to turn into a documentary.

It has been ten years, however, since my last work on the topic and the Internet stops for no one. I have no idea what is out there besides someone else’s paper on the topic and various articles from military blogs. I have inherent interest and there is basic mono-graphic evidence existing, but there is always room to flesh things out with more details. Until they make the movie of it, I want to research this place and its people.


One thought on “Reviewing the West Point Foundry History and the Parrott Gun

  1. Hello GenealogyDr!

    Michigan Technological University’s Industrial Archaeologists partnered with the Scenic Hudson Land Trust to study the West Point Foundry. We studied the site fairly intensively between 2001 and 2008 and a host of graduate students wrote MS Theses and PhD Dissertations about different aspects of the site. Of particular use to you would be Elizabeth Norris Hartnell’s dissertation you can read at the link I attach below.

    Also, there are a series held at our library, the catalog link I attach also.

    Detailed family and genealogical studies will be very important contributions to the history of the site! One of the pieces missing from the historical documents in Cold Spring are many personal stories: letters, photographs, diaries, etc. It would be fabulous as you work if you would share information with us about families that may have such documents in their collections!

    Best of luck with all your work and please contact me by email if there is anything I can do to help your efforts.
    Timothy Scarlett

    For Michigan Tech’s library, go to:
    and search for “West Point Foundry”

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