Inventors filed for 266 patents during the Civil War with the Confederate patent office. All those records were lost when the files were burned as Richmond was evacuated. However, the list of the inventors and their patents did survive.
Two West Virginians filed patents. #40 was filed by John P. Gorman of Charlestown (Charles Town today) for a cartridge box. Patent #206 was filed by E. S. Alexander of Morrefield for a spur.
Two other original Confederate patents had West Virginia connections. James E. Hanger, a Churchville, VA man who was sounded at Philippi Bridge, VA (now Philippi, WV) filed patents #155 and 201 for artificial legs.
Inventions of that era include war time items such as patent #1 for J. H. Van Houten of Savannah, GA – a breech loading gun, patent #5 – a sabre lance invented by R. W. Habersham of Beaufort, S.C. and patent #9 – a revolving pistol invented by Thomas W. Cofer of Portsmouth, Virginia. Other war related inventions included several types of torpedo, a revolving fire arm, a breech loading cannon, a machine for operating submarine batteries, and a submarine boat.
But many patents were for non-war related items. J.R. Clements of Eufala, AL secured patent #13 for a water wheel for mills. W. B. Martin of Fayetteville, TN received patent #57 for a sewing machine. And John Henson of Fork Union, VA invented a hay press that received CSA patent #131.
Other inventions receiving patents from the Confederate patent office were a wind mill, a button machine, a match cutting machine, a churn, several wooden soled shoes, a mode for preserving meat, and a photographic process for duplicating maps.
The story of the Confederate Patent office and the inventions is available in the book “Confederate Invention” by H. Jackson Knight.
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