Iron Furnaces, Works, and Forges

The history of iron in Tennessee can be traced back to the state's pioneer days.  Iron production is believed to have been in the area as early as the American Revolution, and is known to have existed since the 1790s.  By the 19th century, iron production had taken root in Tennessee where producers were turning out nails, cast iron ware, and other products for both local and regional markets.  In East Tennessee some operations were fairly extensive, including furnaces, forges, bloomeries, nail manufacture, rolling mills, factories, and mining operations.  In Tennessee's Western Highland Rim, production of iron began in the 1790s, and by the mid-1850s, there were over 50 operations in the region.  The earliest iron operations were located along rivers or streams, since water powered trip-hammers were used to produce iron in small forges or bloomeries.  Cast, wrought, and rolled iron came from water-powered bellows in blast furnaces and from crude rolling mills.  By 1860, Tennessee ranked third nationally in bloomery output.

Tennessee's large capacity for iron production made the state of strategic importance to both the North and the South.  The South needed Tennessee's manufacturing capabilities to produce weapons of war for its cause.  Knowing this, the North made the capture and destruction of key iron production facilities a part of its strategy.  Thus, iron furnaces, forges, and works were the sites of several engagements between the Union and Confederate armies.

Table of Contents
Iron Extraction and Manufacture:
Eastern Iron Belt
Iron Extraction and Manufacture:
Dyestone Belt
Iron Extraction and Manufacture:
Western Highland Rim
Iron Manufacture in Urban Tennessee
Furnaces, Forges, and Works 
Operational During the Civil War
Iron-Associated Military Events 
of the Civil War
Preserving Tennessee's Early Iron Industry
Iron Bibliography


For further information on iron furnaces, works, and forges in Tennessee see the bibliography.

(Thanks to Nathan Kinser, assistant to the Research Coordinator, for the research used in the iron pages.)

  Civil War Technology & Industry in Tennessee

Last update:  December 8, 2000