The Confederate Powder Works in Augusta, Georgia were a marvel of engineering in their day. Though the Confederate government relied on the genius of a Southern-sympathizing Pennsylvanian for their construction and management, they were said to illustrate the only industrial venture where the Confederacy outdid the Union forces. These works were a vital means of war and supplied the Confederate armies with gunpowder in all theaters at one time or another. Later in the war, transportation became so disrupted that the works supplied powder only to the armies in the Eastern theater. General Hood seems to have relied on Alabama sources of supply for his ill-fated Tennessee campaign, and so I assume that, by late in 1864, the powder works was primarily supplying Lee at Petersburg.
Sherman believed in bringing war to the civilians of the South, and prosecuted a punitive campaign through Georgia and the Carolinas that did not fight against another significant army until Bentonville.
Many assume Sherman's strategy was practical, but I disagree. Though Sherman's impact on civilian morale, transportation, food production and military supply were certainly dreadful, I am more certain that the Augusta Powder Works are a testimony against Sherman's strategy. There was nothing secret about their existence. Even European travelers heard of them as a marvel and visited them. Though Augusta was defended, I believe, by some force under William Hardy at the time of Sherman's famous march, Sherman's victorious army at the end of the Atlanta campaign could have easily reduced the garrison at Augusta. Consider the implications of the loss of the powder works in December of 1864- the same month Sherman marched into Savannah after wasting his time looting and terrorizing the civilians of Georgia. Lee would have lost the military supply he needed most: gunpowder. Without gunpowder, the Confederate armies would be forced to surrender.
The Augusta Powder Works (or, at least, the famous surviving chimney) stand as a testimony against Sherman's campaign. Had he followed the conventional wisdom and established codes of war from his own time and attacked military targets rather than farmhouses, his campaign would have been fatal to Confederate arms.
I am very interested in feedback and criticism. Has this argument been considered before? Could Lee have had enough powder stockpiled to continue the resistance without the Works? Is it possible that the Works were not vital to the war effort in '64 or '65?
"Can any reasonable man be well disposed towards a government which makes war and carnage the only means of supporting itself—a government that can exist only by the sword? This single consideration should be sufficient to dispose every peaceable citizen against such a government. But can we believe that one state will ever suffer itself to be used as an instrument of coercion? The thing is a dream. It is impossible."-Alexander Hamilton