On January 9, 2010, the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History will host a one-day symposium titled, “James H. Burton, Master Armorer of the Confederacy.” The event features lectures on James Henry Burton and his role in promoting small-arms manufacturing in the South as well as Burton’s Confederate uniform, which has been on exhibit at the museum since its opening in 2001. This project is supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Admission is free. In addition to hearing the lectures, participants will have one final opportunity to view “Lee and Grant,” the NEH on the Road traveling exhibit developed by the Mid-America Arts Alliance in Kansas City, Missouri. The exhibit has been at the museum since November 12 and will close on January 9.
In 1861, with very few resources, the Confederacy attempted to arm itself. Several factories and armories were created to help meet these needs. James Henry Burton played a major role in the South’s venture in small-arms manufacturing. Born in Virginia in 1823, Burton was apprenticed to a machine shop at the age of sixteen and his abilities and talent were quickly recognized. Ten years later he became acting master armorer at Harpers Ferry. Burton’s mechanical genius flourished at Harpers Ferry. He invented an altered form of Claud Minié’s rifle bullet, which became the primary small-arm projectile during the Civil War. Burton left America for England, where he became chief engineer of the Royal Small Arms Factory producing the Enfield Rifle. After his return to America, he became the premier small-arms expert in the Confederacy. Special speakers at this program are Dr. Matthew Norman, author of Colonel Burton’s Spiller and Burr Revolver: An Untimely Venture in Confederate Small-Arms Manufacturing and Jessica Hack, noted textile conservator from New Orleans.
The museum, located at 503 E. 9th St. in Little Rock, is open 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Saturday and 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Sunday. For more information, contact Stephan McAteer at 501-376-4602 or visit the museum’s website at www.arkmilitaryheritage.com