Confederate Patent Office
Aided Rebel Cause
The Confederate States of America did, indeed, have a Patent Office. It was located in Richmond, Va., and shared offices with the Confederate Navy Department. This choice of roommates proved costly, because when the Union Army finally captured Richmond in the spring of 1865, many Navy Department records were destroyed or carried off when the remnants of the Confederate government fled south. Most Patent Office records were also destroyed or scattered in the panic. For this reason, almost nothing has been written about this interesting but obscure subject.
Our research on this topic has uncovered enough material to offer this 8 chapter glimpse into the Confederate Patent Office. Extensive research has been compiled from historical archives in Richmond, Washington D.C., Raleigh, N.C., and several universities to piece together this fascinating story. The annual reports of the Confederate Commissioner of Patents have been located, as well as lists of patents issued and other documents.
The comments of Rufus Rhodes, the Confederate Commissioner of Patents, in these annual reports closely track the fortunes of the Confederacy, and provide an interesting sidelight into bureaucratic life inside the Confederate government. Personal letters from Mr. Rhodes to the governor of Mississippi before, during and after the war reveal both exciting and tragic episodes which have never before been published.
Bonus Tidbits Not Directly Related to Confederate Patent Office
In addition to all the material presented in Chapters 1 through 8, a number of other fascinating facts not directly related to the subject of the Confederate Patent Office were found during research. Here are a couple we found particularly interesting:
Patent attempt initiates
Stuart relationship with Lee
John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry in October, 1859, one of the direct precursor events of the Civil War, was put down by U.S. troops led by Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee and Lt. J.E.B. Stuart (pictured at right). When Stuart learned of the raid he was sitting in the anteroom of the Secretary of War in Washington waiting for an interview with the Secretary. He had invented and patented an improved device for attaching a cavalryman's sabre to his belt, and he was attempting to sell the patent to the War Department. While Stuart was waiting for his interview, he was asked if he would take an important message regarding the raid to Lt. Col. Lee. Eager to do so, Stuart found Lee in Arlington, delivered the message and asked and obtained permission to go along with Lee as an aide. Thus, Stuart's effort to license his patent inititated one of the most fortuitous associations for the South during the entire war. The exploits of Jeb Stuart, including his famed ride around the entire Yankee Army, made him, along with his revered commander, Robert E. Lee, one of the most famous and beloved Confederate Generals.
Patent attorney first to die
Virginia seceded from the Union on May 23, 1861. President Lincoln sent troops to capture Alexandria, Virginia, at 2:00 am on May 24th. One of the units sent was a regiment of "Fire Zouaves", fancy-dress soldiers formed from volunteer fire departments. The first person to die in "combat" during the Civil War was Elmer Ellsworth (pictured at left), who was shot by the proprietor of a Alexandria hotel as he tried to remove a Confederate flag from the hotel's flagpole. Ellsworth was given a state funeral, lay in state at the White House and was mourned by Lincoln. Ellsworth was a Chicago patent attorney.
A Personal Dedication & The History Behind It
The following record appears in the Official Records of Co. A, 14th Regiment of North Carolina Troops:
"Rooker, George W., Corporal:
Was by occupation a mechanic prior to enlisting in Warren County at age 21, March 30, 1861. Mustered in as Private. Present or accounted for until wounded in the thorax and captured at Sharpsburg [the battle of Antietam], Maryland, September 17, 1862. Hospitalized at Frederick, Maryland, until transferred to Fort Delaware, Delaware, at an unspecified date. Paroled at Fort Delaware and transferred to City Point, Virginia, where he was received December 18, 1862, for exchange. Rejoined the company in January 1863 and present or accounted for until wounded in the right arm or shoulder at Chancellorsville, Virginia, May 3, 1863. Rejoined the Company in July 1863 and present or accounted for until wounded in the right arm at or near Spotsylvania, Virginia, Court House on or about May 12, 1864. Reported absent wounded through August, 1864. Promoted to corporal prior to April 9, 1865, when he was paroled at Appomattox, Virginia, Court House."
George Rooker fought in three of the bloodiest battles of the War, was once captured and thrice wounded, gave a full measure of service to his Country and State, and survived the entire span of the War for Southern Independence. He was the grandfather of Alton Roosevelt Rooker Adams, the author's paternal grandmother, who recently celebrated her 91st birthday, and to whom this history is affectionately dedicated.
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