TexasEscapes.com Texas Escapes Online Magazine: Travel and History
Columns: History, Humor, Topical and Opinion
Over 1600 Texas Towns & Ghost Towns
NEW : : TEXAS TOWNS : : GHOST TOWNS : : FEATURES : : COLUMNS : : ARCHITECTURE : : IMAGES : : SITE MAP
HOME
SEARCH SITE
ARCHIVES
RESERVATIONS
Texas Hotels
Hotels
Cars
Air
Cruises
 
  Texas : Features : Columns : Lone Star Diary :

Brazoria County brothers
make guns for the South...

The Dance boys and their guns

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery
It is a well-known fact that during the American Civil War, the North had the larger amount of resources when it came to manufacturing weapons.

That part of the country had most of the factories and other essential things required to supply troops in the field. The U.S. Army, it seems, had every advantage when it came to ordinance and raw material. You would think that with so many advantages, the North would have crushed the rebel army in a matter of days.

We know however, that it was not to be and thousands of young men, most of them Americans, were slaughtered on battlefields from Virginia to Texas the worst tragedy in the history of the United States.

It is my belief that the tremendous number of casualties in this conflict can be attributed, in part, to the invention of improved weapons. Much has been written about the gun manufacturers of the North but the South had weapon factories too, and some of them were in Texas.

Growing up in Brazoria County, I had often heard the old-timers talk of a gun factory that was located at East Columbia. According to The Handbook of Texas, J.H. Dance and his brothers came to Texas from North Carolina in 1848. They opened a metal and ironwork factory at East Columbia and prospered in the manufacture of gristmills and cotton gins.

When the Civil War broke out James Dance enlisted with the Brazoria Volunteers. He later became a first lieutenant with the Thirty-fifth Texas Cavalry. His brothers George, David, and Isaac also enlisted, but they were assigned to continue the operation of their factory. The Confederate Army needed weapons and the Dance boys were determined to do their part.

The Dance's steam factory on the Brazos River began to mount cannons and repair wagons for the Confederate Army. They were also grinding cornmeal for the troops. George Dance, in April of 1862, requested that the government send him $5,000 to finance the production of firearms. He received some aid and had hoped to produce 50 revolvers a week.

Production was slow however, and the Dances had only delivered about a dozen of their Colt-style revolvers by October of 1862. These guns were shipped to the arsenal at San Antonio.

When U.S. troops captured Matagorda Island, the citizens of Brazoria County were sure that the area would soon be invaded. The Confederate government decided to move the Dance factory farther inland and out of harm's way. The Dances were relocated to a site in Grimes County where they built a powder mill and another pistol factory.

The Handbook of Texas indicates that the fears of invasion were justified as it reports; "...the federals captured Old Columbia and burned the pistol factory."

As the war was nearing its conclusion, the Dance brothers shipped out the last 25 of their six-shot pistols on April 18, 1865, to the Houston Depot of Supplies. When the conflict was over, the Dances returned to East Columbia and the manufacture of gristmills and cotton gins.

I would love to see a Dance revolver. I'm not sure if there are any photographs of one. They are considered one of the most highly prized antique weapons, valued for their fine craftsmanship as well as their rarity. It is believed that fewer than 400 were produced between July 1862 and May 1865. They were copies of the six-shot Colt pattern and were made in both .44 and .36 caliber.

The Dance brothers proved that resourceful individuals can adapt to all situations, both in war and peace. The resilient old firm of J.H. Dance and Company is known to have prospered long after the war ended.

Murray Montgomery
More Lone Star Diary
June 9, 2004 Column
 
TEXAS TOWN LIST | TEXAS GHOST TOWNS | TEXAS COUNTIES
Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South |
West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast
TRIPS | STATES PARKS | RIVERS | LAKES | DRIVES | MAPS

TEXAS FEATURES
Ghosts | People | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII |
History | Black History | Rooms with a Past | Music | Animals | Books | MEXICO
COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

TEXAS ARCHITECTURE | IMAGES
Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters |
Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators |
Lodges | Museums | Stores | Banks | Gargoyles | Corner Stones | Pitted Dates |
Drive-by Architecture | Old Neon | Murals | Signs | Ghost Signs | Then and Now
Vintage Photos

TRAVEL RESERVATIONS | USA

Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Recommend Us
Contributors | Staff | Contact TE
TEXAS ESCAPES ONLINE MAGAZINE
Website Content Copyright 1998-2007. Texas Escapes - Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved
This page last modified: June 15, 2007