Initially, Mount Vernon remained the site of an important Confederate arsenal, but after Union forces occupied New Orleans in April 1862, Gorgas chose to move the arsenal to Selma, Alabama, where it would be safer from Union raids. Once in Selma, the armory remained there through the end of the war, and, according to John Hardy’s 1879 account, the city’s “inexhaustible coal fields, the immense iron beds, the great abundance of lime rock, as well as the lead indications along the line of the Alabama and Tennessee Railroad” made Selma a nearly ideal location for the manufacturing of war materiel. By 1864, the arsenal was producing all types of supplies the Confederacy needed for its war eff ort, including munitions, weapons, clothing and knapsacks, and even ironclads or warships. In March 1864, an advertisement in the Mobile Daily Tribune called for mechanics, gardeners, and other laborers to work at the arsenal and promised “liberal wages.” In all, approximately ten thousand southerners worked at the arsenal over the course of the war, and slaves, women, and children also found employment in Selma as the arsenal grew to be the one of the most important manufacturing sites within the Confederacy.
For the next three years, Gorgas remained at his post, and later in the war, in 1864, when Union forces were closing in on Richmond, Virginia, he proudly noted in his diary that after years of “constant work and application,” he had “succeeded beyond his utmost expectations.” His Bureau had become “the best” of the War Department and had established arsenals and munitions factories across the Confederacy, which had “relieve[d] the country from fear of want in these respects.” After serving the Confederacy for four years, Gorgas returned to Alabama after the war’s end. Although he briefly tried his hand at business, he eventually entered the world of education and became president of the University of Alabama.