Friday, January 27, 2017


This week, I am writing about the Shelton Laurel Massacre. Traditionally, this story starts with the Unionist-leaning Shelton Laurel people being refused salt from the government for their personal use. This led a group to break into some type of government facility in Marshall and take salt. As with most stories, there is a whole lot more to this one, but that's another post.

Arguably, salt was the most important commodity to rural people across the United States. While it had many uses, the most important would be to preserve hog meat for future use. It took 10 pounds of salt to preserve 100 pounds of pork. If you are feeding a large family, 100 pounds does not go far.
Prior to the war, North Carolina salt came from the coastal area, and from Saltville, Virginia, and appears to be a private venture.

Realizing the importance of salt, North Carolina took steps in late 1861 to ensure domestic supply. On December 6, the North Carolina Convention ratified "An Ordinance in Regards to the Supply of Salt." The state pledged at least $100,000 to the manufacture of salt on the along the coast. At the same time, the article stated that Dr. John Milton Worth, brother to future governor Jonathan Worth, was appointed North Carolina Salt Commissioner.

Salt Raid in Florida
An article in the Semi-Weekly Standard, December 18, 1861, made note of "private parties" making salt on Currituck Sound, Bouge Sound, Topsail Sound, in Carolina City, and soon, near Morehead City. It was the editor's suggestion that "farmers should not be hasty in killing pork this season."
The state government set up salt works at in Currituck County but they were lost when Roanoke Island fell in February 1862. There were salt works at Morehead City as well. After the place fell to Union forces in March 1862, the government salt works were moved to Wilmington. In August 1863, the Wilmington Salt Works produced five thousand bushels of salt. The state also chartered the Chatham Salt Mining and Manufacturing Company in 1862. The plans for the Chatham County site were to drill a well. Also in 1862, Governor Clark sent Nicholas Woodfin and George W. Mordecia to Saltville, Virginia, with instructions to negotiate a contract to purchase cast iron pots and enough brine to produce 300,000 bushels of salt per year.

Each county appointed a salt agent. In 1862, the Buncombce County salt agent was John A. Burin. In Forsyth County, E. A. Vogler; T. G. Whitaker, Wake County; W. S. Gunter, Chatham County;
At least in Buncombe, the county was divided into sub-districts, with a sub-agent responsible for the distribution of salt. They were supposed to sell the salt to citizens at cost. It must have been a thankless job. After the war, a citizen in Yancey County complained that they had four different salt agents over the duration of the war.

There were numerous raids and assaults against North Carolina's salt-making industries during the war years. In October 1862, Federals destroyed the salt works at Bogue and Currituck Inlet. In February 1863, the salt works at Wale's Head, Currituck Beach, were destroyed. On Christmas Eve 1863, portions of the 158th New York Infantry and 9th Vermont Infantry, with sailors from the USS Daylight  and Howquah, moved against salt works near Bear Inlet. On April 21, 1864, Federal forces raided the salt works at Masonboro Inlet, near Wilmington.

Probably better known are the raids taking place against Saltville, Virginia, one taking place in October 1864, and another that same December.

The raid on Marshall in January 1863 was supposedly because local residents, who were not pro-Confederate were not getting salt. I wonder, was this Confederate policy, state policy, or simply the policy of the local salt agent in charge of Madison County? 


Charlsie Russell said...

I sure can't tell you for sure, but I can give an opinion. I wouldn't think it was Confederate National policy--trying to tell authorities in NC who they could or could not sell salt to among its own citizenry would have been overstepping its bounds and it had more pressing matters to attend to plus that never worked well in NC did it? Not on any issue.

State authorities making such a policy would be more likely than Confederate authorities (IMO), but you want to know what I think is most likely--petty partisan tyranny among neighbors whose loyalties and interests conflicted--animosities that went back way before the War, generations even. That happened a lot (probably still does for that matter and I'm certainly not speaking of just NC here, but the world over). I've read cases where county tax assessors, for example, were brutal in their assessments against neighbors--vengeance or greed--and authorities subsequently arresting and trying the offenders, but the offenders had to be reported--and again, the Confederate (and State) governments had more on their plate to attend to than those issues. Just my thoughts.

dan said...

I remember reading somewhere that State Convention Ordnance specified that the county Justices of the Peace would have been the ones that decided who got and who did not. I think I read that in a list of the passed Ordnances of the Convention - maybe online.