Thursday, February 16, 2017

Quakers and Salt

   No discussion about salt and the War is complete without some mentions of the Quakers, Moravians, and Wesleyan Methodists in central North Carolina.
   All of these were religious sects that were pacifist in their beliefs. They believed that war and violence were wrong, and refused to serve in the Confederate army when the war came. This of course, created a problem when the Confederate government passed the Conscription Act in early 1862. The Convention Committee adopted a resolution early in May 1862 that exempted the Quakers. It read: "That members in good standing in the Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers, who shall produce a regular certificate of membership, shall be exempt from performing militia duty and military service: Provided, That as an equivalent for such exemption from military service, when called for by the proper authorities, they shall pay sums of one hundred dollars, to be collected by the Sheriffs of the several counties, as the other State taxes are collected, to be for paid into the State Treasury for the general purposes thereof, and in case they shall be unable to pay the same, the governor shall have power to detain them to assist in the manufacture of salt or to attend in the hospitals in the State." (The Raleigh Register May 31, 1862)
   In October of that year, the government enacted a $500 exemption fee. If a Quaker paid this fee, he was exempt from military service. Some Quakers paid, some did not. Some refused to pay the exemption tax, believing it was "the price exacted of us for religious liberty." By the end of the war, the superintendent of the Bureau of Conscription reported that 342 men from North Carolina had been exempted as conscientious objectors. The aforementioned John M. Worth, state salt agent, allowed Quakers to work at the state salt works near Wilmington, according to William A. Auman.
   Quakers were originally told that there was little danger while working at the salt works, and that the sea breezes were healthy. Anyone who has spent time in the Wilmington area in the summer knows that it can actually be very stifling hot, and at dark, the mosquitoes and sand fleas are unbearable.
   Records of individual Quakers are scattered. Calvin G. Perkins of Kinston made salt in New Bern until he was captured. J. M. Prevo worked at the state salt works in Wilmington. James Newlin, Abner Lamb, and Nathan Pearson reportedly worked in the salt works. Michael Cox, Thomas Hinshaw, Amos Hinshaw, and Clarkson Allen were also assigned to salt-making duty. Each chose instead to pay someone else fifteen dollars to take his place. Clarkson Allen and Amos Hinshaw then escaped to the west.
   There were many opposed to the Quakers and their not being in the army. General William Whiting, in charge of the defenses around Wilmington, complained in July 1864 to the Confederacy’s  Secretary of War:
   I have at length positive information that at least two thirds of the Conscripts at the State Salt works, belong to the treasonable organization called "H. O. A." [Heroes of America] Their mode of communicating with the Enemy has been ascertained... I recommend strongly that the whole force be turned over to the Conscript Camp for distribution in the Army and their places be supplied by free negro or slave labor. (Salt, That Necessary Article, 143)
   The State salt works in Wilmington employed somewhere around 250 men in 1864.
   There is undoubtedly more to learn about this subject. I feel that this short piece has just scratched the surface. (Or maybe I've exhausted it, who knows?) For sources, I examined:
William, Isabel M. and Leora H. McEachern Salt: That Necessary Article (1973)
Auman, William T. Civil War in the North Carolina Quaker Belt (2014)
Zuber, Richard L. "Conscientious Objectors in the Confederacy: The Quakers of North Carolina." Quaker History, vol. 67, Issue 1 (1978)
Cartland, Fernando G. Southern Heroes or, the Friends in War Time. (1895)

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