Saturday, May 29, 2021

Site Visit Saturday: Fort Sumter


  For some people, Fort Sumter is the start of the war, the place where the first shots were fired. It is convenient to have a “beginning” place. But this simplified view neglects the firing on of the Star of the West in Charleston harbor on January 9, 1861; it neglects what is going on in Pensacola, Florida; it neglects the war that is already being waged in Kansas and Nebraska. Regardless of where you see the war starting, shots were fired on April 9, 1861, in Charleston, South Carolina.

   Military installations go back decades prior to the 1860s. A palmetto and log fort was constructed on Sullivan’s Island by Patriot forces in 1776. The story of Fort Sumter starts right after the War of 1812. The United States, recognizing the need for better costal defenses, began work on a series of forts to protect important harbors. Work began on Fort Sumter in 1829 by building an island for a fort to sit upon.

   Fort Sumter was mostly empty of Federal troops in December 1860 when South Carolina seceded from the Union. Under the cover of darkness, the garrison pulled out from nearby Fort Moultrie and moved into Fort Sumter. In April 1861, Confederate forces learned that supply ships were on their way to the fort. A demand of surrender was refused on April 11, and Confederate forces opened fire on April 12. The fort surrendered the following day.

   There were several naval attacks against the Fort, including one on April 7, 1863, which resulted in the loss of the USS Keokuk. A second attempt, an amphibious operation to capture the fort, was launched in September 1863, but it also failed. When the Federals captured Morris Island in the summer of 1863, they were able to erect batteries that laid siege to the fort. For 587 days, artillery projectiles rained down on the fort, reducing the three story, five-sided, brick fortification to rubble. But Southerners took the rubble and created an earthwork fort. The Federal forces around Charleston Harbor were never able to capture Fort Sumter. The fort would remain in Confederate hands until February 1865, when the city of Charleston was abandoned. 

   Following the war, the U.S. Army rebuilt the fort. It served as an unmanned lighthouse station from 1876 to 1897, and in 1898, a new concrete gun emplacement was constructed inside. The new installation was named Battery Huger. It never saw action, and the fort was finally deactivated in 1947. In 1948, it became Fort Sumter National Monument, a part of the National Park Service.

   Several of the cannon found in the lower tier casements were found buried in the casements when Battery Huger was constructed.

   I list visited Fort Sumter in August 1995 (it is past time for a visit!).

Friday, May 28, 2021

The First Named Woman on American Paper Currency: Lucy Pickens

Bank of Washington, NC 

     Paper currency dates back centuries in America. The Massachusetts Bay Colony issued notes to fund military expeditions in 1690. The Continental Congress issued notes to finance the Revolutionary War. Of course, these notes quickly lost their value, leading to the phrase “not worth a Continental.” 

   Most states, or banks, issued their own paper currency in the Federal and Antebellum periods.  Many of these notes featured women. A $50 note from the Bank of Washington, North Carolina from 1855 featured five women. A $5 1858 note from the Merchants’ Bank of South Carolina features a woman with the state seal. Likewise, a woman is portrayed on the $100 note from The Union Bank of Augusta, South Carolina. These three examples all have something in common. The woman is not an actual person, but the personification of Liberty. She is portrayed holding a spear with a liberty cap on top. This item is closely linked to the French Revolution, when the “pileus,” a hat worn by freed Roman slaves, was adopted as one of the symbols of the revolutionary forces. Similar to the Scythian cap, with which it is often conflated, the pileus represents freedom, so iconographic figures of Liberty frequently wear it or hold it aloft.

   Confederate currency also featured women, often Native American women, and at times Greek or Roman goddesses, such as Victory (Nike), Athena, or Justice, which all appeared on various $100 notes. But the Confederate Treasury Department broke with tradition by placing Lucy Pickens on three different notes.

Lucy Holcombe Pickens 
   Often referred to as the “Queen of the Confederacy,” Lucy Holcome Pickens is an interesting story. She was born in La Grange, Tennessee, in 1832, and when she was 16, moved with her family to Marshall, Texas. In 1858, she married Col. Francis W. Pickens, a very wealthy South Carolina planter. Colonel Pickens and his bride were soon were on their way to Russia, where he served as United States ambassador. Lucky became a favorite at the Russian Court of Czar Alexander II. On returning to the United States, and South Carolina, Colonel Pickens was elected governor of South Carolina in December 1860, three days before the state legislature voted to secede from the Union. Lucy was in Charleston and watched the bombardment of Fort Sumter in April 1861. Colonel Pickens continued to serve as governor of South Carolina through December 1862.

   Lucy Pickens was honored in many different ways. In the spring of 1861, she reviewed and presented a flag to the “Lucky Holcombe Legion.” She had sold her Russian jewels to help finance the Legion. Based on a proposal made by Confederate Treasury Secretary Christopher Memminger, in December 1862, Lucy Pickens’s portrait appeared on the Confederate $100 bill, and the Confederate $1 bill. She would also appear on revamped $100 notes in April 1863 and February 1864.[1]

    Colonel Pickens died in January 1869. Lucy never remained, but managed three different properties, raised her daughter, worked to have a monument erected to the Confederate dead in Edgefield, and worked to have George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, declared a historical monument.

   Lucy was the only named woman on a piece of currency until Pocahontas, who appeared on the US $20 bill from 1865 to 1869, and again in 1875. Martha Washington appeared on the US $1 Silver Certificate in 1886.


[1] Greenberg, ed., The Women’s War in the South, 293-296.

Friday, May 21, 2021

“Northern Aggression?” Further History of the Phrase

       This is a second part of a series on “Northern aggression.” You can read the first part here. These first two parts deal with the term itself. The third part, at some point in the future, will look at some of the ways Southerners perceived aggression on the part by the North prior to the war.

   Some people (many people?) see the term “Northern aggression” and think it is tied to just the actions by the Lincoln administration in early 1861. Most notably, they refer to the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861, after Secretary of State William H. Seward had promised Southerners that there were no plans to resupply or reinforce that garrison. In actuality, the term “Northern aggression” was being used by Southerners at least three decades prior to the events in Charleston, South Carolina, as well as the sending of troops across the Potomac River to capture Alexandria, Virginia, on May 24, 1861.  

   There may be other examples in written correspondence, in the journals from various state legislators, or the U.S. Congress, that use the term, but the phrase “Northern aggression” dates back at least three decades in contemporary newspapers.

      In July 1830, a Philadelphia newspaper reprinted part of an article from Milledgeville, Georgia. The Georgia newspaper editor wrote that “We confess that our language, respecting the conduct of our Northern Brethren towards the South, and the notice we take of their abuse, scurrility & denunciations, would be, under any other circumstances, unbecoming, inasmuch as it should be no plea, because an adversary departs from the deportment of a gentlemen, that you should imitate him. The only apology we can offer, is that our blood boils in our veins when we come across the slanderous and scurrilous remarks of northern writers, upon the south and southerners. We cannot keep our-temper-we do not posses the patience of a Job. We cannot take upon ourselves to give our enemy the left cheek, after he has smitten us on the right one. We are more apt to return the blow with liberality. As long as we can hold a pen, and have a press at our command, Georgia shall be defended from northern aggression, and her citizens vindicated from the foul aspersions of northern fanatics and ultras.”[1]

   This of course comes in the wake of the Nullification crisis and January 1830 debate between Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina and Daniel Webster of Massachusetts regarding the question of states’ rights versus Federal authority.  The term appears again in July 1831, in a toast given at Barnwell Court House, offered by D. Thorton: “The Militia of South Carolina-If ever called upon to defend the State from Northern aggression-may their lamps be trimmed and burning.”[2]

Henry Clay before the U. S. Senate 

   The saying “Northern aggression” begins to appear with some regularity in the 1840s, particularly 1847. James Polk was president, and the United States was wrapped up in the Mexican-American War. There was much discussion regarding the Wilmont Proviso. A Mississippi newspaper came out in praise of Henry Clay and the Missouri Compromise of 1820, saying that it was Clay who “more than a quarter century ago, erected that impenetrable shield between the rights of the South and Northern aggression…”[3] An Alabama newspaper editor asked the next year, that if the Wilmont Proviso was passed, would “the progress of northern aggression and demand stop at this point, if conceded”?[4] There were many other occasions when the terms were used in the years around the Mexican-American War in newspapers from Richmond, Charleston, Washington, D.C., Huntsville, and Vicksburg.

   By using one of the popular newspaper databases, a search using the term “Northern aggression” between the years 1850 and 1859 produced 1,954 hits. Granted, some of these articles, in the time-honored tradition of “sharing” between newspapers, are copies. Regardless, the idea that the Northern states were the aggressors flowed freely from the pens of editors. “Those who have hitherto put their trust in the Southern President as their forlorn hope against Northern aggression must now confess that they have leant on a broken reed,” wrote one Louisiana editor.[5] A newspaper in Natchez called for meeting of friends “who are opposed to Northern aggression, or Southern submission to the unconstitutional acts of Congress” in 1851.[6] The phrase was even used at times in jest. In January 1852 a Richmond editor complained of “Northern Encroachment… Whatever difference of opinion may have been heretofore existed among some of our citizens as to the fact of Northern aggression on the South, the question was set at rest beyond cavil or dispute, on Tuesday last. On the morning of that day, at early dawn, we were invaded by a Northern snow storm…”[7]

   Once again, this post is not a discourse on how the South perceived the North as being aggressors when it came to trampling on Constitutional rights. This is simply an examination on the use of the term “Northern aggression” from nineteenth-century primary sources. The idea that the North was the aggressor was not a new idea in the 1860s. The term had been used for decades prior to the 1860s.  

[1] The United States Gazette, July 30, 1830.

[2] The Charleston Mercury, July 8, 1831.

[3] Natchez Daily Courier, September 14, 1847.

[4] The Independent Monitor, September 28, 1848.

[5] The New Orleans Crescent, January 8, 1850.

[6] Mississippi Free Trader and Natchez Gazette, January 11, 1851.

[7] Richmond Dispatch, January 26, 1852.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

War of Northern Aggression?

   What do you call the war? What did they call the war? Recently, the folks over at Carnton House in Franklin, Tennessee, posted an interesting facebook question. They had a visitor stop by and ask them about the origins of the term “War of Northern Aggression.” Their response was that this term did not originate until the 1960s. Well… that’s not exactly true. While it might have become popular in the 1960s, a phrase similar to that one appeared often in period newspapers, and, many Southerners viewed the aggressors as those from the Northern states.  For example, in February 1861, US Senator William H. Seward introduced a petition from Northern merchants in favor of conciliation. Senator James M. Mason, Virginia, responded, exposing Seward’s speech as “a latent declaration of war, in behalf of Northern aggression, against Southern rights.”[1]

   A similar phrase used by a Richmond editor appeared a few weeks later. The article was discussing a Federal naval captain, J. P. Levy, who had joined the Confederate navy. Capt. Levy “with the heart of a true Southern man, prefers to aid the Southern Confederacy in the war against Northern aggression and despotism.”[2] A newspaper editor in Raleigh, writing in April 1862, thought that “North Carolina and the South entered upon this war to resist the usurpations of Northern aggression and tyranny; to preserve intact the right of the people of these States to govern themselves, and to perpetuate constitutional liberty to generations yet unborn.”[3]

   “Northern aggression” was a popular term for many writers in the 1860s. In Louisville, Tennessee, January 1, 1861, a group of citizens gathered and passed several resolutions. They regretted the breakup of the Union, but believed “that cause exists, solely from Northern aggression upon Southern constitutional rights“ and that there had been many cases of “Northern aggression for many years upon their rights…”[4] In a “Southern Rights” meeting in Christian County, Kentucky, in April 1861, some of the local citizens promised to hold themselves “in readiness to resist Northern aggression.”[5] “I am willing to make any sacrifice, sooner than the South shall be subjugated by Northern aggression,” North Carolina’s Thomas I. Faison wrote in October 1861.[6]

   “Northern aggression” was a term used throughout the remaining war years by Southern newspaper editors. In July 1862, the Greensboro Patriot, in describing Col. Zebulon B. Vance, wrote that Vance had “bared his breast to resist the tide of Northern aggression and subjugation…”[7] The editor of the Weekly Standard lamented in May 1862 that the “great men, who fought and won the battle of secession against Northern aggression and Southern submission, were thus, in the hour of triumph, crushed and humiliated as martyrs to the liberties of their own countrymen.”[8] In writing about the death of Brig. Gen. Allison Nelson, an Atlanta editor opinioned that Nelson “was one of the most vigilant and active of that patriot band, early and long determined to resist Northern aggression at all hazards.”[9] In talking about the French invasion of Mexico, the editor of the Abingdon Virginian confessed that France would need the help of the Southern Confederacy to “protect her from Northern aggression.”[10]

   The phrase “Northern aggression” continued after the war on the pages of various Southern history publications. The history committee of the Grand Camp of Confederate Veterans wrote in 1900 that “There was no need for war. The action of the Southern States was legal and constitutional, and history will attest that it was reluctantly taken in the last extremity, in the hope of thereby saving their whole constitutional rights and liberties from destruction by Northern aggression…” (There are many other examples in the pages of the Southern Historical Society Papers) The phrase “Northern aggression” also appears throughout the pages of Confederate Veteran.[11]

   The term “war against Northern aggression” or “war of Northern aggression” gained popularity in the 1960s, with publications like Burke Davis’s Our Incredible Civil War (1960) and Newman’s and Long’s The Civil War Digest (1960). The most likely rise in popularity of the term stemmed from Hollywood. Granny Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies often said it was not a “Civil War,” but a “War of Northern Aggression.”  Of course, the Clampetts are one of the major sources of stereotypes of Southerners, although they actually hailed from Missouri.

The Beverly Hillbillies - S)6E13: "The South Rises Again." 

   The term “Northern aggression” of course signifies decades of sectional and political conflict in the United States. We’ll save that for a future post(s).

[1] New York Herald, February 7, 1861.

[2] Richmond Enquirer, May 24, 1861.

[3] Weekly Standard, April 9, 1862.

[4] Nashville Union and American, January 4, 1861.

[5] Clarksville Chronicle, April 26, 1861.

[6] Weekly Standard, October 23, 1861.

[7] Greensboro Patriot, July 31, 1862.

[8] Weekly Standard, May 28, 1862.

[9] Southern Confederacy, November 29, 1862.

[10]  The Abington Virginian, March 4, 1864.

[11] Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. 28, 185.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Women as Clerics in the Southern Confederacy

   It is an often-repeated phrase: women left behind in various Southern states had to adapt, often performing a wide range of tasks beyond the normal status quo of taking care of the home and children. But the idea of 1860s women adopting the role of the clergy may seem farfetched to today’s readers.

   Historically, in most cultures, women were intrinsically involved with the processes of birth, life, and death. This concept is clear from the mythical triptych depiction of the female: maiden, mother and crone. In a practical sense, nearly every activity connected to being born, nurturing life, and caring for the dead was conducted and supervised by women. Only in more “modern” times have men become the primary figures in these practices, with the advent of medical and funeral practices conducted by professionals, men trained in facilities that often did not even permit the training of women. However, in the past, particularly in rural areas, women delivered babies, cared for children, treated the sick, and, when a person died, it was women who often cleaned and dressed the body, while also making a shroud. Men typically built the coffin and dug the grave. After the family sat up with the body overnight (embalming was not really in practice, except for the rich), the deceased was transported to the cemetery and a few words were spoken. Then the grave was filled. High churches, like Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, etc., had a proscribed liturgy that was to be read over the deceased. Exclusively male clergymen conducted these funeral rites and services

   There are many stories of women burying dead soldiers, both North and South. The pregnant Elizabeth Thorn at Gettysburg is one of the best known. But some women went further, and due to the absence of men, assumed the role of a cleric, performing the service for the dead, and challenging traditional gender roles as they took on one more aspect of caring for human beings departing this life.

   Francis Kirby Palmer was the wife of Col. John B. Palmer (58th North Carolina Troops). In 1858, they moved from Detroit, Michigan, to western North Carolina, building a home on the banks of the Linville River. (Francis’s brother was Capt. Edmond Kirby, US Army, promoted to brigadier general on his deathbed.) With Colonel Palmer away in the army, Episcopal missionary and teacher William West Skiles came and stayed with Mrs. Palmer, her young son, and niece. Skiles was already ill at the time, and his health continued to deteriorate. After being confined to his room at the Palmer house for three months, Skiles died on December 8, 1862. A rough box was constructed, and Skiles was buried in Mrs. Palmer’s rose garden. According to a biography of Skiles, “Mrs. Palmer herself put on his surplice, unwilling that a hireling should perform that service for him.” A surplice is a type of liturgical vestment, usually a white tunic maybe reaching to the knees. It is to be worn at all times while the minister is performing his ministration. Mrs. Palmer put on the surplice and read the burial service over his body.[1]

   The ritual itself largely contains Scripture readings, many from the book of Psalms, and several from the New Testament as well.

   There is a second reference to a woman performing the Funeral Liturgy. This one occurred a few months earlier. In May 1862, the Texas brigade had its first taste of battle at Eltham’s Landing in Virginia. Among the mortally wounded was Lt. Col. Harvey H. Black, 1st Texas Infantry, dying on May 7. According to a couple of different accounts, Lieutenant Colonel Black, and another soldier, Private Bush, were buried at Cedar Hill, New Kent County, Virginia, on the property of Dr. John Mayo. One Texas soldier wrote that Black was buried “in a private graveyard on the hill, and the burial service of the Episcopal church was read at the grave by a lady to whom the premises belonged.”[2]

The 1864 painting of The Burial of Latané depicts a similar scene of a burial being conducted by women, but the painting is an artistic interpretation, since the service was actually conducted by a Methodist minister who arrived shortly before the service and burial were conducted.

   These two stories, and there are undoubtedly more waiting to be discovered, provide illustrations for several different important points. Women were willing to ensure that men were to have proper burials in a time of increasing hardship. These women were willing to provide the last stages of that “Good Death” so often discussed in historical literature of the past twenty plus years. Women were willing to assume roles not typically perceived by society as being roles for women. While women were often involved in the burial process, these women were willing to go beyond tradition. For Mrs. Palmer, William West Skiles was a family friend who had lived with them for a short amount of time. For those in New Kent County, Lieutenant Colonel Black was a stranger from Texas. Yet the norms of the era dictated that he also deserved a proper burial. With no ordained minister at hand, these women were willing to see that the prescribed customs of the time were followed. Were there repercussions for their actions? Were they criticized or praised? It is hard to say.

   While there was discussion of starting an Episcopal church close to the Palmer home, the closest church was more than twenty miles away over poor mountain roads, so Mrs. Palmer’s decision seems to have been influenced by both geography and by circumstances. There was a church, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, in New Kent County, but it is unknown if the woman who buried Colonel Black and Private Bush was a member. In any case, what we do know is that these women understood the importance of proper rituals and burial practices, and they were willing to take on unexpected roles to ensure those practices were completed for friends and strangers.

[1] Cooper, William West Skiles: A Sketch of Missionary Life at Valle Crucis in Western North Carolina, 136.

[2] Todd, First Texas Regiment, 4-5.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Site Visit Saturday: the Grave of Abraham Buford, Lexington, Kentucky

    Cemeteries are wonderful history lessons. Often, the larger cemeteries have scores of lessons. We could spend the rest of the year just in today’s cemetery, the Lexington Cemetery in Lexington, Kentucky. For now, we’ll concentrate on just one story, the life of Abraham Buford.

    Born in Woodford County, Kentucky, on January 18, 1820, Buford was educated by a private tutor before attending Centre College and then West Point, where he graduated in 1841. Among his classmates were Richard B. Garnett, Robert S. Garnett, Josiah Gorgas, John Marshall Jones, Samuel Jones, and Claudius Wistar Sears, all Confederate generals. (There were a few Union generals in his class as well, including Horatio G. Wright, Schuyler Hamilton, John F. Reynolds, and Nathaniel Lyon.) After graduation, Buford was assigned to the 1st US Dragoons, seeing duty in Kansas, Mexico (where Buford was breveted to captain for gallant and meritorious service in the battle of Buena Vista), New Mexico, and at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Buford resigned from the army in 1854 and took up farming in Woodford County. He was soon breeding racehorses and shorthorn cattle, gaining a national reputation.

   A biographical sketch states that while Buford was an ardent advocate of states’ rights, he counseled

Abraham Buford. 

against secession, and remained neutral until the summer of 1862 when he joined with John H. Morgan. Buford raised what amounted to a brigade composed of the 3rd, 5th, and 6th Kentucky Cavalry regiments. Buford led the brigade at Perryville and during the Murfreesboro campaign. Official promotion to brigadier general came on November 29, 1862. Following a dispute with one of his regimental commanders, Buford was transferred to Mississippi and placed under John Pemberton. He led his brigade at the battle of Champion Hill and served in W. W. Loring’s Division for several months, escaping the surrender at Vicksburg. In March 1864, Buford was assigned to Nathan Bedford Forrest’s command, and Buford’s infantry raided into Kentucky to supply itself with horses. Buford was assigned to command one of Forrest’s cavalry divisions.

   The battle of Brice’s Cross Roads in June 1864 is considered Buford’s finest hour, and Forrest’s greatest victory. Buford rode with Forrest until November when his division was attached to the Army of Tennessee. They opened the battle at Spring Hill, fought at Murfreesboro, and Buford was wounded in the shoulder near Franklin on December 17, and in the leg at Richland Creek on December 24. He returned to the war in February 1865, and fought at Selma, Alabama in April 1865. Buford was paroled at Gainesville, Alabama, on May 10, 1865.

Lexington Cemetery 

   Following the war, Buford returned to Kentucky to raise racehorses, advocate reconciliation, and serve in the Kentucky legislature in 1879. However, the death of his only son and his wife, as well as a series of severe financial reverses that resulted in the loss of his home, led Buford to commit suicide at his brother’s home in Danville, Indiana, in June 1884. He was buried next to his wife in Lexington. The Lexington Cemetery is the final resting place of a number of Confederate generals, including John H. Morgan, John C. Breckinridge, and Basil Duke.

   There is no stand-alone biography on Abraham Buford. However, there is an excellent sketch in Kentuckians in Gray, edited by Bruce Allardice and Lawrence Lee Hewitt (2008)

   I have visited the Lexington Cemetery once, in the fall of 1997.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Greene County, NC

    It has been a long time since I’ve created a county snapshot, so, by request, here is a look at Greene County, North Carolina, and the War!

   Greene County, located in the eastern part of the state, was created in 1791 from portions of Johnston and Dobbs Counties, and originally named Glasgow County, after James Glasgow, North Carolina’s Secretary of State from 1777 to 1798. Glasgow’s dealings with military land grant fraud forced him to resign and leave North Carolina. The county was renamed Greene County after General Nathaniel Greene of Revolutionary War fame. The county seat is Snow Hill, founded on the banks of the Contentnea Creek in 1828.

   In 1860, Greene County had a population of 7,925. The slave population (3,947), coupled with the free person of color population (152), outnumbered the white population. In the 1860 presidential contest, Greene County men cast 381 votes for Breckinridge-Lane and 325 for Bell-Everett.  The Douglas-Johnson ticket received no votes.

William A. Darden, Jr. (Ancestry)
   When the call came to consider the question of calling a convention in February 1861, the men in the county cast 457 votes for the convention, with 106 against. When the convention was finally held, the county was represented by William A. Darden, Jr. Darden was a native son and local farmer. Darden would later serve as a captain in the 61st North Carolina Troops. James P. Speight represented the county in the state senate in 1860-1861 and 1864-1865, while Arthur Dobbs Speight represented the county in the state house 1860-61, and then Henry H. Best 1862-1865. 

Companies in Confederate service from Greene County include:

Company A, 3rd North Carolina State Troops

Company K, 33rd North Carolina Troops        

Company E, 61st North Carolina Troops

Company F, 61st North Carolina Troops

Company F, 8th Battalion Partisan Rangers

Company I, 66th North Carolina Troops

Company C, 67th North Carolina Troops

   There also seem to be several men, based upon the 1890 US Veterans Schedule, who served in the 14th United States Colored Heavy Artillery.

Greene County, North Carolina

   The war came to Greene County in April 1863 when Brig. Gen. James J. Pettigrew’s brigade established its headquarters in Hookerton. Three months later, a Federal raiding party, a part of Edward Potter’s force that had raided Rocky Mount, entered Greene County, camping on the night of July 20th at Grimsley Baptist Church. Confederate forces skirmished with Federals throughout the day. On July 21, the Federals crossed over the Scuffleton Bridge at Hookerton, burning the bridge, as well as the one at Haw Landing, behind them. Then, in April 1865, a small group of Federals was moving through the area when local forces attacked, mortally wounding Captain Henry A. Hubbard, 12th New York Cavalry.

   After the war, Greene County had a United Confederate Veterans Camp – the Drysdale Camp 849 in Snow Hill. The Albritton-Sugg Chapter 1766 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was formed in Hookerton in 1922. The UDC erected a monument to local Confederate soldiers in 1929 in Snow Hill.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Site Visit Saturday: Saltville, Virginia

   The town of Saltville, in Smyth County, Virginia, has a deep and interesting history, one that I’m sure we will be re-visiting in the future. Saltville was the site of an ancient salt lake, and the salt deposits have drawn people for thousands of years. Salt was a requirement, especially for preserving meat, required by every Southern family prior to war, and while there were natural salt deposits, like those at Saltville, the United States imported 12,000,000 bushels annually. The blockade shut off the overseas markets, and Southerners turned increasingly to the ocean, artesian wells, and inland salt lakes.

   Salt had been mined in Saltville since at least 1773. By 1860, most of the property was owned or leased by Stuart, Buchanan, and Company. The salt, produced by boiling the water, was some of the best in the United States. Naturally, when the Federal blockade made it difficult to import salt, the natural deposits became even more important. The problem with the salt works at Saltville was the location, in the Appalachian Mountains. Once the salt was produced, it had to be transported several miles through the mountains to the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad for transportation. After September 1863, that line seldom ran south of the Watauga Depot in Carter County, Tennessee. Running north was not a problem until the train reached Lynchburg or Petersburg. There, the bags of salt had to be unloaded and reloaded due to different railroad gauges. 

Salt making display in Saltville 

   The Confederate States, and various other states, leased property from Stuart, Buchanan, and Company to manufacture salt. North Carolina began operations in June 1862, negotiating for kettles, salt pans, and bricks for the kiln. Slaves were brought in from Warren County, and osnaburg cloth from Randolph County was brought to produce bags, By July 1863, the North Carolina works at Saltville had manufactured 106,000 bushels of salt, shipping 86,000 pounds back. In many cases, the salt was delivered to the railroad depots where the salt agents for various counties would arrive with wagons to transport the commodity back to their respective areas. In Alabama, the fourteen northern counties in the state were supplied with salt from Saltville. The facilities struggled with obtaining enough wood and workers. At one point in 1864, the men from North Carolina working in Saltville were all conscripted into Confederate service.

   There were several attempts by the Federals to shut down the operations in Saltville. The first battle of Saltville occurred October 2, 1864 and was a Federal defeat. The second battle of Saltville occurred December 20-21, 1864, and was successful. However, the works were again operational before the end of the war. (These raids deserve their own post.)

   Part of the site is preserved by the American Battlefield Trust. There are a couple of good books on salt and the war, including Ella Lonn’s Salt as a Factor in the Confederacy (1965). I have visited Saltville several times over the years. My last visit was in July 2019. There are a couple of Civil War Trails markers, along with a display showing how the salt was produced.