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When Salt was Worth More than Gold

In 1862, the demand for SALT in the Confederate states reached critical levels and rationing was instituted in many states.


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Resource: Genealogy Today
Word Count: 271 (approx.)
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In 1862, the demand for SALT in the Confederate states reached critical levels and rationing was instituted in many states. To manage the rationing process, and ensure equitable distribution of the limited supplies, lists were compiled to identify widows and families of soldiers, as these groups were given additional consideration.

In the 1990's, Sherry Harris researched the Alabama and Georgia salt lists, and published several books documenting her findings. I contacted Sherry to get some background on the salt lists.

Sherry explained, "Salt was used for so many things besides as a condiment. It was used in tanning leather, in making dyes, to cure meats (there were no refrigerators then), and animals such as horses and cows required it to survive." While Sherry's research focused on Georgia and Alabama, most southern states had salt lists, although the majority no longer exists.

At the time of the Civil war, the southern states relied on large domestic salt mines, and imported salt from Europe. During the war, the Union soldiers captured the mines and blockaded deliveries from overseas. Sherry noted, "[the North] forced the South to try and get their salt from somewhere else, like the sea. But sea salt wasn't nearly as good. Without salt survival became difficult for the South. Much of the South became more and more desperate as time went on."

In addition to Sherry's books, several other sources of salt lists exist and have been documented on a Civil War Salt List page on our web site (see link below). If you have any stories and/or additional information about this unique time in our history, please let me know.

Civil War Salt Lists

Source Information: Genealogy Today, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2007.

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