Workers in a Michigan salt mine

Civil War Salt Lists

Overview | Search

Around the time of the Civil War, salt was a necessity for curing meat (since there was no refrigeration), tanning leather, fertilizing fields, as well as, for farm animals to survive. Prior to the war, a significant amount of salt was imported from Europe, but when the war started, the Union blockaded delivery of salt to the Confederate states, who were forced to seek alternate sources including salt springs and mines of rock salt.

Noted author, Sherry Harris (see book references below) explained to Genealogy Today that "there were different salt mines around, one of the big ones was in Saltville, Va. When the North captured the salt mines, they forced the South to try and get their salt from somewhere else, like the sea. But sea salt wasn't nearly as good. Then they put up blockades which stopped the salt from Europe. Without salt survival became difficult for the South. Much of the South became more and more desperate as time went on."

When these alternate sources failed to produce a sufficient supply of salt, Georgia, Alabama and other southern states began a rationing process to ensure fair distribution. Many of the states handed rationing responsibility to the county courts, which created lists of eligible families and the amounts of salt (calculated in 1/2 bushels) that they could receive.

The rationing programs did not provide the salt for free, except for widows of soldiers. Other families were required to pay, although families of serving soldiers and widowed mothers of soldiers received discounts.

According to Karen T. Ledford in her book series, "These Men Wore Grey," there was never enough salt to carry out [Governor of Georgia] Joseph Brown's plan and the salt shortage continued throughout the war. Karen's series includes complete lists for Franklin, Habersham, Stephens, Rabun and White counties.

The lists created by the courts are an excellent source of genealogical information. They would list the heads of households, the number of children and how much was given to each. Women were also noted as widows when their husbands made the ultimate sacrifice for the Confederacy.

On her Southern Mountain Ancestor Research Center page, Carol Ann Tindell notes that "sometimes bread and salt lists are located within county court records, so be sure to look there also."

The original Georgia salt list records are microfilmed as "Families Supplied with Salt, 1862-1864," Adjutant and Inspector General's Office, Commissary General's Dept. The information is listed by county, with an index at the front listing the counties and the pages on which each can be found. Records for Bulloch, Camden, Glynn, and Murray counties are missing. Information found on this microfilm includes the names of widows of soldiers and the names of wives, widows who have a son or sons in Confederate service, the names of needy families dependent on the labor of a soldier in the service, and the names of disabled and discharged soldiers. To find out more about accessing the microfilms, contact the Georgia Department of Archives and History, 330 Capitol Ave. SE, Atlanta, Georgia 30334.

In the 1990's, Sherry Harris researched both the Georgia and Alabama salt lists, and published two books, however, these books are out of print. You may be able to find a copy in library or historical society collections, and both publications are available in the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City (call numbers noted below).

Harris, Sherry. 1862 Georgia Salt Lists, Granada Hills, CA: Harris Press, c1993. 258 p. (LDS FHL 975.8 M29h)

Harris, Sherry and Summerville, Barbara. 1862 Alabama Salt Lists, Conway, AZ: Oldbuck Press, Inc., 19--?. 15 p. spiral bound (LDS FHL 976.1 H2hs)

Sherry also commented to us that "the majority of people don't realize how important salt was for the South. It's a little mentioned fact in the history books. So many things depended on it."

These records can also be purchased from the Georgia Genealogical Society on a CD-ROM containing 106,166 records -- names of Georgia widows, mothers, and wives, and dependents given or sold salt supplies as a relief effort during the Civil War.

Search the Salt List index

This is an index of the various salt lists that have been published, including the following counties: GEORGIA (Cobb, Marion, Monroe, Pickens, Rabun, Schley, Talbot, Taylor and Twiggs). The results will provide a link to the web address of the salt list that includes information about the name you searched.

Note: This is NOT a complete list, and represents less than 10% of the names on the listing available from the historical society mentioned above.

Salt Lists Online

Additional Resources

Harris, Sherry, "Civil War Records: a Step by Step Guide", Yorba Linda, CA: Shumway Family History Services, c1990. 125 p.

Lorraine M. Lentsch from the Palm Beach County Genealogical Society mentioned the following issues of the publication "Alabama and Georgia Queries" (MLH Research, Anniston, AL) include names from the 1863 Salt List for Cobb County, Georgia: Vol. 2 (pages 24, 51, 63), Vol. 3 (page 12), Vol. 5 (page 102), Vol. 6 (pages 13, 35, 74, 118), Vol. 7 (pages 12, 34, 56, 78, 96, 118), and Vol. 8 (pages 13, 33, 53, 75, 95, 116). The society has a complete collection of this publication. Contact them for details about obtaining copies of the pages you need.

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