The NSS Bulletin - ISSN 1090-6924
Volume 43 Number 4: 94-97 - October 1981

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Confederate Niter Production
John Powers


Caves played a major role in supporting the Confederacy's bid for independence. The Confederate Ordnance Department (later, the Nitre and Mining Bureau) successfully utilized the South's numerous but scattered caves to produce an adequate supply of nitrate for gunpowder despite military, political, and logistic disadvantages. Geographic, historic and economic factors led to success depite other handicaps; government assistance to niter producers and capable administration were especially significant. Had the majority of this country's saltpeter caves been north of the Mason-Dixon Line rather than south of it the War would certainly have ended sooner.

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