The NSS Bulletin - ISSN 1090-6924
Volume 43 Number 4: 98-102 - October 1981

A publication of the National Speleological Society

Confederate Saltpeter Mining in Northern Alabama
Marion O. Smith


A domestic gunpowder industry was successfully developed by the Confederate States of America during the Civil War years 1861-65. Brilliant administrators such as Gorgas, St. John, and Rains were able to increase production from virtually none in 1860 almost to the point of self-sufficiency before severe losses of territory in 1865 deprived the Confederacy of many of its sources of saltpeter, an essential ingredient.

Alabama caves were an important source of saltpeter. Surviving records of mining at Long Hollow Cave, Marshall County, and at other caves in northern Alabama, are unusually complete. From them is reconstructed an authentic picture of the administrative organization, production methods, and logistic problems of the Confederate Nitre and Mining Bureau.

This page last updated: 9 June, 2002 7:27
Web Author: Jim Pisarowicz