Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
August 1861

Richmond Daily Dispatch
August 20, 1861

Salt : recapture of Kanawha.

The supply of salt is becoming a seriously mooted question. The value of the article imported into the United States during the year ending June 30, 1860, was $1,431,141.--The official tables do not give the quantity; but, estimating the sack at two-and-a-half bushels, and at a dollar-and-a-half in price, the quantity was about 2,335,235 bushels.--If we suppose one-third of this quantity to have been imported for Southern consumption, the supply required for the Southern market over and above what is manufactured within the Southern States, would be 778,412 bushels. Whence this extraordinary supply is to be obtained, is a question of some interest.

The works near Abingdon, in Washington county, in this State, have heretofore manufactured about three hundred thousand bushels a year. Owing to the high freights on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, this supply has nearly all gone off in wagons through the country, and upon boats down the Holston river. Several hundred thousand additional bushels would have been manufactured for the Eastern market, but for the railroad freights, which brought the price in Petersburg and Richmond up to a figure too high for competition with the foreign article.

The blockade may remove this difficulty and preparations have been completed for increasing the annual supply produced at those works by about three hundred thousand bushels, which will all come East, unless the cheaper transportation on the Holsten river than on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, and the strength of the demand in the West, shall direct it all in the opposite direction. At all events, from this source alone will 300,000 bushels of the 778,000 deficiency be supplied to the Southern markets.

The only other accessible source of supplying Virginia is the Salines of Kanawha. Unfortunately, the Valley of the Kanawha is now in the hands of the enemy, Gen. Wise having been obliged to fall back to Lewisburg before a far superior force, and, as is also said, for want of ammunition. General Floyd has marched to a point four miles west of Lewisburg, and is ready to advance in conjunction with General Wise again into the Kanawha country; but is obliged to await his third regiment, which is detained at Bonsack's Depot, fifty miles west of Lynchburg, awaiting arms from Richmond, being fully equipped in every other respect. The joint forces of these two Generals will still be only half of that of the enemy, unless they be largely reinforced by militia, who will be badly armed.

With the Kanawha Valley in possession of the South, the great quantities of salt manufactured there, and heretofore sent to the West and Northwest, could be diverted to our Eastern markets. We are not informed of the amount of the production of the Kanawha Salines, but believe it has heretofore been about 2,500,000 bushels a year. It is certainly very large, and from this source alone could the remaining 500,000 bushels of the deficiency of supply caused by the blockade be obtained for the South.

Thus Western Virginia alone can supply the whole deficiency of the salt supply of the South, provided only adequate steps be taken to hold possession of the Kanawha Valley.--This single object alone is worth a costly military expedition, and yet, unfortunately, this is the very portion of Western Virginia that has been most neglected. The recapture of the dreary country penetrated by McClellan and Roscencranz is of secondary importance. But the possession of the rich and beautiful Valley of the Kanawha, with its prolific Saline, which has been overrun by Cox, is of primary importance. No portion of the State of equal extent is half so important, and we look with great interest to the operations of Generals Floyd and Wise.

True, the salt of Kanawha would have to be wagoned eastward over the mountains; but it is comparatively a light article, and the turnpike roads from the Salines to Covington are very fine. They are the system of turnpike roads which were for many years under the admirable management of the James River and Kanawha Company. The distance from the Salines to Covington is not much more than a hundred miles. If we should obtain five hundred thousand bushels of salt from Kanawha, this article, at two dollars and a half a sack, or a dollar a bushel, would be worth half a million of dollars to the South--a sum of money two or three times as great as the cost of a large military expedition to that region. Considered as a mere measure of finance, the expulsion of Cox would pay. As an article of comfort, health and necessity, the South might afford an expedition for the recapture of Kanawha, costing $6 a sack, or $3,000,000.

Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: Undated: August 1861

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