ANDREW ELLICOTT'S INSTRUMENTS PHOTOGRAPHED WHILE IN STORAGE AT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN HISTORY IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
This is Ellicott's small zenith sector that he used to build an astonomical observatory in present-day Houston County Alabama in August of 1799. It is now in storage in the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Here's a link describing this instrument.http://amhistory.si.edu/surveying/object.cfm?recordnumber=758696
This is a link to a chart of Ellicott's observations of 4 stars using the small zenith sector at his observatory on the Chattahoochee in present-day Houston County Alabama in July and August of 1799. https://archive.org/stream/journalofandrewe00elli#page/98/mode/2up
Need to get info on this instrument. I was told that it was Ellicott's. It looks like a refracting telescope.
Need to get info on this instrument. I was told that it was Ellicott's. It looks like a quadrant with a telescope and plumb line.
This is the base of the small Zenith Sector which was used to mount and level it on a tree stump for astronomical observations.http://amhistory.si.edu/surveying/object.cfm?recordnumber=758696
This is a magnetic compass made for Ellicott by Benjamin Rittenhouse. It was probably not used on the Southern Boundary Survey but a venier compass made by Rittenhouse was used on the survey. Here's a link explaining this instrument. http://amhistory.si.edu/surveying/object.cfm?recordnumber=747273
This is Benjamin Rittenhouse's
mark on the magnetic compass he made for Andrew Ellicott.
The curator allowed me to remove the top off of Ellicott's compass. She will never know how much I appreciate that privilege.
I wrote the text for this historic marker which is located south of Dothan on the northbound lane of U.S. Highway 231.
The painter of this mural, Bill Smith, used Ellicott's transit as a model for this 1968 work. The transit is now in storage at the Smithsonian and the Maryland Department of Transportation has also stored the mural. This is the same transit Ellicott used in present-day Houston County, Alabama in August of 1799. Here's link that explains it. http://amhistory.si.edu/surveying/object.cfm?recordnumber=758993
Mr. ELLICOTT'S WASHERWOMAN
by Robert Register
August 1st, 1794"My Dear Sally,
...We live here like a parcel of Monks, or Hermits, and have not a woman of any complexion among us-our linnen is dirty, our faces, and hands brown, and to complete the picture, our beards are generally long-
O sweet Woman!
without thee man is a Brute,
& society a blank:
thou shapest man into a valuable being, and directeth his ambition to useful pursuits.
Can that man be possessed of rational sensibility who adoreth not a woman?
I am Dear Sally your
In our present age in which political expediency and twisted syntax replace legal proof and Biblical morality, it's almost refreshing to hear the old axiom, "There's nothin' new under the sun."
As one contemplates the following story, the self-evident truth of this old maxim applies once more to the unwavering foibles of the condition that goes by the title, "Human Nature."
As we contemplate more than 200 years of American dominion over this land we call "home",
we can find comfort in knowing that our ancestors had ample opportunity to witness the shortcomings of their leaders. So it was with the 1811 court martial of General James Wilkinson, Commanding General of the U.S. Army and, arguably, the most greedy, deceitful and devious rascal to ever walk across the stage of West Alabama history.
General Wilkinson's career in West Alabama was brief, but consequential. Under orders of President Thomas Jefferson, Wilkinson traveled during the summer of 1802 to the ruins of the old Spanish Fort Confederation near present-day Epes in Sumter County. By October he had produced a treaty that proved that in the future his powers of salesmanship would never be equalled by any slick selling cars or trailers on Skyland Blvd.
The ink on the yellowed paper of the treaty sez it all:
"...the said Choctaw Nation, for, and in consideration of one dollar, to them in hand paid, by the said United States, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, do hereby release to the said United States, and quit claim forever, to all that tract of land..."
In other words, with language lifted from an Alabama used car sale before the title law, Wilkinson picked up one-and-a-half-million acres in present-day Southwest Alabama, "in consideration of one dollar."Almost nine years later, on April 10th, 1811, General Wilkinson took the offensive in one of the greatest feuds between men who shaped Alabama history. His legal arguments bore strange fruit in a federal courtroom in Frederick, Maryland. General Wilkinson, commander of the U.S. Army for seventeen years (1796-1813) was on trial for being the notorious secret agent "Number 13" for the King of Spain. Wilkinson, who would later claim Mobile for the U.S. from Spain in 1813, had spent more than two decades taking Spanish money in exchange for privileged information and now he was about to be convicted of treason. Options were of the essence so Wilkinson played "his ace in the hole."
Wilkinson's hidden ace was Thomas Freeman, Surveyor General of Mississippi Territory and the namesake of the Freeman Line passing east to west through Montevallo which separates North & South Alabama to this day.
The entire case for the government hinged on the testimony of Major Andrew Ellicott, the former commissioner for the United States during the first American survey of Alabama soil in 1799. During the survey of this first Southern Boundary of the U.S., Ellicott had intercepted a letter which proved Wilkinson was on the take.
Freeman, the man who established the Huntsville Meridian upon which every North Alabama property line is now based (including the lines which keep my neighbors off uv me here in Tuscaloosa as I type),
had a grudge to pick with Ellicott. Ellicott had fired Freeman during the U.S. Southern Boundary survey so the court martial was an opportunity for Freeman to get some payback.
Freeman testified that during the entire 1796-1800 survey of the first southern boundary of the United States, Andrew Ellicott and his son, Andrew Jr., employed
"a prostitute of the lowest grade" to share their camp cot during their trip through the wilderness. This testimony produced "the utter demolition of the character of the eminent astronomer."
It didn't matter that Ellicott could prove that Wilkinson was on the take. All the jury heard were salacious tales of the government's chief prosecution witness having "a beastly, criminal and disgraceful intercourse with a harlot."What follows are excerpts from Thomas Freeman's sworn deposition:
Question: Did you know a woman called Betsy who sat at Mr. Ellicott's table?
What station did she appear to occupy in Mr. Ellicott's family, and what was her known character?
Answer: I did know the woman called Betsy who sat at Mr. Ellicott's table. She appeared to occupy the position of washerwoman to the party. Her known character was that of a prostitute,
and of the lowest grade.
Question: Did you observe and particular familiarity and attentions, in the intercourses of the said prostitute, with Ellicott and his son, and what was the age of the boy? Be particular in time, place and circumstances.
Answer: I did observe frequent, particular familiarities and attentions in the intercourse of Ellicott and his son and said prostitute. I cannot now, from recollection, be very particular in
time, place and circumstance. The boy appeared to be nearly full grown, of about nineteen years of age. I recollect that Ellicott introduced the woman, Betsy, to Governor Gayoso, on his first visit to the barge after we landed at Natchez [February 24, 1797: ed.];
and, as far as their conduct (Ellicott & son) came within my observation afterward, they continued to pay mutual friendly and familiar attentions to her.
It was said and generally believed that extraordinary trio:
father, son and washerwoman,
slept in the same bed at the same time-
I did not see,
but I believed it.
I was even pressed by the old sinner, Ellicott, to take part of his bed with himself and the washerwoman, for the night.
Question: Was it not your opinion and that of all the other gentlemen of the party, that Ellicott, the father, and son held criminal intercourse with the said harlot, Betsy.
Answer: It was my opinion, and I understand it to be the opinion of every gentleman of both parties, American and Spanish, that the Ellicott's, both father and son,held, and continued a beastly, criminal and disgraceful intercourse, with the said harlot Betsy.
J.F.H. Claiborne in his 1880 history of Mississippi makes this statement about Thomas Freeman's testimony:
"As Mr. Ellicott, in his journal and official correspondence traduced many worthy persons living and dead, and did not hesitate to break open private letters, surreptitiously obtained, and represents himself as pure and immaculate, it is but justice to show what manner of man he was. This can be seen by reference to the deposition of Major Thomas Freeman before the court-martial at Frederick, convened September 1, 1811, for the trial of Major-General James Wilkinson. The witness was a man of the highest character, then and until his death holding a responsible position under government, and he charges Ellicott, under oath, with untruthfulness and official corruption, and with conduct personally and most degrading, indecent and beastly."
So the next time you look at an Alabama property deed or drive down by the Florida line, the demarcation between the Anglo-Saxon civilization of the U.S. and the Latin civilization of Florida in 1799, think about Betsy- Mr. Ellicott's washerwoman. She was probably the first woman from the United States to see the 381 miles of impenetrable wilderness between the Mississippi and the Chattahoochee Rivers. By cleaning Ellicott's linen, Betsy added a civilizing touch to the survey party, but her place in history is assured because Betsy was the first of a legion of American "ladies of the evening" who followed the almighty dollar down the Mississippi River to the rowdier sections of Natchez, New Orleans, Mobile and Pensacola.
She survived the Ellicotts, Indian attacks, a voyage around the peninsula of Florida, a trip up the St. Mary's River to Okefenokee Swamp
& when her story was used in court,
she allowed Major General James Wilkinson, a clever scoundrel whose reputation is rivaled only by Benedict Arnold,
to get away with 23 years of espionage.
[ed. note: The following article is related to Ellicott's Survey of the First U.S. Southern Boundary (1796-1800) because Panton, Leslie and Company, the forerunner of John Forbes and Company, financed the outfitting of the Spanish Boundary Commission which accompanied Ellicott on the survey and confirmed his observations. James Innerarity would have met Ellicott at Panton, Leslie and Co. headquarters in Pensacola in 1799 but his younger brother John Innerarity had not yet arrived.)
The Long Road To the American
Acquisition of St. Andrews Bay
A title search for any deed
to any piece of property in the Panama City area is a strange mosaic of clues
to a long story that goes back over two centuries and includes international
intrigue, complex individual and international interests, the long delayed
settlement of St. Andrews Bay, the preservation of Florida’s public domain and
the sovereignty of the United States. The oldest deeds in the Panama City area
only go back to 1835 yet Spain turned the land over to the U.S. in 1821 so why
did it take Florida’s land hungry pioneers fourteen years to gain title to some
of the best unsettled land on the shores of one of the most important and
beautiful harbors in all of frontier Florida?
When the federal government
tried to settle the Spanish land claims in Florida, they discovered that St.
Andrews Bay was part of the largest Spanish land grant in all Florida history
which claimed the entire seacoast and all the bayshore from present-day
Apalachicola west to East Pass at present-day Destin. The United States always
delayed land sales until all Spanish land grants had been legally recorded or
invalidated. This particular Spanish land grant was issued in 1818 by the
Captain-General of Cuba to the John Forbes & Co., a mercantile firm of
Scottish Indian traders based in Pensacola and Mobile who had received a permit
from the Spanish to conduct a monopoly on trade with the Southeastern Indians.
This huge land grant was compensation for the company’s services to the Spanish
government of West Florida and for the losses it incurred during the 1814
British invasion of West Florida during the War of 1812. Until the litigation
concerning this Spanish land grant was settled, none of present day Bay
County’s land could be placed in the public domain and be offered for sale to
drawing of the John Forbes and Co. warehouse on the waterfront in Pensacola.
A photograph of the John Forbes & Co. complex on the waterfront in Pensacola
John Forbes & Co.
deserved some sort of compensation because the Spanish government welcomed the
British army and navy into West Florida and allowed them to establish British
martial law in Pensacola under which John Forbes and Co. suffered
The name, John Forbes & Co., was adopted by the old company of Panton, Leslie & Co., in 1804 when
it reorganized after the death of the original Scottish partners, William Panton
of Pensacola, Thomas Forbes of the Bahamas and John Leslie of London. The
Spanish government confirmed all of the privileges of the old company to the
new one. The new principal partners, John Forbes, James Innerarity and John
Innerarity were tied to the old partners by kinship but were decidedly more
pro-American than the original partners. It is not that the new partners
necessarily changed their political allegiances but more importantly, American
rule appeared to be inevitable and certainly promised to be better for their
business if they were able to sell the land they had acquired from the Indians
with the approval of the Spanish government.
James Innerarity, head of Forbes & Co. in Mobile, negotiator of the Forbes Purchase east of the Apalachicola and first American mayor of the City of Mobile
John Innerarity, head of Forbes & Co. in Pensacola
In the spring of 1814, the
British navy and marines arrived off the coast of Northwest Florida and in
preparation for the invasion and conquest of New Orleans attempted to incite a
general slave and Indian uprising similar to the one that had previously
gripped Haiti. This proposed slave insurrection along the Gulf Coast was
designed to incite terror in the general populace, to target the women and
children of the settlers for slaughter and to engage American forces which
would otherwise be used in defense of New Orleans.
The British chose to build
the fort that would support this war effort at the John Forbes and Co. store on
the east bank of the Apalachicola River at Prospect Bluff located about thirty
miles north of the present day town of Apalachicola. Even though all of the
partners of John Forbes and Co. had been born in Great Britain, they did not
welcome the British invasion of their adopted homeland and the British military
men considered the John Forbes and Co. partners to be American spies.
A map of the Forbes Purchase showing the location of the Prospect Bluff store on the 1.25 million acres the company received from the Creek Indians in 1804 to clear the Indians' debt to the company.
The Brits picked John Forbes and Co. clean during their one year stay in Northwest Florida. The company’s
slaves taken by the British created the greatest monetary loss for the firm but
the British also took John Forbes & Co. cattle, horses, mules and
gunpowder. The company store at Prospect Bluff was closed and replaced by a
fort to protect the Indians and Negroes recruited to the British cause.
When John Forbes retired from
the company and moved to Cuba in 1818, he used the move as an opportunity to
appeal to a Spanish government superior to the one in Pensacola for the losses
the company experienced in West Florida at the hands of the British during the
War of 1812. Forbes successfully convinced the Captain-General of Cuba, Don
Jose Cienfuegos, to invoke an 1815 royal ordnance meant to increase the
population of Puerto Rico to justify giving John Forbes and Co. title to all
the land between the Choctawhatchee and the Apalachicola Rivers south of a line
running from the mouth of the Choctawhatchee east to the point where Sweetwater
Creek enters the Apalachicola River. This grant included over 1.5 million acres
of land and encompassed all of present-day Bay County along with the entire
seacoast between present-day Apalachicola and Destin.
When you look at I.G.
Searcy’s 1829 Florida map, the first American map of the Florida Territory, the
entire Washington County portion of the map around St. Andrews Bay is labeled
“Innerarity’s Claim”. This was the
Spanish land grant of John Forbes and Co. and the Innerarity brothers of
Mobile and Pensacola were in 1829 the controlling partners of John Forbes and Co. These Scottish brothers had taken over John Forbes and Co. after Forbes
retirement in 1818 and his subsequent death in 1823.
In the early years of the
Florida Territory, land ownership controversies like “Innerarity’s Claim” were
the most pressing problems facing the government. On May 22, 1822, Congress
created a Board of Commissioners on Land Claims for Florida which validated
Spanish land grants of less than 1000 acres. Wealth in Florida was defined by
land ownership so administration of the land claims commission as well as the
offices associated with the public land system became the road to prosperity
for many of the recently arrived Americans who owed their appointments to these
offices to their association with Florida’s first territorial governor, General
Andrew Jackson. The land claims commission could not rule on a grant as large
as “Innerarity’s Claim” so in 1828, Congress passed a law allowing claimants of
grants this large to file suit against the United States in the Superior Court
of the district where the disputed land was located. With this law, the stage
was set for a showdown between the Inneraritys and Andrew Jackson’s cronies who
had used Old Hickory’s influence to gain their positions in Florida’s courts
and land offices.
Richard Keith Call
Even though he was a partner
with James Innerarity in the purchase of property on Santa Rosa Island, lawyer
Richard Keith Call was the last person Innerarity needed to see representing
the United States when his case came before Judge Henry M. Brackenridge’s
Pensacola courtroom in the fall of 1830. Call had been appointed by President
Jackson to assist government attorneys in these larger Spanish grant lawsuits.
Through service as Florida’s delegate to Congress, two terms as the Florida
Territorial governor and as Receiver of Public Monies at the public land office
in Tallahassee, Call had become an expert on Spanish land grants and was
convinced that all of the Spanish land grants issued in the last days of the
regime were frauds. Besides being suspicious, in his commercial role as a land
speculator, Call understood that preserving land in the public domain would
mean that in the long run it would be cheaper to buy the property at the public
land office than from private owners.
In preparing for the case in 1829, Call received a federal commission
that paid him to sail to Havana in pursuit of original documents pertaining to
Call was the fifth government
official sent to Cuba since 1821 to retrieve Spanish archives of Florida which
had been taken out of the country in violation of the 2nd article of
the Adams-Onis Treaty in which the U.S. acquired Florida from Spain. This
February 22, 1819 treaty required that all documents relating to property were
to be left in the possession of “officers of the United States.” For whatever
reason, Spanish officials began exporting Florida archives to Havana
immediately after the treaty was confirmed and had no intention of turning over
one paper to an American official yet holders of Spanish land grants in Florida
were constantly presenting original and copied documents from Cuba in Florida
courtrooms to support their cases. Men like R.K. Call were convinced that the
holders of Spanish land grants were cheating the U.S. government out of land
that was rightfully its own and were able to present original and verified
supporting documents in Florida courts because they bribed the Spanish
officials in Havana in order to get them.
Because Call requested only
the documents he needed for his land grant cases and did not demand all of the
Florida archives illegally held in Havana be returned to the United States, he
was successful in getting original documents and verified copies for the first
time after four previous attempts failed to acquire a single piece of paper.
With the documents he
desired, Call returned to Pensacola and when the court heard the case, he
produced the original document where he showed Judge Brackenridge that the
actual date of the land grant had been altered in order to make it conform with
the provision in the treaty that made it illegal to make land grants in Florida
after January 24, 1818. On the date on the original document a line had been
drawn through “March” and the word “January” written above it. So by a matter
of days, the company lost the land grant that compensated it for all its wartime
losses. This was a catastrophic defeat for John Forbes & Co. but a
triumphant defense of the public domain of the United States. Indian title to
the land had already been extinguished in 1823 by the American Treaty of
Moultrie Creek with the Seminoles so in 1831, Robert Butler, the
Surveyor-General of Florida, ordered surveys of the townships surrounding St.
Andrews Bay to begin and by 1834, the land of present-day Bay County was being
purchased at the Tallahassee land office. For the first time in American
History, citizens who had been living on the shores of St. Andrews Bay for
decades as squatters were able to exercise their
pre-emption rights to the land they had improved and purchase their property
for about two bucks an acre.
John Forbes and Co. was more
successful with their lawsuit against the U.S. pertaining to their Spanish land
grant east of the Apalachicola. They lost their suit in the Superior Court of
Middle Florida but appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of the United
States. In his last case as Chief Justice, John Marshall overturned the lower
court’s decision and found for that the company’s title to the 1.2 million
acres between the Apalachicola River and the St. Marks River to be perfectly
legal. In 1835, the Apalachicola Land Co. was formed to promote land sales and
the legacy of this old company comes down to us to this day when we look north
from the bridge that spans the mouth of the Apalachicola River and see that the
first three streets we find in the town of Apalachicola are Forbes Street,
Leslie Street and Panton Street, the names of the three founders of the firm
that would become John Forbes and Company. If R. K. Call had not found the
fraudulent date on the original Forbes grant to the land between the
Apalachicola and the Choctawhatchee, the main streets of Panama City might also
have been named for the original founders of John Forbes and Co.
Forbes Street in present day downtown Apalachicola
Leslie Steet in present day downtown Apalachicola
Panton Street (sign misspelled) in present day downtown Apalachicola
A model of the Forbes and Co. warehouse in present day Pensacola
Raise your glass to the hard working people
Lets drink to the uncounted heads
Lets think of the wavering millions
Who need leaders but get gamblers instead
Lets drink to the hard working people
Lets drink to the lowly of birth
Raise your glass to the good and the evil
Lets drink to the salt of the earth
(M. Jagger/ K. Richards)
THE CIVIL WAR SALT MAKERS OF ST. ANDREWS BAY: THE SALT OF THE EARTH
The story of the Civil War in Florida is one long drawn out drama characterized by deprivation and tragedy. Less than a month after secession and two months before the war even started, the New York Times reported massive inflation in Florida and that the price of slaves had dropped by one half in the past six months. Small town businesses were already closing and poor people were going hungry.
On Friday, April 19, 1861, only one week after the first shell was fired on Ft. Sumter, President Abraham Lincoln issued a "Proclamation of Blockade Against Southern Ports". By June, the blockade had already begun at Apalachicola and September saw the first naval action of the Civil War occur in Pensacola harbor. From the very beginning of this awful war, anyone who thought they could sail out of St. Andrews Bay in their sloop or schooner in hopes of going fishing or engaging in the coastal trade was in for a rude awakening. The Civil War came to Northwest Florida coast right from the very get-go.
You know there's a lot of truth to that old expression,"You don't know what you got 'til it's gone."
How many times have you heard someone exclaim, "I can't imagine living down here in the summer without AC!" Well, imagine living down here without refrigeration as well. There was one main way to preserve food in 1861 and that was with salt and President Lincoln's naval blockade had an immediate impact on salt. The people of Florida at the time of the Civil War probably used more salt per capita than any group of people who have ever walked on the face of the earth. No one worried about extracting it from seawater. That was too much trouble. Hell, you could get a 200 pound sack for just about nothing on the docks at Apalach. It came over as ballast from the European ships loading cotton. You may not have been keeping up with the news in 1862 but suddenly you noticed something truly strange and unusual. There was no salt.
It got really, really bad in a world without salt. No one realized how valuable and vital salt was until it was gone.Salt served as preservative, disinfectant, seasoning and fertilizer. When it got to be hog killing time in the autumn of 1862, there was no reason to kill the hogs because you couldn't cure the meat. The Confederacy started making wooden soles for canvas shoes because without salt no one could tan leather. Livestock suffered. Without salt, the Confederate army couldn't make disinfectant to clean the wounds of the injured.
Suddenly a new industry designed to extract salt from sea water popped up on the shallow, secluded shores of St. Andrews Bay. By 1862, hundreds of salt works dotted the landscape from Phillips Inlet all the way to California Bayou in East Bay. The Confederate government exempted salt workers from conscription so St. Andrews Bay suddenly had a huge influx of draft dodgers and in a world at war even the draft dodger had to prove he was "worth his salt." The only way you could keep your draft exemption was to produce over 1000 pounds of salt a day. You had everything from "Mom and Pop" operations with a single kettle to huge factories over a hundred feet long with a hundred kettles boiling 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Pretty soon as many as 2500 men were out in the salt marsh digging brine wells, chopping wood, stoking fires, dipping boiling brine and making salt in the St. Andrews Bay area and 4000 wagons pulled by teams of mules and oxen were employed in moving the product north to Eufaula so the railroad could transport it to Montgomery and from there to a salt hungry Confederacy.
It didn't take long for the Gulf Blockading Squadron headquartered at Pensacola's Ft. Pickens to target this wartime industry for destruction. Many of these military missions are described in the official military records and the record reveals that St. Andrews Bay experienced repeated amphibious search and destroy missions from the U.S. Navy's sailors and marines from September of 1862 until February of 1865. The blockading squadron made up mainly of gunboats constructed from sidewheel steamers and bark rigged clipper ships built their naval blockade station, barracks, wharf, refugee camp, prison and cemetery on Hurricane Island, the barrier island that once existed at the mouth of the channel entering St. Andrews Bay. John A. Burgess in his 1986 book, SAND IN MY SHOES, uses a June 1985 Panama City News-Herald column by Marlene Womack and concludes from her information that by 1934 all traces of Hurricane Island disappeared underneath the waters of the Gulf but that during the Civil War the island existed "in the open channel approximately one mile east south-east of the present day land's end (the eastern tip of today's Sand Island)." In 2013, the former land's end of Shell Island would now be a portion of Tyndall Beach.
The purpose of this article is not to chronicle the merciless and persistent destruction which the salt makers of St. Andrews Bay experienced from the U.S. Navy but to describe the industrial plants which the Union was unable to exterminate and which, like the mythical Phoenix, arose from the ashes as fast as the navy could demolish them.
Thanks to an aging matron from Tallahassee who decided to publish her Civil War diaries in 1925, we have a contemporary description of one of the small "Mom and Pop" operations which was built on Apalachee Bay east of St. Andrews. For our purposes this diary entry best captures life at a typical single syrup kettle Gulf Coast salt works.
October 27th, 1863.—We went to the salt works today and, though I am tired and dirty and have no good place to write, I am going to try to tell you about it.
A year ago salt began to get scarce but the people only had to economize in its use, but soon there was no salt and then Father got Cousin Joe Bradford to come down from Georgia and take charge of some salt works he was having installed on the coast. He had plenty of hands from the plantation but they had to have an intelligent head and then, too, it is a rather dangerous place to work, for the Yankee gunboats can get very near the coast and they may try shelling the works.
Though they have been in operation quite awhile this is my first visit. Father brought us with him and we will stay three days, so he can see just how they are getting on. We are to sleep in a tent, on a ticking filled with pine straw. It will be a novel experience.
I am so interested in seeing the salt made from the water. The great big sugar kettles are filled full of water and fires made beneath the kettles. They are a long time heating up and then they boil merrily. Ben and Tup and Sam keep the fires going, for they must not cool down the least little bit. A white foam comes at first and then the dirtiest scum you ever saw bubbles and dances over the surface, as the water boils away it seems to get thicker and thicker, at last only a wet mass of what looks like sand remains. This they spread on smooth oaken planks to dry. In bright weather the sun does the rest of the work of evaporation, but if the weather is bad fires are made just outside of a long, low shelter, where the planks are placed on blocks of wood. The shelter keeps off the rain and the fires give out heat enough to carry on the evaporation. The salt finished in fair weather is much whiter and nicer in every way than that dried in bad weather, but this dark salt is used to salt meat or to pickle pork. I think it is fine of Father to do all this. It is very troublesome and it takes nine men to do the work, besides Cousin Joe’s time; and Father does not get any pay whatever for the salt he makes.
We expected to have a grand time swimming and fishing. We are both good swimmers, but Father and Cousin Joe will not allow us to go outside of this little cove. Yankee gun-boats have been sighted once lately and there is no knowing when the salt works may be attacked.
Even though we may not have a picture of the Confederate government salt works on St. Andrews Bay, the largest in the entire state of Florida, we do have a Harper’s Weekly engraving of a large salt works near Port St. Joe that was attacked by the U.S.S. Kingfisher in September of 1862. From this image along with descriptions of large salt works of the time, we may gain an idea of how what was called the salt block was constructed. Like an old time wood stove, the works had oven doors with a fi re box at one end and a chimney at the other. This created a draft that drew the fl ame, heat and smoke to the chimney and heated the double row of iron kettles, basins or tanks that rested on open- ings in the masonry foundation. Old steamboat and sawmill boilers, coastal channel buoys and anything else made of iron that could be split into reservoirs for brine along with syrup kettles were mounted in a double line along the brick and limestone rock foundation of the structure. A white saline vapor rose from the boilers and was professed to be a cure for respiratory diseases but this was dangerous work. Sleeping in tents located in a mosquito infested salt marsh, constant one hundred degree temperatures, boiling brine and blazing ovens have their hazards. Huge ladles were used to dip the crystallizing salt out of the cooling brine and it was placed in split oak or wicker baskets hung above the boilers to drain. The salt was then thrown onto oak boards on the fl oor of sheds built on both sides along the entire length of the furnace. The kettles boiled down about three times every 24 hours and work went on day and night for about a week when the entire operation had to be shut down for a clean out of the incrust- ed scale called pan stone that accumulated on the bottom of the pans and interfered with the transmission of heat. This was considered the worst job in the entire process.
The heart and soul of the operation was the reservoir of brine which fed the entire salt works. This is the part we know little about. The pumps, gutters, pipes and aqueducts used to supply the salt block are a mystery as well as the reservoir, basin or well that was the source of the brine. On the Bon Secour River in Alabama, brine wells were dug above the reach of the high tide. These 12 foot by 12 foot pits were about 10 feet deep and were built like inverted pyramids with the sides made of squared logs narrowing down to the bottom which prevented the pit from fi lling in with sand. The brine seeped in through the loosely placed timbers and, brine being heavier than the fresh water, it sank to the bottom of the pit. On St. Andrews Bay, basins may have been built where the brine was allowed to stand for a few days and concentrated before being pumped or dumped into the iron tanks of the salt block.
Ella Lonn, a Goucher College professor from Baltimore, who wrote the classic book, SALT AS A FACTOR IN THE CONFEDERACY, stated about St. Andrews Bay, “Nowhere perhaps was a greater persistence manifested than in St. Andrews Bay in rebuilding the works so continually destroyed by the Federal fleet. It is diffi cult to explain whence the Richmond authorities found the means and as- sembled the materials for this really remarkable feat.”
Professor Lonn also does a great job of describing how the scarcity of this commodity condensed into a microcosm all the frustrations of the Confederacy and gave rise to this early St. Andrews enterprise,” It is only when a prime necessity thrusts itself upon public attention by its absence that a person ceases to take it for granted. Only when he no longer has it, does he realize what an important ingredient for his palate and digestion is plain, ordinary salt, necessary alike for man and beast.”