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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Caldwell in Greenbrier County, West Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Confederate Saltpeter Works

Civil War Industrial Center

 
 
Confederate Saltpeter Works Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, August 6, 2012
1. Confederate Saltpeter Works Marker
Inscription. Although saltpeter (potassium nitrate or nitre), an essential element in the manufacture of gunpowder, had been mined at Organ Cave since the eighteenth century, the need for the mineral increased dramatically during the Civil War. Several saltpeter mines were operated in West Virginia. Confederate soldiers were detailed to operate the mine here beginning in 1861 and ultimately produced a large percentage of the saltpeter used in the production of gunpowder for the Confederate army.

Many of the soldiers lived in the cave during the harsh winters and conducted religious services in the Chapel Room. A stream flowing through the cave provided water for cooking, washing, and drinking. The soldiers constructed fifty-two vats, or hoppers, to separate the saltpeter from the rock and soil in which it was found. Thirty-seven hoppers remain in the Hopper Room, the largest collection in the United States. The soldiers lugged sacks of soil to the hopper, where the water was poured through to leach out the saltpeter. It took an estimated 2,000 pounds of soil, carried in 14-16 trips, to fill one hopper. When two hundred pounds of saltpeter had been extracted, it was shipped to Southern gunpowder factories, such as the one in Augusta, Georgia.

On August 19, 1863, Gen. William W. Averell led a cavalry expedition into West Virginia
Confederate Saltpeter Works Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, August 6, 2012
2. Confederate Saltpeter Works Marker
including Greenbrier County. His objective was to destroy saltpeter works in Pendleton County. Although he did not attack the Organ Cave works, apparently saltpeter production here stopped soon thereafter.

Following the Civil War, Organ Cave resumed its role as a tourist attraction.

(Sidebar): Fossilized remains of grizzly bear, saber-tooth cat, porcupine, and the first three-toed sloth found in America have been found in Organ Cave. Human history here is indicated by the Native American projectile points that have been found. Later, the date 1704 was carved in the cave. Saltpeter mining began in the eighteenth century. The earliest known tours of the cave began in 1822, when it was called John Rogers's Stagecoach Stop. The Secretary of the Interior designated Organ Cave System, one of the largest in West Virginia, a National Natural Landmark in November 1973. In 2005, Organ Cave was listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its industrial and recreational significance.
 
Erected by West Virginia Civil War Trails.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the National Natural Landmarks, and the West Virginia Civil War Trails marker series.
 
Location. 37° 43.092′ N, 80° 26.148′ W. Marker is in Caldwell, West Virginia, in Greenbrier
Confederate Saltpeter Works Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, August 6, 2012
3. Confederate Saltpeter Works Marker
County. Marker is on West Virginia Route 63. Touch for map. Marker is .58 miles north on SR63 from the intersection of US 219 AND SR 63. Marker is in this post office area: Caldwell WV 24925, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Organ Cave (approx. half a mile away); Ronceverte (approx. 2.7 miles away); Berea Sand (approx. 4.9 miles away); Pontiac's War/Welsh Cemetery (approx. 5.5 miles away); Greenbrier Military School (approx. 5.6 miles away); Lewisburg Battle (approx. 5.7 miles away); Dick Pointer (approx. 5.8 miles away); Battle of Lewisburg (approx. 5.8 miles away).
 
Categories. War, US Civil
 
Confederate Saltpeter Works Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, August 6, 2012
4. Confederate Saltpeter Works Marker
Confederate Saltpeter Works Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, August 6, 2012
5. Confederate Saltpeter Works Marker
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 10, 2012, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Md 21234. This page has been viewed 2,681 times since then and 45 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on September 10, 2012, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Md 21234. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.
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