Florida in the Civil War: Risking Their Lives for Salt
Background Information for Teachers
With the seemingly limitless supply of salt available to us today, it is
hard to imagine the hardship imposed by its lack. The Confederate army’s meat supply was preserved with salt. With the Union blockade in place, the Confederate states turned to local sources for this important mineral. Salt production became a crucial
endeavor for citizens of Florida.
Large salt making operations appeared all along the Florida coast. Workers would boil seawater in large metal vessels. Once the liquid had evaporated away, the salt would be left behind. Workers would then package it and haul it away.
This lesson contains excerpts of documents discussing the production of salt in Florida from both Union and Confederate perspectives. It will help students understand why the Florida coastline was important in producing salt during the Civil War, and why the Union was intent on stopping the practice.
In his memoir Reminiscences of the War Between the States by a Boy in the Far South at Home and in the Rank of the Confederate Militia Joshua Hoyet Frier describes first extracting salt from the dirt in the meat houses, and then evaporating salt from sea water.
On November 29th 1862, Louis James M. Boyd, 3rd Assistant Engineer aboard the U.S. gunboat Albatross, describes the destruction of the rebel salt pans along the Florida coast in his letter to his wife, Jannie.
The "Illustration of the Destruction of a Rebel Salt Factory on the Florida Coast" was published in Harper's Weekly in 1862.
The Boyd letter and Frier recollections on salt making provide two differing views regarding the practice of salt production on the Gulf Coast of Florida during the Civil War. Frier explains the process from the Confederate perspective, while Boyd speaks from his vantage point as a participant in the Union efforts to destroy saltworks along the coast.
- Analyze primary source documents.
- Write about history using primary sources.
- Compare Confederate and Union perspectives of the salt works using an illustration, a letter and an excerpt from a memoir.
Sunshine State Standards
- SS.4.A.1.1: Analyze primary and secondary resources to identify significant individuals and events throughout Florida history.
- SS.4.A.5.1: Describe Florida's involvement (secession, blockades of ports, the battles of Ft. Pickens, Olustee, Ft. Brooke, Natural Bridge, food supply) in the Civil War.
- LAFS.4.RI.1.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
- LAFS.4.RI.1.2: Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
- LAFS.4.RI.1.3: Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
- LAFS.4.RI.3.9: Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
LAFS.4.RI.1.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
- LAFS.K12.R.1.1: Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
- Background information for teachers (see above).
- Photo Analysis Worksheet from the National Archives and Records Administration
- Three documents from the State Archives of Florida (see below).
Part I: Introducing Content
- Teachers should review previously covered material dealing with the Civil War, giving special attention to the blockade and saltmaking.
Part II: Photo Analysis
- Students will analyze "Illustration of the Destruction of a Rebel Salt Factory on the Florida Coast." Students should record their reactions to the photographs using the Photo Analysis Worksheet.
- The teacher should conduct an in-class discussion/survey of what students learned during the photo analysis. Students might notice these details:
- People running.
- Ships on the horizon.
- A smokestack.
- A horse-drawn wagon.
- Bags with the word "salt" on the side.
- A tent.
- A structure extending to the water.
Part III: Document Analysis
The Boyd letter and Frier recollections on saltmaking provide two differing views regarding the practice of salt production on the Gulf Coast of Florida during the Civil War. Frier explains the process from the Confederate perspective, while Boyd speaks from his vantage point as a participant in the Union efforts to destroy saltworks along the coast.
Teachers should choose a selection from each document that matches their students' reading level.
- Students will analyze selections from the Boyd and Frier documents. Students should record their reactions to the photographs using Document Analysis Worksheet.
- The teacher should conduct an in-class discussion/survey of what students learned during the document analysis.
Part IV: Putting it Together
- Return to the illustration of the destruction of the saltworks. Did anything in the documents help explain what is happening in the illustration? Refer to details and examples in the text.
- How do these readings help form a more complete picture of salt making during the Civil War when read together?