The History of Foodways in Florida
Teacher's Guide for Food, Florida and the Civil War

Salt and Beef

Florida was a critical source of beef and salt for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. The Union blockade greatly restricted trade between the Confederacy and the outside world. Moreover, many key supplies and foodstuffs were needed for the Confederate Army. As a result, many Confederate citizens were forced to either find substitutes for those items that could not be produced at home or do without them entirely.

In the early years of the war, the Confederate Army drew much of its beef supply from Texas. Once the Confederate Army lost control of the Mississippi River in 1864, this critical source of food was no longer available. Florida beef became essential for the continuation of the war effort. These circumstances affected the strategies of both the Union and Confederate militaries. The Confederates created special military units to gather beef cattle and move them safely northward, while Union forces took advantage of Florida’s lengthy unprotected coastline to make incursions into the interior to disrupt this process.

Salt was another critical Florida contribution to the Confederate war effort. Without modern refrigeration, salt was the preferred method for preserving meat, both on the homefront and in the field. Floridians typically obtained a large portion of their salt supplies through trade, but the Union blockade seriously curtailed this source of the vital product. The Confederates resorted to boiling down seawater in small outposts along the coast to obtain the salt it contained. These “salt works,” as they were called, could produce hundreds of bushels of salt per day in some cases. The Union blockaders understood the vital logistical role salt played in the Confederate war effort and frequently went on missions to harass or destroy the salt works.

About These Documents

The documents here illustrate both the importance of salt and the process of making it. The Joshua Hoyet Frier excerpt explores Frier’s understanding of the early days of saltmaking and demonstrates the lengths to which Floridians were willing to go to get salt. Louis James M. Boyd’s letter provides a view of the Floridian saltmaking operations from the Union perspective. Colonel W.S. Dilworth’s letter to Governor John Milton is mostly dedicated to describing plans to defend the St. Johns and Apalachicola rivers, but he briefly refers to the importance of beef, salt and fish available in the St. Johns valley for subsisting the Confederate troops.

Big Questions

  • Why was salt such an important commodity during the Civil War?
  • How did Florida contribute to the food supply of the Confederacy?

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.
  • SS.8.A.5.5: Compare Union and Confederate strengths and weaknesses. Examples may include, but are not limited to, technology, resources, alliances, geography, military leaders-Lincoln, Davis, Grant, Lee, Jackson, Sherman.
  • SS.8.A.5.7: Examine key events and peoples in Florida history as each impacts this era of American history. Examples may include, but are not limited to, slavery, influential planters, Florida's secession and Confederate membership, women, children, pioneer environment, Union occupation, Battle of Olustee and role of 54th Massachusetts regiment, Battle at Natural Bridge.
  • SS.912.A.1.1: Describe the importance of historiography, which includes how historical knowledge is obtained and transmitted, when interpreting events in history.
  • SS.912.A.1.2: Utilize a variety of primary and secondary sources to identify author, historical significance, audience, and authenticity to understand a historical period.

Florida Standards

  • 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.
  • LAFS.68.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • LAFS.68.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • LAFS.910.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
  • LAFS.910.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
  • LAFS.1112.RH.1.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  • LAFS.1112.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
  • LAFS.1112.RH.2.6: Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.
  • LAFS.1112.RH.3.8: Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
  • LAFS.1112.RH.3.9: Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.