Sunday, January 22, 2012

January 22, 1862 - Industry in Arkansas on the eve of the Pea Ridge Campaign

War Eagle Mill
War Eagle, Arkansas
The following excellent account of industry in Arkansas on the eve of the Pea Ridge Campaign appeared in newspapers across the country (both North and South) during the third week of January, 1862.
Newspapers in those days did not rely on wire services as they do today, but instead clipped interesting articles from other papers and reprinted them. I found this account fascinating because it listed such a variety of developing industries in such a variety of locations during the early years of the Civil War in Arkansas:

(From the Little Rock True Democrat)
Chimney from Rhea's Mills
Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park

"There is a tobacco factory in Bentonville, in Benton county, which is said to be a paying institution. The tobacco crop is getting to be an important one in the Northwest. There is a large cotton factory in Washington county. The cotton factory at Van Buren is a large affair, and in addition to spindles has cards for wool. Mr. Tobey, of Norristown, Pope county, has, or will soon have, his cotton factory in operation. There is also a cotton factory in Pike county. In Newton county they have large saltpetre works, and are turning out large quantities. In Independence, and perhaps other counties, there are fine saltpetre caves which are being worked. The rich lead mines in Newton county are rudely worked. The Bellah mines in Sevier county are also yielding lead. We are told there is copper in that region, and sulphur, and sulphuric acid can be made there. Salt is made on the White river and down near the Louisiana line. The salt works on the Ouachita are in the hands of enterprising men.

Arkansas Cave
Saltpetre was mined from caves in Newton County
"There is an unlimited supply of brine, and we are told that Messrs. Harley & Co. have commenced boiling and making salt. They hav ea foundry at Camden which turns out cannon, and sent a battery, under command of Captain Reed, to Oak Hills. We have two foundries at Little Rock, one of which furnished grapeshot for the army. At Hopefield, opposite Memphis, the machine shop of the Memphis and Little Rock Railroad has been turned into an armory, and is altering and repairing guns, &c. Several extensive tanneries have been started at various points in the State, whereat hides are tanned by the process lately discovered. The Messrs. Dyer, of this city, have a soap and candle factory in operation. At the Arsenal there is an armory under the control of the Confederacy, but the necessary machinery has not yet arrived. The Arkansas penitentiary has turned out gun carriages, caissons, wagons, boots, shoes, clothing and many other things needed for the army. A manufactury of coal oil is in progress on the Ouachita river. While on this subject we may remark that that there is good coal at several points on the upper Arkansas, in Perry, Johnson, Franklin and Sebastian counties. In some places it is immediately on the river bank, and when the river rises we expect the coal trade will become an important one, provided the river rises before the cold weather ceases."

Quartermaster's Storehouse
Fort Smith National Historic Site
It is clear from this report that Arkansas was getting into the "business of war" on a large scale and individual industries were turning out anything from gunpowder ingredients to cannon. The existence of such an industrial boom in the state shows how the developing Confederate army in Northwest Arkansas was able to equip and supply itself for the coming campaign.

I will continue posting on the 150th anniversary of the Pea Ridge Campaign during coming days and weeks. You can always read more about the battle at

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