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About May, 1862, finding that the production of nitre and of iron must be systematically pursued, and to this end thoroughly organized, I sought for the right person to place in charge of this vital duty. My choice fell on Colonel I. M. St. John (afterwards Commissary-General of Subsistence), and was eminently fortunate. He had the gift of organization, and I placed him in charge of the whole subject of producing nitre from caves and from other sources, and of the formation of nitre beds, which had already been begun in Richmond. Unde'r his supervision beds were instituted at Columbia S. C., Charleston, Savannah, Augusta, Mobile, Selma, and various other points. We never extracted nitre from these beds, except for trial; but they were carefully attended to, enriched and extended, and were becoming quite valuable. At the close of 1864 we had, according to General St. John, 2,800,000 cubic feet of earth collected and in various stages of nitrification, of which a large proportion was prepared to yield one and a half pounds of nitre per foot of earth, including all the nitre-beds from Richmond to Florida.

Through Colonel St. John, the whole nitre-bearing area of country was laid off into districts; each district in charge of an officer, who made his monthly reports to the office at Richmond. These officers procured details of workmen, generally from those subject to military duty in the mountain regions where disaffection existed, and carried on extended works in their several districts. In this way we brought up the nitre production, in the course of a year, to something like half our total consumption of nitre. It was a rude, wild sort of service; and the officers in charge of these districts, especially in East Tennessee, North Carolina, and North Alabama, had to show much firmness in their dealings with the turbulent people among whom, and by whose aid, they worked. It is a curious fact that the district on which we could rely for the most constant yield of nitre, having its headquarters at Greensboroa, N. C., had no nitre-caves in it. The nitre was produced by the lixiviation of nitrous earth dug from under old houses, barns, &c.

The nitre production thus organized, there was added to the Nitre Bureau the duty of supervising the production of iron, lead, copper, and, in fine, all the minerals which needed development, including the making of sulphuric and nitric acids; which latter we had to manufacture to insure a supply of fulmirate of mercury for our percussion caps. To give an idea of the extent of the duty thus performed: Colonel Morton, Chief of the Nitre and Mining Bureau, after the transfer of General St. John, writes: ‘We were aiding and managing some twenty to thirty furnaces, with an annual yield of 50,000 tons ’

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