The production of saltpetre — something for every man to do.We beg leave to call the attention of our citizens to an important subject connected with the maintenance of our cause, and upon which absolutely depends our capability of self-defence. The blockade of the Lincoln Government, although incomplete, and in many respects merely nominal, interposes obstruction to commerce sufficent to prevent our reliance upon foreign nations for articles of prime necessity in the conduct of the war.--In fact, one of the compensatory advantages incident to the present exigency of our affairs, is the self-dependence which is imposes. Our people so long accustomed to procure by exchange for their own productions, whatever they might require, had become almost entirely helpless. Suddenly thrown upon their own resources, they seemed bewildered at first, but soon this paralysis passed away.--Their energy and enterprise sought channels for exercise, the multiplied wants of the crisis were supplied, and now we are fast approaching a condition of independence. The Confederate Government has exhibited from the beginning an anxious desire to encourage and stimulate the efforts of the people in this direction, and for this purpose has offered rewards to industry greater than would be given under different circumstances. It has been especially liberal in the encouragement afforded to all enterprises set on foot for supplying munitions of war. We have among us all the elements necessary to furnish these in abundance if a sufficient amount of labor with comparatively small capital is turned in the proper direction. Thus, while affording profitable employment to large numbers of our citizens who would otherwise remain idle during a period of general business stagnation, the Government assists in developing the resources of the Confederacy, and teaches the important lesson of self-reliance. It is well known that we have within ourselves all the materials necessary for the manufacture of powder, which is the very life blood of war, but some preliminary preparation is required before they can be converted into the proper form for use. Saltpetre, which constitutes three-fourths parts of the whole, is not found in sufficient quantities, already made, to meet the demands of the present enormous consumption, and our powder mills, therefore, are not employed to the full extent of their capacity. The sources from which it can be obtained, however, are inexhaustible, and only a little labor and capital are required to procure it in the amplest abundance. The War Department, some time since, offered thirty-five cents per pound for all saltpetre delivered before the 1st of January, 1862, but in order to induce its manufacture by our own people at home, has proposed to give fifty cents per pound for all that is made within the Confederacy until January, 1863 and for all made from artificial beds 50 cents per pound until January, 1864. When it is remembered that saltpetre is sold in Bengal at-three cents per pound, and actually taken in payment of taxes by Prussia and Sweden at six cents per pound, and that we have equal facilities with them for its manufacture, the liberality of the Government and the lucrativeness of the business will be apparent. We subjoin below two communications, which deserve general and earnest attention, both from the importance of the subject and the high character of their authors. The first is a letter from Commander George Minor, C. S. N., and Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography in the Navy Department of the Confederate States, to Gov. Letcher, of Virginia, and by him communicated to the Legislature of the State in December last, as an accompanying document to his message; and the second, the reply of A. Snowden Piggot, M. D., a distinguished chemist, to certain inquiries propounded to him upon this subject.
Geo. Minor, Commander C. S. N. His Excellency, John Letcher, Gen. of Va. Fifty cents per pound will be paid, for saltpetre, on delivery, at any of the principal towns in Alabama. Geo. Minor, Chief of Bureau.
George Minor, Com'dr for Chief of Bureau. Dr. A. Snowden Piggot, Richmond, Va.
We copy below a letter from Dr. A. Snowden Piggot, on this important subject. This letter was dictated by one of inquiry from Captain George Minor, of the Confederate Navy. In the Captain's letter he alludes to the strait to which France was reduced for the want of nitre in the war which followed the revolution, by reason of the English blockade. The demand, for this article of prime necessity, for an army of a million of men, was supplied from artificial nitre beds. In France alone, the yield was a thousand tons per annum. It was proportionate in Holland, Prussia, Sweden, and Germany. Nitre is still extracted from beds in Prussia, Sweden, and other countries in Europe. Dr. P. replies to Dr. M. as follows:
A. Snowden Piggot, M. D., Chemist. Comdr. George Minor, Chief of Bureau Crd. and Hydr'y.
Upon an examination of the above communications, it will be seen that the time required for the production of nitre (or saltpetre) from artificial beds is much greater than from the nitrous earths found in caves, although upon thorough investigation it has been ascertained that even from artificial beds in the more Southern latitudes of the Confederacy, the process requires a much shorter period than in Prussia or Sweden, or the Northern portions of our own country. It is estimated that within twelve months from the first formation of the beds, saltpetre, ready for use in the manufacture of powder, can be procured in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas; but to encourage the investment of labor and capital in this business, and to cover contingencies, the Government proposes to take, at fifty cents per pound, all saltpetre made in this way until the 1st of January, 1864. The propriety of the difference in price fixed by the Government will be obvious upon a moment's reflection. If it was proposed to purchase at fifty cents per pound all saltpetre delivered prior to January, 1864, and the blockade should be raised withing that period, importers could procure it abroad at six or seven cents, and realize incalculable profits. If all saltpetre made within the Confederacy, from nitrous earths, commanded the same price for that period, as the process is much less expensive than the artificial one, and requires a much shorter time, enormous amounts would be made by that method, should the war terminate speedily, and the Government would be compelled to fulfil its contract, although having no need of the amount furnished, and thereby incurring a heavy and unnecessary expense; but, if for what is made from artificial beds, the period of purchase was less, there would be no inducement to embark in it, as the limitation must expire before the saltpetre could be prepared and furnished. We have called attention to this matter in the earnest hope and belief that our people will eagerly embrace the liberal offers of the Government, and while subserving their own pecuniary interests, advance the highest interests of the Confederacy.