One hundred and fifty years ago, Arkansawyers were getting very creative in procuring badly needed supplies for both the home front and for the soldiers piling into the state from both the Confederate and Federal armies. With the Federal blockade in full effect, trade in the Southern states were inconsistent and international trade with Europe was ever more difficult.
One of the most significant and often overlooked supplies needed for the preservation of meats and a source of sodium for the 19th century citizen and soldier was salt. In a September 1862 Arkansas newspaper, a letter to the editor related that a new Salt Works was being established in Dallas County: “The demand for Salt is so great and universal, that for some time to come it will be impossible to furnish large quantities to any one person, so that persons sending their wagons from a distance, they only expect a fair and reasonable division of the Salt made.” Akin to the ration cards that became commonplace during World War Two, rationing was the watchword for the Southern people during the American Civil War in Arkansas.
Another product that was causing worry for the Arkansas soldiers during the Civil War is one we take for granted in the 21st century: socks. While the summer of 1862 began to wane into the cooler days of autumn, the need for keeping troops warm and healthy during their service in the army was of great concern. As an 1862 newspaper noted, “The season is not far distant when our soldiers in the field will require good, thick, wool socks. Each man will require two pairs, at least, and there being possibly 700,000 men in service, 1, 400,000 pairs will be necessary.”
As the salt manufactory increased and the demand for wool socks for soldiers likewise became of utmost importance, the citizens of Arkansas were having a harder time of feeding and defending themselves against two opposing armies within the borders of the state.