Alabama Civil War Site: Bon Secour Salt Works

Alabama Civil War Timeline

September 8, 1864

Union Troops Destroy Bon Secour Salt Works

Bon Secour Salt Factory Drawing by Hazel and Richard Brough from the book “Food, Fun, and Fable.”
Bon Secour Salt Factory Drawing by Hazel and Richard Brough from the book “Food, Fun, and Fable.”


Baldwin County Alabama contributed to the Confederate Civil War activities through production of salt from the Bon Secour Salt Works which went into production in early 1863. The salt production facility was was comprised of long open sheds with a brick firebox running down the center of the shed. Iron containers positioned along the fire box and were heated by a fire and as the hot air traveled through a fire box, it boiled the brine solution in the pots leaving the salt to be collected. The brine was taken from pits dug into the area’s salt marshlands. 

In September, 1864, Union troops proceeded to Bon Secour to destroy the salt works. Captain C.W. Stone of the 6th Michigan Volunteers recorded that forces under his command destroyed 990 of the iron vats and hauled away 30,000 feet of lumber. In his official report, Captain Stone mentioned that his forces burned all that was left behind at Bon Secour including

“a number of buildings having been constructed by the Confederate forces as quarters for soldiers, the place being known as Camp Anderson.”


USS Rodolph 1863

On September 8, 1864, a combined army-navy raiding party led by Acting Volunteer Lieutenant George Wiggin, USN, left the Fort Morgan anchorage at 7:00 a.m. Wiggin commanded three naval gunboats, the USS Tritonia, the USS Rodolph, and the USS Stockdale and one army transport, the steamer Planter, which had two barges in tow. The transport and barges carried 250 soldiers commanded by Major Pettibone of the Twentieth Wisconsin Volunteers. Wiggin’s objective was, as Admiral David Farragut expressed it, “the destruction of [the] extensive salt works on Bon Secour Bay.”

Wiggin anchored off Salt House Point, one mile above Bon Secour Bar at 10:30 a.m. The raiders then went ashore and attacked the salt works. Over the next two days, they broke 55 furnaces and 990 pots, cut the pumps, tore up the brick work, and dismantled 20 buildings. Two of the works, estimated to have cost $60,000 and $50,000 respectively, were so well built they had to be blown up. The raiders also destroyed Camp Anderson, a permanent Confederate base one and a quarter mile away. The soldiers loaded about 30,000 board feet of lumber into the barges. Anything that could not be carried away was burned.1

  1. Vicinity of Salt Works and Camp Anderson
    “Salt Is Eminently Contraband”
    Civil War Trail Battle for Mobile Bay



Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion – United States. Naval War Records Office

Combined expeditions to Bon Secours and Fish rivers,
Mobile Bay,
September 8—11, 1864.

Report of Boar-Admiral Farragut, U. 8. Navy, transmitting report of destruction of salt works in Don Becourl River.

No. 405.] FLAosmP HARTFORD, Mobile Bay, Ala., September 21, 1864.
SIR: I have the honor to forward to the Department the report of Acting Volunteer Lieutenant George Wiggin, giving an account of the destruction of extensive salt works on Bon Secours Bay, and a rough sketch showing their position on both sides of Bon Secours River.
There were 55 furnaces, in which were manufactured nearly 2,000 bushels of salt per da , and their destruction must necessarily seriously inconvenience the re els.
Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Wiggin has carried out my orders thorou hly. M]
e res ect , ry p y D. G. FARRAGUT, Rear-Admiral. Hon. GIDEON WELLES, . Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.

First report of Acting Volunteer Lieutenant wiggin, U. 8. Navy, commanding naval force.

U. S. S. TRITONIA, Mobile Bay, September 10, 1864.
SIR: I have the honor to report that in obedience to your orders I left the anchorage off Fort Morgan on Thursday morning, September 8, at 7 o’clock a. m., accompanied b the U. S. steamers Rodolph and S tockdale, also an army transport. e arrived ofi Bon Secours Bar at 10 a. m. I anchored this vessel and went on board the Rodolph with the pilot and proceeded in over the bar, followed by the Stoclcdale. 10:30, came to anchor ofl’ Salt House Point in 12 feet of water, one mile above the bar.
I immediately sent on shore an armed boat’s crew from each vessel, and, accompanied by Captains [G. D.] Upham and [Thomas] Edwards, proceeded to examine the salt works. We found 55 furnaces, averaging 18 pans or pots each, a total of near 1,000, and capable of making 2 bushels of salt to a pan per da . We commenced the destruction of them by breakin the pans an furnaces and cutting the pumps, tearing the brickwor , etc. We did not finish breaking them until near 5 o’clock yesterday evening, when we set all the sheds covering the works and also the quarters attached on fire, some 200 buildings altogether. The destruction was complete. I found some of the works well built and very strong, particularly one known as the Memphis Works, said to have cost $60,000; this one we were obli ed to blow up before we could get at the pans. Another work, w§1ich was very strong and well built, said to have cost $50,000. These works were the largest, ha ‘ 28 pans each. The whole works covered an area of a square mile. learned from the inhabitants that the aver ed some 2,000 bushels of salt per day. There are about ten amilies iving on the bay and rivers; they seem well disposed and lad to see us. The entrance is shallow; 4 feet of water can be carrie in at low water. We saw no troops or heard of them nearer .than 20 miles. I learned that everything had been destro ed in the vicinity of Fish River. I regret very much to report that r. Trund , acting master’s mate, accidentally shot himself through the right liand by his own revolver going off in his belt; he will lose a finger.
I am, sir, very respectfully, GEORGE Wroom, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant, Commanding. D. G. FARRAGUT, Commanding West Gulf Blockading Squadron.

Report of Bear-Admiral Farragut, U. 8. Navy, regarding expedition to Fish River, transmitting additional reportl.

Mobile Bay, September 13, 1864.
Sm: I had the honor in a previous dispatch, No. 405, to report to the
Department the results of an ex edition under Acting Volunteer
Lieutenant George Wig vin, of the Tmton’la, for the destruction of exten-
sive salt works in Bon ecours Bay.

On the night of the 10th instant I again dispatched this same ofiicer to Fish River for the purpose of etting possession of an engine used in a sawmill on this stream, as wel as to assist the army in procuring lumber at this place.
The tinclads Stoclcdale and Rodolph were, as before, the vessels emplo ed in the expedition, being the only steamers which, from their light raft, coiid be used for such purpose. An army transport, called the Planter, with a barge in tow containing some two hundred soldiers, formed part of the force.
On the morning of the 11th the vessels crossed Fish River Bar and proceeded up the river, which is represented as being very narrow and crooked, to Smith’s mill. The engine had been taken from the mill and buried, but it was after some difliculty dug out and, with the exception of the fly wheel and bedplate, removed safely. The army succfieded in obtaining about 60,000 feet of lumber and some live stoc .
On their return our vessels were attacked from Peter’s Blufl’, at one of the sha bends of the river, b sixty or seventy rebels, armed with rifles, who ad also felled severa large trees across the stream. The fire was returned from our howitzers, and the Rodolph, in advance, broke through the obstructions and all the other vessels followed in safety. The only casualties were the slightly wounding of 1 oflicer and 2 men on the Stockdale. The smokestacks of that vessel were knocked over, and a boat of the T ritonia was lost by being jammed between that vessel and the bank.
The manner in which the ex dition was carried out reflects credit on the ofiicers engaged in it. herewith forward (marked Nos. 1, 2, and 3) the reports of Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Wiggin, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Upham, and Acting Master Benms, together with a sketch of the localities (N o. 4).
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Rear-Admiral, Commanding West Gulf B lockading Squadron.

Second report of Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Wiggln, U. 8. Navy, commanding naval force.

U. S. S. TRITONIA, Mobile Bay, September 12, 1864.
SIR: I have the honor to report that in obedience to orders I got underway at 11:30, on Saturday ni ht, September 10, to look for the army transport Planter, but found t at she had gone.
I steamed u and signaled to the Rodolph and Stoclcdale to get underway and ollow.
We arrived off Fish River and came to anchor at 3 o’clock a. m. At 6 o’clock saw the army trans rt near Grant’s Pass, on the op site side of the bay; 8:30 a. m. e stopped alongside and reports that she had lost her way.
I went on board the Stoclcdale with armed boat, accompanied by two officers and a pilot. I got underway and steamed in at once over the bar, the Rodolph following. At 9:30 a. m. entered the river,
which we found narrow and crooked, but very deep; some of the turns were so short that we had to use lines to swing the boats. We found 60,000 feet of lumber and some stock, which the army took on board of the barge; we also found the engine, which we brought off, with the exception of the fly wheel and be plate.
The arm transports did not get ready to leave until near dark, the Rodolph ta ‘ the lead, the transports next, and I brou ht u the rear in the Stockdale. When about three-fourths of a mi e an in a short bend, just as we fouled the bank, we were attacked by the enemy. We immediately returned the fire, with canister, shrapnel, and musketry. In getting clear we swe t our smokestacks down and also our fiagstaff and derricks, etc. ere I lost my boat, with 5 muskets and equipments, b being jammed between the steamer and the bank. It was very dar on the’river, and about as much as Mr. Robert Moore, the pilot, and myself could do to keep the boat out of the woods. For details, please see Captains Upham’s and Bennis’s re orts.
learned from a refugee this morning that the rebels were under the command of Colonel Maury in person.
We ot clear of the bank and steamed down to the mouth of the river, s elling the bank as we came ‘along. Nine o’clock a. m. we came to anchor in Weeks Bay, without further accident. At 5 a. m. this morning we got underway and crossed over the flats and out into Mobile Bay, bringing 5 feet of water all the way.
The oflicers and men of the S toclrdale all behaved well, as also did my boat’s crew, in charge of Mr. Iaschke, acting master’s mate, who worked a howitzer and superintended the powder division. Mr. Horne, acting third assistant engineer, belonging to this vessel, did take a ve active part in the affair, and deserves much credit for coolness and t e good example that he set the others.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEORGE WIGGIN, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant, Commanding.
Rear-Admiral D. G. FARRAGUT,
Commanding West Gulf Blocl’ading Squadron, Mobile Bay, Ala.

Report of Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Upham. U. 8. Navy, commanding U. 8. l. Bodolph.

U. S. S. RODOLPH, Mobile Bay, September 12, 1864.
SIR: Agreeable to your instructions I got underway at 12:30 a. m., 11th instant, and ran across the bay, in company with the Tritonia and Stock-dale; anchored off the mouth of Fish River at 3 a. In. 8:30 a. m., got underway and roceeded up the river. At 11:30 made fast to the bank at Smith’s mill, where we remained until 6 : 30 m., when I started down the river followed by the army trans— port lanter, with barge of lumber in tow, and the S tockdale. Cleared ship for action. When abreast of Peter’s Bluff, I stop ed, in order to run a line to swing around the bend, when a party 0 rebels (should judge some fifty or sixty) opened fire on us with musketry, several shots going through our armor. Returned their fire with canister, shell, and rifles. After getting through the bend, where the river is very narrow, I discovered that obstructions had been thrown across the river since we had passed up in the morning; they consisted of three large pine trees from each bank, extending entirely across the river. Succeeded in breaking through them with little damage to the vessel, and proceeded down the river. Came to anchor in Weeks Bay, at month of river, at 8:30 p. m., in order to protect the steamer Planter and lumber barge, which were aground. 5 a. m. this day got underway; proceeded across the bar. 9: 30 a. m. anchored at the fleet, Mobile Bay. I am happy to state that no one was wounded on board of this vessel.

The amount of ammunition expended was 6 rifle shells, 30—pounder Parrott; 8 canister, 24-pounder howitzer; 2 shrapnel, 24—pounder howitzer.

I am, sir, very respectfully,
Geo. D. UPHAM,
Acting Volunteer Lieutenant, Gommanding.

Acting Volunteer Lieutenant GEORGE WlGGIN,
Commanding expedition.

Report of Acting Master Bennie, U. 8. Navy, commanding U. I. 8. ltookdnlo.

U. S. S. STOCKDALE, Mobile Bay, Ala., September 12, 1864.

Sm: In obedience to your orders, and in accordance with signals previously arran ed, at 12:30 a. m., September 11, I got underway and followed theéi. S. steamers Tritonia and Rodol h up Mobile Bay. At 3 :20 a. 111. came to anchor off the mouth of Fish fiiver. At 6 a. m. I had the honor to receive you on board as the commander of the expedition. At 8 a. m. the army steamer Planter, with a barge in tow and about 200 troops came up to us. At 8:30 a. m. got underway, crossed the bar, and proceeded up Fish River, in company with the Rodolph and Planter. At 11:30 a. m. arrived at Smith’s mills and made fast alongside of the Planter. Remained there until 6:30 . m. then cast off and proceeded down the river, following the Rodol ll and Planter. When abreast of Cottrel’s wood landing, a arty ofp about sixty or seventy rebels fired upon us with rifles. e immediately returned the fire with canister and shrapnel from 24-pounder howitzer, and with shell from 30-pounder Parrott rifles. The river being very narrow and the bends very short, unfortunately, this vessel, in workin , 0t against the bank of the river and un or some heavy trees, wgich knocked down and injured our smokestacks and caused some damage to the upper light work. At 8:30 p. In. came to anchor in Fish [River] Bay, covering the Planter, which was aground on the bar.

Acting Master’s Mate F. R. Iaschke, of the Triton’ia, has my thanks for his gallant conduct in taking charge of two 24-pounder howitzers and firing them with precision. I trust that his ood behavior will receive the consideration of Rear-Admiral D. . Farragut. The officers and men of this ship behaved well. I regret to have to report that 1 oflicer and 2 men were slightly wounded.

The following is the amount of ammunition expended, viz: 15 shrapnel, 15 canister, and 9 shells from 24-pounder howltzers; 20 5-second shell from 30-pounder Parrott rifles.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Acting Master, Commanding.

Actin Volunteer Lieutenant GEORGE WIGGIN, ommanding expedition.

Third report of Acting Volunteer Lieutenant wiggin, U. 5. Navy, criticiling the conduct of the army force.

U. S. S. TnrroNIA, Mobile Bay, September 13, 1864.

Sm: I he e that I shall not be sent on another ex edition with the army. y reason for making this request is as fol ows:

Their main object is to plunder and rob the inhabitants wherever they go, without re ard to age, sex, or condition. Eve one is on his own hook and oes just about as he pleases. The 0 cers have no control of their men whatever, they go on shore when they please and come on board when they get ready.

Such privileges spoil our best men, and would ruin the discipline of any ship in a short time. Our sailors don’t like to see soldiers bring on board backloads of chickens and other valuables for his own use, while he is kept standing at his gun from morning till night to protect this illegitimate warfare. Such was the case yesterday. I attribute our whole misfortune yesterday to two feather beds and two or three dozen chickens, which detained two gunboats and the transport, with a loaded barge alon side, thirty minutes; and that after sundown, in a narrow, crook river, 6 miles above its mouth. The damage that our gunboats received would have paid for more lumber and beds, and landed it at Fort Morgan, than our expedition obtained. They have taken some pains to interfere with my officers in the execution of their orders, as was the case at Bon Secours Rivir on the 9th instant in regard to the destruction of the salt wor s.

It would be better for the navy to go and fetch the lumber and give it to the army. We have already lost four gunboats in cooperating with the army, and should we be detained as we were Sunday night, we may expect to sacrifice more boats. The feeling is umversal on board of all the gunboats which were on the late expeditions, that the arm is of no use; or, in other words, we have no use for them. The est Gulf Squadron has a reputation at stake, and I trust that none will be called on to witness the scenes of robbery that some of us have witnessged] within the last few days.

I am, sir, very respect ully, your obedient servant,
Acting Volunteer Lieutenant, Cmnmanding.

Rear-Admiral D. G. FARRAGL’T,
Commanding West Gulf Blockading Squadron.

Report of Brigadier-General Bailey, U. I. Army, transmitting reports.

Mobile Bay, September 13, 1864.

I forward herewith reports of expeditions made to Bon Secours and Fish rivers, Alabama, by Captain C. W. Stone, of my staff.

These expeditions were made upon advisement with Admiral Farragut, and I received, as I do in everything else here, the very hearty coo ration of the navy. There have been destroyed the immense sa t works at Bon Secours and the barracks at Camp Anderson. Probably 100,000 feet of fine lumber has thereby been secured to the Government, of vast benefit here in the erection of warehouses, hospitals, etc. The expeditions were conducted with the utmost care, and I feel confident that no wanton destruction of private property or illaging took place. It was learned that Hood

ad fallen back to .Nlbntgomery, and that a brigade of his army had arrived in Mobile.

Trusting that these reports and the movements they chronicle may _meet with the approval of the major-general commanding, I remain,

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brevet Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Major 0. T. Cnars’rnssns,
A. A. 0. Military of West Mississippi.

first report of Captain ltono, U. I. Army.

Fort Morgan, Mobile Point, Ala., September I], 1864.

Sm: In pursuance to written instructions received from General Bailey, on the morning of the 9th instant, I proceeded with the steamer Planter, with two barges in tow, and 250 men, under command of Major Pettibone, Twentieth Wisconsin Volunteers, to the mouth of Bon Secours River. Three gunboats under the command of Captain Wig in,iU. S. Na , entered the bay some distance in advance of the lanter and too such position as would enable them to assist us in case we were attacked. As soon as the troops were landed, a stro picket guard was posted on the road leading into Bon Secours, Itilliere being but one road leading into that place, the country on both sides being an impassable swamp. The remainder of the force was placed at work ta ‘ down buildings, which had been constructed for manufacturing sa t, and in loading the lumber into the barges. I suspended all labor at dark, but resumed my work at an early hour on the succeeding mornin ,and before ‘ ht I had loaded into the barges about 30,000 feet of umber, that be all the available lumber in the salt works. The naval forces ha been engaged in the meantime in breaking the kettles belon ing to the salt works, the tools which I had with me being too light for this pur ose, many of these kettles being fully 2 inches in thickness, w ‘ 0 others were made of a heavy quality of boiler iron. Captain Wiggin, U. S. Navy, informs me that 990 of these kettles were destroyed.

In addition to the lumber, I loaded onto the barges nine head of beef cattle, belonging to a citizen who is at present inside of our lines in the employment of Captain Perkins, assistant uartermaster. I left Bon Secours at 8 p. m., havin previously ed all buildings used as salt works, as I ascertained t at they were owned by parties who are at present in Mobile, and that these works had been manufacturing salt for the Confederate Arm , and also a ‘number of buildings about a mile and a quarter from hon Secours, these buildings havin been constructed by the Confederate forces as quarters for sol iers, the place being known as Camp Anderson. I arrived at this place at midni ht. I also brought in 2 prisoners, George Brown and J. F. Yeene , they both being reported as being en aged in conveying information to Mobile.

0 im roper depredations were committed by the troops, all con— ductin t emselves in an orderly and soldierlike manner.

Muc credit is due to Ma’or Pettibone and his officers for the manner in which they assist me in discharging my duties, all taking an interest in forwarding the work as much as possible.

Very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
Captain, Sixth Michigan Vol. Arty. Actg., Asst. Quartermaster.

Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

Second report of Captain Stone, U. 8. Army.

Fort Morgan, Mobile Point, Ala, September 13, 1864.

SIR: I would very respectfull report that on the ni ht of the 10th instant I ordered the steamer Planter to make fast to t e lar e barge, and at midnight Captain Vandagrift, Twentieth Wisconsin V0 unteers, having reported on board with 200 men, I proceeded to Fish River in obedience to Special Orders, No. 27. On arrivin at the mouth of the river I found three gunboats, Ca tain Wiggin, . S. Na , commaning. Soon after sunrise we move up the river, preceded two gunboats of light draft, one gunboat being left at the mouth ofthe river, as it was drawing too much water to pass over the flats. Owing to the extremely tortuous course of this stream we were obliged to move ve slowly. The gunboats, being stern-wheel boats, experienced muc trouble in passmg the bends of the river. We proceeded up the river for a distance of 6 miles to a place known as Smith’s mills, and here made a landing. This place is on a narrow rid e of high land running down to the river, being flanked on both sides y a swamp. I sent a strong icket guard out at a proper distance and placed them across the big land in such a way as to prevent my party being surprised I then ordered the men to load into the barge the lumber found at the mill, of which there was a considerable quantity, and before night we had loaded on some 55,000 feet of new lumber and twent head of cattle, both the lumber and the cattle being the pro erty 0 Mr. J. B. Smith. He was absent from the mill, being in M0 ile at this time. We saw nothing of the enemy during the day, and at sundown we moved out and proceeded down the river. After leaving the mill about half a mile we were suddenly fired into b a force from the lefthand bank of the river. I immediately ordere the men to fire at the enemy, and also ordered them to place themselves in such a way that they were ‘protected b the lumber on board the barge. The boats soon move below the high ground. It being a swamp on either side the enemy could not reach us, but on again passing a hi h point of land we were met by a second shower of bullets. We replie to the enemy’s fire, the gunboats being engaged all the time in throwing gra e and canister. The enemy’s force consisted of mounted men entire y, and as near as I could judge from the firing and what little could be seen in the darkness numbered about 40 men. After the second firin we saw nothing more of the enemy, and on arriving at the mouth 0_ the river we anchored until morning, the water bein too low to ass at that time. In the momin we passed out into t e bay, touc ‘ng at the [Fish River ?] Point an taking on 8 head of cattle. We then proceeded direct to this place.


During the time we were under fire both ofiicers and men behaved with great coolness, there being no confusion whatever among the troops. There was but one wounded on. board the steamer Planter, he being an officer’s servant, and received his wound while he was firing at the enem . Captain Wiggin reported to me that the gunboat 42 had 3 wounde , none of them being serious wounds.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Captain, Sixth Mich. Vol. Arty., Acting Asst. Quartermaster.