Saturday, August 28, 2010

Daniel S. Donelson

In 1821 Daniel S. Donelson entered West Point and graduated 5th in his class in 1825. His military career was short-lived and he resigned his commission after six months to become a planter in Sumner County, TN. He did serve in the Tennessee militia as a brigade major (1827) and later a brigadier general (1829).

When the Civil War broke out, Donelson volunteered for the Tennessee militia and was returned to duty as a brigadier general. In May 1861 he approved the location of Fort Donelson which was named in his honor. After Tennessee joined the Confederacy he became a brigadier general in the army and fought at Perryville and Stones River. He rose to command the Department of East Tennessee. He died in April 1863 of chronic diarrhea before his promotion to major general was approved by the Confederate Congress.

In February 1862 U. S. Grant's Union forces captured Fort Donelson after a brilliant attack led by Brigadier General Charles Ferguson Smith. The irony was that Smith and Donelson were classmates in the 1825 graduating class with Smith ranking 19th out of 37

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Salt Peter

As most Civil War enthusiasts know, salt peter is a primary ingredient in gun powder (75% salt peter (potassium nitrate), 10% sulfur and 15% charcoal). Most salt peter came from mining or harvesting operations in caves from bat guano. Salt peter or "nitre" was also collected from animal and human wastes. The human wastes were collected from public outhouses and individuals.

So desperate was the Confederacy for nitrates that they actually solicited contributions from ladies in charge of their households while their husbands were fighting the Yankees. On October 1, 1863, the Nitre and Mining Bureau placed an advertisement in the Selma Sentinel resopectfully requesting the ladies to collect the night's deposits in the household chamber pots to make "nitre." The urine was collected by wagons with barrels operated by the Bureau. The request was signed by John Harrolson.

The request resulted in the following poem:

John Harrolsen! John Harrolsen!
You are a funny creature;
You've given to this cruel war
A new and curious feature;
You'd have us think while ev'ry man
Is bound to be a fighter,
The women, (bless the pretty little dears)
Should be put to making nitre.

John Harrolsen! John Harrolsen!
How could you get the notion
To send your barrels 'round the town
To gather up the lotion.
We think the girls do work enough
In making love and kissing.
But you'll now put the pretty dears
To patriotic pissing!

John Harrolsen! John Harrolsen!
Could you not invent a meter,
Or some less immodest mode
Of making our salt peter?
The thing, it is so queer, you know ---
Gunpowder, like the crankey ---
That when a lady lifts her shift
She shoots a bloody Yankee.

John Harrolsen! John Harrolsen!
What e're was your intention,
You've made another contraband
Of things we hate to mention.
What good will all our fighting do,
If Yanks search Venus' mountains,
And confiscate and carry off
These Southern nitre fountains.

The information is from the Duke University Library Digital Collections.