Knotts Island

Knotts Island (HM1G7C)

Location: Knotts Island, NC 27950 Currituck County
Country: United States of America

N 36° 30.486', W 75° 55.248'

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Salts Works Center

During the Civil War, salt—essential for the preservation of meat—was vitally important to the massive Union and Confederate armies. Currituck County's location was ideal for salt works, and Knotts Island's residents made salt both here and across the sound on the Outer Banks. Local resident Henry Ansell wrote of accompanying his uncle, John Beasley, to recover two salt pans that a storm had buried and later uncovered. Beasley claimed that he had boiled salt under the islands cedar trees since the War of 1812. Federal raids targeted Southern salt works such as those here. Jonathan Worth, State Salt Commissioner, wrote in 1862, "The taking of Roanoke island will cut off Salt making in Currituck? the best place yet discovered on our Coast for making Salt."

In February 1862 U.S. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside's expedition occupied the Outer Banks. U.S. Navy Lt. William N. Jeffers, commander of USS Underwriter, wrote "The ultimate destination of this force was to the destruction of some salt works, said near Old Currituck Inlet." After talking to residents on both sides of the sound, however, he decided that "the capacity of salt-making establishments had been greatly exaggerated; in fact, that no works existed. A few shed and hovels sheltered some kettles in which the people make a small supply, principally for their own use." Because many salt works were small, family-operated enterprises rather than large factories, Jeffers probably underestimated their effect. Confederate prisoners who escaped from the transport Maple Leaf in 1863 noted salt works here. Other salt works were established in Carteret County (then destroyed by the Federals) and in New Hanover County.


In December 1863, Union Gen. Edward Wild led an expedition from Virginia into Currituck County. He took hostages in retaliation for alleged Confederate mistreatment of Federal prisoners and ordered that houses of Confederate "guerillas" be destroyed. Union Col. Alonzo G. Draper burned several dwellings here on Knotts Island including that of William White. When White's wife told Draper that "there will be no houses left standing on this island," Draper deduced that she was threatening Unionists' houses. He was dissuaded from taking her prisoner because she was about to give birth. He took her daughter 23-yer old Nancy White, instead, and transported her to Pongo Bridge, Va., where he got in a jurisdictional dispute with Lt. Col. Frederick F. Wead. Words were exchanged, Wead filed charges against Draper, and a court martial was held. On January 16, 1864, Gen. Benjamin F. Butler settled the case, and soon released Nancy White. Her grave is a mile south of here.


(lower left) View of saltworks, Harper's Weekly, January 14, 1865

(upper center) Plan of saltworks, from Salt: That Necessary Article (1973)

(lower right) Col. Alonzo G. Drper Courtesy U.S. Army Military History Institute
HM NumberHM1G7C
Series This marker is part of the North Carolina Civil War Trails series
Placed ByNorth Carolina Civil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 at 3:08pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 417545 N 4040700
Decimal Degrees36.50810000, -75.92080000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 36° 30.486', W 75° 55.248'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds36° 30' 29.16" N, 75° 55' 14.88" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)252
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling East
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 124 State Rd 1259, Knotts Island NC 27950, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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