Southeastern Section - 64th Annual Meeting (19–20 March 2015)

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 8:30 AM


CROSS, Aaron, Division of Geology and Mineral Resources, Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, 900 Natural Resources Drive, Suite 500, Charlottesville, VA 22903,

During the 150thanniversary of the American Civil War, the U.S. Geological Survey has partnered with the Virginia Division of Geology and Mineral Resources to produce an overview of the strategic use of mineral resources during the war. This project focuses on resource occurrences, production, and consumption, rather than on political aspects or specific battles of the war.

The Civil War was the first major conflict in American history in which mineral resources took center stage. Iron was the raw material for two million rifles, several hundred thousand pistols, and thousands of pieces of artillery. Iron provided not only weapons, but also canteens, cauldrons, canned rations, skillets, axes, saws, shovels, surgeon’s tools, and countless pieces of miscellaneous hardware. There were at least two million horses involved in the war, requiring eight million iron horseshoes. And there was no end to new and gruesome contrivances such as land mines and Gatling guns, as well as cutting-edge machines of war — steam locomotives and ironclad warships, even submarines. Iron completely re-defined warfare, top to bottom. In addition, hundreds of millions of lead bullets were expended during the conflict, along with untold tons of gunpowder. Copper provided for 15,000 miles of military telegraph wires. Coal fueled the munitions factories along with military railroads and steam-powered warships. Salt was absolutely critical for preserving food, both for the soldiers and sailors in combat, and across the home front. Gold from the American West helped finance the Federal war effort.

We hope that this project illustrates the critical importance of understanding our resource base, a challenge as important to our Nation today as it was in the nineteenth century.