They Also Served is a history of the Confederate Niter & Mining Bureau District 4 1/2, based in Staunton, VA. The Niter & Mining Bureau was tasked with producing potassium nitrate or saltpeter used in the manufacture of gunpowder for the Southern Armies during the Civil War. A number of individuals and several Govenment operations worked any of the caves in the Shenandoah Valley and Western Virgininia, as well as removing nitrous earth from beneath old houses and barns.
Many of the men employed in this work were detailed from the regular army and were often looked upon as not doing their duty to the South. The Confederacy also employed many free blacks and, in some instances, slave labor to produce this vital ingredient for black powder. These men worked in close quarters, deep undergound, carrying bags filled with dirt to the surface. It was hard, backbreaking work.
Called upon in the spring of 1864, the men of the Niter & Mining Bureau stepped forward and shouldered their muskets and met the nemy at the Battle of Piedmont, Virginia, near Staunton. Major James F. Jones, their superintendent and commanding officer, noted in his official report of the battle that his loss amounted to five killed, fourteen wounded, and eight taken prisoner. His men did their duty.
The writers, Richard L. Armstrong and Marion O. Smith, have spent years digging through the surviving records of the Confederate States of America to tell this story and to make others aware of the history of this little-known aspect of the Civil War. Armstrong is the author of a number of books concerning the Civil War, and Smith has written several articles and books regarding the Niter & Mining Bureau in other parts of the South.
With appendices and index.