What Really Happened to the Confederate Treasury?

Civil War, genealogy, research

Photo courtsey of Sammi Babe stock.xchng.com

Late spring of 1865 saw fast-moving, chaotic events for both the Union and the Confederacy. Even though Robert E. Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to U.S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, the war was not entirely over. Troops for both sides were still in the field fighting.

Days after Lee’s surrender, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s theater, in Washington DC. plunging a jubilant north into a wary panic. Many were convinced of the Confederate government’s involvement in his shooting.

Meanwhile Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Cabinet had fled the South’s capital, Richmond Virginia, as it fell to Union troops, carrying with them the Confederate government’s treasury. Their original plan was to travel to North Carolina where they would store the treasury in the old U.S. Mint in Charlotte. They soon learned the area was policed by U.S. cavalry so their plan changed. The assembly headed into the heart of the south, some say hoping to continue the Confederate struggle, perhaps setting up a new southern capital and continuing the fight in the western theater. Others say the group planned an escape to Mexico, Cuba or even Britain.

By early May 1865 Jefferson Davis and his staff had made their way from Virginia, through both North and South Carolina to Irwinville, Georgia. Just a couple days earlier Davis had been reunited with his wife Varina and their three children. Their journey was cautious and covert since Davis was sought after by all Union soldiers in the area. Not only was he considered a traitor to the United States and an accomplice to Lincoln’s death, there was also a $75,000 bounty for his capture.

While in camp, early the morning of May 10th, the Confederate President, his family and staff were surrounded by the 4th Michigan cavalry. After their capture, without a Confederate shot fired, the group was transported to a local hotel and then Davis was eventually sent to Fort Monroe Virginia where he was a prisoner for two years.

The 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry was part of the brigade involved in the capture of Jefferson Davis. For their assignment, the 4th OVC had the unusual privilege of searching for and finding the Confederate treasury that accompanied Davis. What they found buried near an apple orchard close to Davis’ capture certainly brought whoops of joy!

Boxes, wrapped in oilcloth, were buried in the ground and contained stacks of Confederate money. Easily recognizable by it’s blue color, the men of the 4th OVC were now in possession of a fortune!

The soldiers took the found loot back to camp. With thousands and thousands of dollars in hand they shared their gain throughout the company. The men, who’s monthly salary averaged about $12, went on a wild spending spree. Buying cigars for $100 a box, a ham for $140 and the luxury of a shave and haircut for $30. The men even went to the theater in the local town spending $50 a ticket. One soldier bought a horse offering the seller $1200 for it. When the seller didn’t have change for the $1500 in cash presented to him, the buyer told him to keep the change. Price was no object! That is until the locals refused to accept the Confederate paper money. It was worthless and local vendors began asking for gold, silver or U.S. money for their merchandise.

But paper money wasn’t the only thing contained in the Confederate treasury. Along with government records there were supposedly crate upon crate of gold and silver coins, bullion, jewelry donated by southern women toward the war and more than $450,000 in gold from the Richmond banks reserves. It’s thought that there was close to $1 million in the hands of the fleeing Confederate administration, taken to keep it from being confiscated by the invading Union military.

This vast amount of gold and silver and the bank reserves were not found when Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet were captured. The 4th OVC only found paper money. So what happened to the Confederate treasury? Is it buried in some secret location and has yet to be found? Was it hidden by Confederate leaders? Was it stolen by Union soldiers?

First there’s the legend that Confederate Secretary of War, John C. Breckenridge who was put in charge of the treasury before the group made their way into Georgia sent a substantial amount of gold ahead to Florida. Possibly the Ocala area. It’s also been said another sum of money was sent to Britain to be held in an account for the Confederacy.

Yet the answer could be as simple as there wasn’t that much money left in the Confederate treasury. Some feel the total amount of gold reported in the treasury was blown out of proportion. Then add to that the last two years of the war drained the Confederate treasury means it may have been broke by May 1865.

Davis and his Cabinet also dispersed some gold as payroll to Confederate troops along their route south. Perhaps the Confederacy was flat broke by the end of the war. But an interesting note is that the Richmond banks reserves were entirely separate from the Confederate treasury and reportedly around $450,000 which adds a twist to the story.

Civil War, research, history, genealogy 4th OVC

Photo credit: elkojote at stock.xchng.com

Once in Georgia, the Richmond banks gold was put in a Washington Georgia bank vault for safekeeping. After the capture of Jefferson Davis further south in Irwinville, that gold was soon confiscated by Union forces. The gold, once in possession of Union troops, was loaded on a wagon train to be sent north. On the very first night of the journey, as the wagon train set up camp near Danburg Georgia, they were attacked by locals. It’s said everyone from freed slaves, to paroled Confederate soldiers and bushwhackers took part in the melee where hundreds of thousands of dollars in gold was carried away. Men stashed gold in any available container, from socks to coffee sacks to saddle bags and hauled it home. In fact the legend goes since there was so much gold stolen and it was so heavy to cart off, that large quantities of gold coins were hidden across Wilkes County, Georgia where some of it sits undisturbed to this day.

The remaining gold was put in an Augusta, Georgia bank and sat there for years. The U.S. government claimed ownership as well as the Richmond banks where the gold came from originally. After extensive court proceedings the U.S. government was awarded the remaining gold because the Richmond banks aided the rebellion.

We know the 4th OVC found the Confederate treasury’s paper money but what about the gold? Could there be a cache of Confederate gold in Ocala, Florida? Or is there an account in Britain waiting for the Confederacy to claim it? How about the Richmond bank reserves? Is some of it buried across the countryside in Wilkes County, Georgia? Probably after 150 years we’ll never know but I think my summer vacation may be spent with a metal detector in sunny Wilkes County, Georgia this year.

One last note, you may be wondering what happened to the jewelry donated by the southern women toward the war effort. Supposedly President Davis and his Cabinet stopped at a farm in the vicinity of Washington Georgia. They entrusted the widow who lived there to care for a heavy wooden box they couldn’t continue to carry with them on their journey. The widow agreed and the men left. Curiosity got the best of the woman and she peeked inside to find it full of valuable jewelry. Panicked at being in possession of such costly items she buried the box on her farm. A few days later an officer appeared requesting the box and the widow hastily returned it to him. Whether he was actually an officer sent by Jefferson Davis to retrieve the jewelry, an unscrupulous soldier or just a plain thief will never be known. The donated Confederate jewelry was never seen or mentioned by anyone again.

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Crafting Genealogy: Vintage Clipboard Memories

Crafting Genealogy Vintage Clipboard MemoriesThis time at Crafting Genealogy we’re going to make a different kind of display for our vintage family photos. We’re using old wooden clipboards in a cool, artful way. We’ll use scrapbook paper, whatever crafts supplies you have around the house and add in your creativity. So let’s get started!


Old wooden clip boards. I like the beat up kind from flea markets but I’ve seen new wooden ones at the Dollar $tore or WalMart.

Decorative paper – Scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, old book pages, sheet music, maps, etc.


Copies of family pics, old postcards, etc.

Adhesive like glue stick or double-sided tape

Foam adhesive squares (for dimension)

Acrylic paint, ink pad

Various odds and ends like ribbon, buttons, flowers, and so on.

Crafting Genealogy Vintage Clipboard Memories

Supplies for Vintage Clipboard Memories

I had three old wooden clipboards tucked away in my basement so I grabbed those for this project. Two were full size and one was half size. They’ll make a nice wall arrangement.

First I decided which background paper I wanted for each clipboard, then traced the clipboard shapes and cut the paper out. As you can see from the photos my papers weren’t long enough to cover the entire clipboard so I added a different paper as a border along the bottom of the larger ones. You can also use two or three different decorative papers on a board, add ribbon or lace to the bottom whatever catches your eye.

I’d say the most difficult part of this project is cutting your paper to fit around the clip at the top of the board. On one board I didn’t come close to cutting it out to fit neatly around the clip. (That’s the board with the kids and dog photo.) I didn’t think it took away from the appearance so I just left it. You can always patch with coordinating paper or add some ribbon or lace.

Next I glued the background papers to the clipboards. I had a hard time trying to get my paper lined up on the first clipboard after I covered it with Modge Podge. So I decided to get my decorative paper lined up first on the clipboard, using the clip to help hold it in place. Then I lifted the edges and put the Modge Podge underneath the paper onto the board. I worked in small areas making sure I kept the paper lined up on my board and then smoothed it out. This worked much better. I wasn’t frustrated trying to pry up glued down paper to readjust it so it fit evenly on the clipboard.

Crafting Genealogy Vintage Clipboard Memories

Now it’s time to glue our decorative papers to the clipboards

Once the decorative papers are adhered the fun begins! This next part gives you a chance to put your creativity to work. I wanted more than just the plain decorative pages for backgrounds. So I embellished those papers. First I used an ink pad. I ran the pad around the edges of the paper giving it a nice worn look. Then I took acrylic paint (I use the 87 cent a bottle kind) and painted around the bottom of a bottle of water. Pressing the bottle bottom to the paper gave me the broken circles I used on one of the boards. I also painted bubble wrap and pressed it to another board and got an interesting effect. I spattered paint on one board for a different result. I like a vintage, aged feel to my projects and these techniques help to achieve that look.

Crafting Genealogy Vintage Clipboard Memories

Now let’s add our photos!

The next step is layering backgrounds as a type of mat for the photos you’re using. I made sure they coordinated with my backgrounds and the pics. Tearing some decorative papers for different shapes and rougher edges adds to the vintage feel. I spent a little bit of time on this portion adding and subtracting to get the look I wanted. I smudged some ink on these papers too adding an aged look. Once I settled on my layout I adhered the base paper to the clipboard but used foam squares on the pics and additional embellishing pieces to give a little dimension to the layout.

I didn’t add names or dates to the clipboards but they could be included with old labels or tags. You could do this project using current school photos, Christmas or vacation photos if vintage isn’t your style.

Crafting Genealogy Vintage Clipboard Memories

Putting on the finishing touches

I hope you’ll try crafting your own Clipboard Memories. If you do and make your own variation of it, please send me a pic or two. I’ll share them in a future post giving all of us even more ideas and inspiration.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have some clipboards to hang in my office. In the mean time have fun Crafting Genealogy!

Crafting Genealogy Vintage Clipboard Memories

The 10 Things on My Civil War Bucket List!

National Archives - Photo courtesy of stock.xchng

National Archives – Photo courtesy of stock.xchng

A couple Saturdays ago you may have caught my post on  Ten Things To Do for Your Civil War Ancestor. It was a lot of fun and I’m working through the list myself. If you missed it you can read here.


That post got me thinking about the things I’d like to see and do. Those things I’ve made a mental note of ever since I began researching the Civil War. After thinking about it I realized it was turning into a Civil War bucket list.


So this is my CW bucket list. A checklist of things I’d like to see and do sometime, some day, all pertaining to the Civil War. They’re in no particular order and don’t necessarily have to do with my ancestors.


Here we go:

Bloody Pond - Shiloh National Military Park Credit: NPS Photo

Bloody Pond – Shiloh National Military Park Credit: NPS Photo

 Visit the Shiloh Battlefield. The first Civil War soldier from my area that died during the war was at the battle of Shiloh. I’ve done some research on him so it holds special meaning.


 Visit Ford’s Theater in Washington DC. and the Petersen Boarding house across the street where the dying president was taken. I can only imagine the emotional experience to be had there.


 Go to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. Not only are there two U.S. Presidents buried there, the only Confederate President is buried there too. Theres also a number of Confederate generals including J.E.B. Stuart and George Pickett at Hollywood. But more than all that 18,000 Confederate soldiers were laid to rest there. Im sure it would be a moving experience.


 Tour Carnton Plantation near the Battle of Franklin and see the blood stained floors where doctors worked feverishly on injured Confederate soldiers. Also walk on the back porch (I read Widow of the South by Robert Hicks) and see where several generals bodies lay after the battle.


 I’d like to find out what happened to the body of my cousin George S. Vanmeter. He was shot and killed on picket duty April 13, 1864 outside of Florence, Alabama. He was with Co. G 9th OVC. Wherever his remains were left I’d like to go there and honor him.


John Hunt Morgan

Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan

 I want to learn more about John Hunt Morgan. (You know how women love a rogue and all I’ve read certainly puts him in that category.) Then I’d travel the 1,000 miles he made famous during Morgan’s raid from Tennessee to Kentucky, across Indiana and Ohio before being captured.


 Probably the most important: I’d like to find a photo of my Civil War ancestor, my great-great-grandfather George W. Lowery. He was a private and fought with Co. A 81st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. In uniform or later in life, it doesn’t matter. I’d just like to have a photo of him.


 I’ve never been to Appomattox Courthouse which is an absolute must and is very near the top of my list. I can’t wait to walk in the footsteps of both Lee and Grant and see the parlor when where peace was finally reached.


 I’d like to spend a day with Garry Adelman. He’s the Director of History and Education at the Civil War Trust. He’s also a licensed Battlefield Guide for Gettysburg and does tons of neat stuff all pertaining to the Civil War. He was at the Library of Congress awhile back and was able to see actual glass plate negatives taken by Matthew Brady. Also while at the National Civil War Museum he was able to examine Alonzo Cushings belt. Yep, Id like to spend a day with him just like that!

 I’d also like to go to the National Archives and look at the shelves of stored Civil War Compiled Military Service Records, Pension files. Medical Cards, etc.  Then I’d dive right in and look at each individual paper and microfilm!

That’s the condensed version of my Civil War Bucket List. The whole list actually takes a couple of pages. So what’s on your list? I’d love to know what you’d like to see and do. Who knows I may just add some of your ideas to my list!

Jen Holik and Cindy Freed talk Military Research from Civil War to World War II

Jen Holik

Jen Holik

Jen Holik and I have had the privilege of writing for the In-Depth Genealogist magazine, Going In-Depth, for the last couple years.

Jen’s column specializes in World War II research. In fact Jen has two books coming out soon, Stories from the World War II Battlefield vol.1 & vol. 2 They’ll cover how to research all branches of the military in World War II. They’re a must have for your WWII research.

Jen and I’ve both been interviewed for the Meet the Writers series for the In-Depth Genealogist. It’s a fun way to learn about us and our research. You can find our interviews on YouTube. Jen’s here. Along with mine here.

After you watch both interviews you’ll see a lot of similarities in the records and sources Jen uses for World War II research and the ones I use in Civil War research.

The In-Depth Genealogist

When Jen and I realized we use similar records we decided to write blog posts comparing the records and strategies for research. Please read Jen’s post today describing her research methods for World War II records.

Here are my suggestions when researching your Civil War ancestor.

Where do you start?

Check the 1860 U.S. Federal Census for the location of your ancestor. You’ll need to know where your ancestor was living just prior to the Civil War to have a better idea which state’s militia he joined. The 1860 U.S. Federal Census can be found several places online like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.

Where do I find my ancestor’s enlistment dates and regiment? With his name and where he lived check the several online sources for enlistment info. These sites also list regimental histories which you’ll find valuable, learning about troop movements and battles fought.

*National Parks Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System




*Try Individual State rosters too. For example the Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Vols. 1-12 can be found online and in local libraries. Search the state roster from where your ancestor served.

Pvt George W Lowery Co. A 81st Pennsylvania, Genealogy, Family History

Pvt George W Lowery Co. A 81st Pennsylvania

How do I find out more about his military service? 

Through Pension Files and CMSR files at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Washington, D.C.

* First check United States Civil War and Later Pension Index 1861 – 1917 to see if your ancestor received a pension or the family applied for one. Index found at FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, Fold3.

* If your ancestor did receive a pension, request a copy from NARA. Using NATF Form 85 it can be ordered online at archives.gov for $ or you can download the form and mail it in. You have the option of receiving hard copies or a cd/dvd for your files.

* Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR) also at NARA is a file for each veteran containing muster rolls, pay vouchers, hospital rolls and so on. They can have additional information like  muster in and out dates, some limited biographical information: age, eye and hair color, height, weight. These can be ordered with form NATF 86 like the pension files above.

* Confederate soldiers did not receive a pension from the U.S. government. Confederate pensions were given by the individual southern states where the soldier served. NARA site has a listing for each southern state’s archives to contact for Confederate soldiers pensions. http://www.archives.gov/research/alic/reference/state-archives.html

What can I find in Courthouse Records? 

* Soldier’s Discharge Papers – Union veterans did receive discharge papers and were supposed to file them at their local courthouse once back home.

* Money account – In some counties families sent soldiers money via the local courthouse. Soldiers were able to send money home the same way.

* Graves Registration File – file of veterans buried in that particular county.

* Indigent Union Soldiers, Sailors and Marines Interment – if you’ve hit a brick wall, or not sure you’re ancestor was buried by family.

What are some online sources for Civil War research?

* Civil War Draft Registration Records – Ancestry.com

* Special Enumeration of Union Veterans and Widows aka 1890 Veterans Schedule FamilySearch and Ancestry.

* The Official Pension Roll of 1883 – Ancestry and Archive.org

* U.S. National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers – FamilySearch and Ancestry

* Confederate veterans – a list of state-run home can be found on the National Archives and Robert E. Lee Camp Confederate Soldiers’ Home Applications for Admission

Where else might I locate information? Your ancestor likely belonged to a veterans group after the war.

* Grand Army of the Republic

Library of Congress – http://www.loc.gov/rr/main/gar/

Grand Army of the Republic Library and Museum –  http://garmuslib.org/

* Sons of Union Veterans – http://www.garrecords.org/

* United Confederate Veterans – Archive.org – http://archive.org/search.php?query=creator%3A %22United+Confederate+Veterans%22

* Sons of Confederate Veterans –          http://sonsofconfederateveterans.blogspot.com/2011/01/records-of-united-confederate- veterans.html

Ancestors In A Nation Divided

There’s also more research help in my book, Ancestors in a Nation Divided. Please check it out.


Be sure to check Jen’s post today to learn about researching your WWII veteran!