There’s Another Side to the 4th OVC in the Civil War – One of Secrets, Intrigue and GoldThe 4th Ohio Cavalry is known for extraordinary heroism and stalwart fighting. The Battles of Stone River and Chickamauga are examples of that. In the preface of The Story of the Fourth Regiment Ohio Veteran Volunteer Cavalry by Lucien Wulsin, editor Eleanor N. Adams states, “It was the enthusiasm and endurance of the American boy from seventeen to twenty-two years of age which really sustained the Union.” It’s with honor and reverence we remember the men of the 4th, yet there’s still another side of this regiment. One of secrets, intrigue and gold. Have you ever heard the story of the gold coins buried on Keel Mountain?
Let’s set the stage. As you know early in 1862 this young regiment was attached to General O. M. Mitchell‘s, Third Division, Army of the Cumberland. It didn’t take long for the 4th to be launched into the heat of battle at Bowling Green, KY. From there the 4th led the division on to Nashville where they accepted the surrender of the city by Nashville’s mayor.
The 4th battled John Hunt Morgan and his rebel cavalry. They recaptured a train stolen by Morgan outside Nashville and pursued the renegade and his men. The strong and loyal patriots of the 4th captured Shelbyville, Fayetteville, and Murfreesboro. They marched onto Huntsville capturing a train with 17 locomotives and taking 800 rebel soldiers prisoner.
Once the 4th occupied Huntsville our intriguing story begins. As expected most of the city’s occupants were outraged at being invaded by the North. Union soldiers it is said, looted some of the city’s stores creating more anger among the residents. Huntsville was a powder-keg ready to explode. Mitchell knew he needed to make peace with Huntsville’s citizens. His men needed to purchase their necessities from the locals. Yet shop keepers would not accept U.S. currency, deeming that action a form of treason even though their confederate paper money was worthless. So Mitchell supposedly formulated a plan to ease the growing tension in the city.
Mitchell, it is said, contacted Union headquarters requesting $50,000 in gold coins. Gold was one thing he knew the merchants in Hunstville would certainly accept. Union soldiers buying items with gold would certainly placate residents. After some months of communication and repeated appeals, Mitchell’s request was granted. A secret detachment of well armed men from the Fourth Ohio Cavalry (OVC) was sent to Army headquarters in Nashville, early in November of 1862 to retrieve the coins.
Please stop back here tomorrow for the second part of The Other Side to the 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry in the Civil War– One of Secrets, Intrigue and Gold! Did the detachment pick up the gold? Did they get their secret cargo back to Huntsville? Or did they run into trouble? See you tomorrow to find out!