Feeling slightly relieved that they had not been overtaken by the guerillas from Tennessee, the seven men from the 4th were closing in on their destination, now only a mile from Keel Mountain. Suddenly out of nowhere came a horse and rider approaching them. Fast and with fury he drove the horse. The soldiers of the 4th knew there was probably a vast number of men behind him. They turned toward Keel Mountain. If they could get around the mountain, Union help was on the other side. Only then did they realize the Tennessee guerillas were closing in on them as well.
The Lieutenant from the 4th ordered his men to move up into the mountain. They would have to find a defensive position at the top and maybe the Union troops nearby would hear the shooting and come to their aid. As the mighty men of the 4th scrambled for cover along the wooded mountain side, the shooting began.
Both bands of guerillas opened fire on the tiny Union outfit. As one soldier, then another fell to the spray of bullets, the pack mule was hit too. As the animal collapsed, the rider quickly grabbed the two leather pouches out of the strong boxes. Carrying the gold coins he headed deeper into the brush. Struggling under the weight of the gold, his escape was slow. As the renegades pushed up the mountain on foot after the men of the Fourth, the young man carrying the gold was hit. He fell down into a low, sunken ravine still holding the pouches. His body was swallowed up by leaves and the underbrush.
Most of the guerillas continued to the top of the mountain pursuing the fleeing Union soldiers but Jeremiah McCain saw the young man with the pouches fall. He quietly headed in that direction and saw the tip of a boot. Ever so carefully he crept up to the ditch. Satisfied this wasn’t a trap he plunged his hand into the shallow leaf covered grave. Dragging out the pouches McCain was astounded to find them filled with gold coins. He knew time was short. Soon his comrades would be coming back down the mountain. So McCain lugged the pouches a short distance, finding a small hole he stuck both pouches in it and covered them with surrounding dirt and rocks. Viewing the area well, so he could find his cache again, McCain used a huge oak tree as a landmark and counted exactly 76 paces from tree to his hiding spot. Satisfied the gold was secure, McCain went in search of his fellow renegades.
Only two men of the 4th survived this mission. Back in Huntsville General Mitchell was livid the gold had been lost. He ordered troops to scour the mountain for the coins. The bodies of the young soldier and mule were found but not the gold. Mitchell concluded it fell into the hands of Confederates.
Not long after the incident, McCain along with the guerillas he’d been riding with, met up with a large unit of Union infantry and cavalry. Fighting ensued and Jeremiah McCain was badly wounded in the stomach. He lingered for days and in his dazed, confused state told one of his men about the gold. Yet the renegade couldn’t understand exactly where the gold was buried. It’s believed McCain told the entire story to someone else which is why we have the details today.
Is there still gold coins stuck in a hole somewhere on Keel Mountain? Did nine members of the 4th OVC give their lives for its transport? There isn’t a reference to this incident or anything close to it in any military reports. Not one bit of information has been found to substantiate it in any way.
This story sounds more like a newly released action movie or even a recent nightly newscast. Yet most stories handed down through generations always contain at least a grain of truth. Even if it’s only a grain of truth maybe, just maybe this story isn’t so outlandish after all! If you have any additional facts or stories to add this legend I’d love to hear about them. I’d love to hear just one bit of evidence that could prove this story true!
Also that $50,000 in gold is estimated roughly to be worth $1 million today! So if you’ve ever looked for gold coins on Keel Mountain or plan to, let me know how your adventure turns out! I’d love to know about it and Good Luck!