As the Civil War’s end became increasingly apparent, President Jefferson Davis and top members of his government retreated further south. In early April 1865, rumors ran rampant that they carried with them an impressive amount of riches.
However, when Union officers captured Davis on May 10, reports showed that he had just a few dollars with him. Whatever happened to the treasures of the Confederacy?
Unlocking the legend
It’s been more than 150 years, yet the legends of the lost Confederate gold still circulate in the south. Tales have crept into famous books and Hollywood movies – yet no solid leads as to the treasure’s whereabouts have surfaced.
What we do know: on Sunday, April 2, General Robert E. Lee sent an urgent message to President Davis – interrupting a church service in the process. He advised Davis to leave Richmond immediately before Federal troops could capture him.
That evening, a train carrying Davis, Confederate officials and important government documents left Richmond. At the same time, a second train departed Richmond – this one loaded with the Confederacy’s monetary reserves and ladies’ jewelry donated to the Confederate cause.
The end nears
Rumors of the treasure quickly spread – and not just in the South. Once Union officials caught wind of the cache, they used it as leverage to encourage the troops out looking for the fugitives.
On April 9, Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomatox Courthouse (with terms of surrender penned by Ely S. Parker). Davis – crushed by the fall of the Confederacy – continued to avoid capture. However, on May 10 a detachment of the 4th Michigan Cavalry caught up with Davis and placed him under arrest.
But the rumored millions in Confederate gold were nowhere to be found. A clue came from Confederate Navy Captain William H. Parker, who had been left in charge of the loot. He made an official statement to a newspaper in 1893, claiming that the amount he carried was only “about $500,000 in gold, silver and bullion.”
Even still, the rumors persist.
The legend continues
Finding a lost treasure like this is something collectors dream of! What types of Confederate currency – if any – were lost to history with this cache? Is it hidden somewhere… and if so, will it ever be found?