Posts Tagged With: Jefferson Davis

The Search for Lost Confederate Gold….. By Hans Kuenzi The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved


In late May 1861, Jefferson Davis, the former Mississippi Senator and the reluctant president of the seceding Confederate States of America, moved the capital of the CSA from Montgomery, Alabama to Richmond, Virginia to boost the morale of the Confederate troops and weld Virginia to the Confederacy. Had he known that in April of 1865 he, his cabinet and about $700,000 in gold and specie would have to evacuate Richmond to avoid capture during the waning days of the Civil War, he might have elected to remain in Montgomery.  (Note: ‘specie’ describes money in the form of coins, usually gold or silver, as opposed to paper money. Also called hard currency. Since the gold standard was abolished in the 1930s, gold coins, aside from their higher intrinsic value and demand as collectibles, no longer have any special worth as a standard of value in world trade. Dictionary of Banking Terms.)

Davis was attending church services on Sunday, April 2, 1865 when he learned that Lee’s defensive line at Petersburg had been broken and the evacuation of Richmond was imminent. President Davis pleaded with Lee to form defense lines for just one more day and informed his cabinet that Richmond was to be evacuated and that they would take the Confederate treasury with them. General Lee advised Davis that he had until 8 p.m. to load the gold, valuables and cabinet members onto two trains which would travel southward on the only line still open between Richmond and Danville, Virginia. All the Confederate officials would board the first train, while the second train would hold “special cargo”. Navy Captain William H. Parker was placed in charge of the second train and, knowing that the special cargo was comprised of gold ingots, gold double eagle coins, silver coins, silver bricks and Mexican silver dollars, he gathered the only available personnel to provide a military guard. This guard consisted of mostly young navy midshipmen from a training ship on the James River and some of them were only twelve years old.

The two trains left Richmond at midnight and when the tracks ended at Danville, Davis and his staff began to travel south on horseback. Captain Parker and the treasure, now moved to wagons, were directed to the old U.S. Mint at Charlotte, North Carolina, which was considered the safest storage place. Unfortunately, Parker found the U.S. cavalry already in the immediate area and made alternate arrangements. The treasure was placed into all kinds of containers that had once been used for sugar, coffee, flour and ammunition. Moving to the southwest, Parker and the wagons zigzagged across the South Carolina-Georgia state line several times to evade capture.  Eventually the responsibility for the treasure was passed on to the Secretary of War, John C. Breckenridge, who then placed Brig. General Basil Duke in charge. With slightly less than a thousand men in his command, Duke transferred all the treasure into six wagons and began his journey south with eight of his veterans on each wagon as guards and the rest of his command, along with the midshipmen, as escorts. In Washington, Georgia, Jefferson Davis and his cabinet met for the final time, where Davis signed his last official order, making Micajah Clark the acting Treasurer of the Confederacy.

The Chennault Plantation in Washington, GA where the Confederate gold reportedly disappeared


It was in Washington that the bulk of the treasure was captured along with Jefferson Davis and his staff. Some of the treasure had been retained by Brig. General Duke and his men as each man under his command received as payment the sum of $26.25, which amounted to a total of about $26,250. The balance of the captured treasure was assembled and loaded into wagons for transport to Washington, D.C. However, somewhere in Wilkes County, Georgia, the wagon train was bushwhacked. The bushwhackers were stragglers from both the Federal and Confederate armies who had heard of the treasure and the “handouts” being given to soldiers. Residents of Wilkes County who witnessed the event said that the bushwhackers waded knee-deep in gold and silver coinage before loading it in all kinds of bags and sacks and riding away. It was said that many riders were so overloaded that they later discarded or hid large quantities of the coins all over Wilkes County.

The belief that Confederate gold is buried in Wilkes County has persisted since the end of the war. However, despite searches conducted throughout the years, nothing of value has ever been found there. This rumor of buried treasure in Wilkes County nevertheless spawned a legend involving a family of local repute, the Mumfords, and the location of the lost Confederate gold.

This legend was first advanced by Martha Mizell Puckett, a former school teacher and Brantley County native, who spun her tale of Confederate gold in her book, Snow White Sands. Her book alleged that New York native and Confederate sympathizer Sylvester Mumford was present at the Confederacy’s final cabinet meeting in Washington, Georgia, and claimed that Jefferson Davis divided the gold among those present and instructed them to use the money as they felt best. Another account maintains Jefferson Davis entrusted the entire Confederate treasury into the care of Sylvester Mumford. A very prosperous merchant before the war, Mumford had established a cotton plantation near Waynesville. However, his business fortunes suffered great losses throughout the course of the war.

It was said that, after taking possession of the gold, Mumford transported some of the Confederate treasury southeast to North Florida and the Atlantic coast, where he boarded a British steamer bound for England. Puckett was rather vague about what Mumford did with the gold he allegedly transported to England, except to claim that he ordered enough seed corn from South America, by way of Great Britain, to replant the whole State of Georgia. The rest of the gold found its way into the hands of his daughter, Goertner “Gertrude” Mumford Parkhurst, in New York, where she lived and invested it well. Puckett claimed that when “Miss Gertrude” decided that the remainder of the Confederate gold should be returned to the people to whom it belonged, her personal lawyer, Judge J.P. Highsmith, suggested that an educational trust be established for the descendants of the Confederate soldiers.

As heir to the Mumford estate, “Miss Gertrude” allegedly made provisions to return the balance of the Confederate treasure to Southern hands after her death. In fact, when she died in 1946 at age 99 in Washington, D.C., she bequeathed almost $600,000 to the children of Brantley County through an endowment and two scholarship funds.

The Thornwell Home and School for Children as it stands today in Clinton, SC


Initially, with one-third of her estate, the will established the Sylvester Mumford Memorial Endowment at the Thornwell Orphanage in Clinton, South Carolina, which was founded in 1875 and is now known as the Thornwell Home and School for Children. The remainder of her estate was divided between two scholarship funds. The first was given to the Presbyterian Church, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, in trust “for the maintenance and education of white orphan girls of Brantley County”. By 1960, this scholarship fund was creating more income from its principal investment than there were recipients for the scholarships. The church petitioned the court to expand the scope of the scholarships by including residents of counties which immediately surrounded Brantley and by defining an orphan as a child who had lost at least one parent. Due to the moral and legal concerns about restricting the fund to white orphan girls, the church then petitioned the court to open the scholarship to all ethnic groups. In 2002, the church awarded $32,000 to qualified women from Southeast Georgia, and in October 2003 there were fifteen women attending colleges or technical schools who were funded by the scholarship program.

A second scholarship, known as the Sylvester Mumford Memorial Fund, was to be awarded to students from Brantley County who attend Georgia College, then known as Georgia State College for Women. In recent years, the number of students receiving tuition assistance has fluctuated between ten and twelve.

Given this claim that the source of these scholarships was in fact a portion of the lost Confederate treasury, researchers throughout the years sought to confirm the veracity of the Mumford legend. However, their work created great doubt that any lost Confederate gold ever existed in the first place. Of particular note, Wayne J. Lewis researched the connection between the Confederate gold and the Mumford estate due to his personal interest in the legend. In April 1953, he and his three brothers were the first children from Brantley County to derive benefit from the Mumford funds at the Thornwell Orphanage in Clinton, South Carolina, after their father died from a heart attack in 1951 at age 47. Lewis graduated from Thornwell High School in 1958 and then from Clemson University in 1962 before serving on active duty in Germany and Vietnam with the U.S. Army. He resigned his commission as a captain after almost six years and he retired from the U.S. Postal Service in 2000 and still has family and friends in Brantley County.

Appreciative of the home the Mumfords provided and his opportunity for a college education, he set out to discover the facts behind the Confederate gold. He researched the archives of the Thornwell Orphanage and found no reference to the Confederacy or gold in any of the handwritten letters from Mrs. Parkhurst. He also interviewed local historians and librarians in Washington, Georgia, none of whom had heard of the gold’s connection to Brantley County. Moreover, he was unable to find any mention of the name Mumford in any record of the period.

After exhaustive research, Lewis concluded that gold from the Richmond banks and the Confederate treasury had in fact been evacuated from Richmond and shipped south to prevent it from falling into the hands of Union forces. However, although the banks and the Confederacy had shipped their gold on the same train, each had its own security forces and the gold was never commingled. Although Jefferson Davis’s family was on the train with the gold shipments, Lewis wrote that Jefferson Davis was not. The treasurer of the Confederacy was on board and made numerous and well-documented disbursements along the way to meet military payrolls.

Arriving in Washington, Georgia, Lewis reported that the Confederate treasury had dwindled down to about $43,000 in cash. The funds were then stored there in a vault at a local bank, and within days after the war ended, the Richmond banks had their funds returned to Richmond on five wagons. However, this wagon train was robbed on the first night that it stopped to make camp, and the robbers improvised ways to carry the loot: stuffed in their shirts, pants, boots and whatever else would hold their plunder. Unfortunately for them, their booty leaked and made it easy for a posse to follow. All but about $70,000 was recovered and transferred to Augusta, Georgia, where ownership of the funds was tied up in court until 1893. The courts eventually agreed with the federal government, who claimed the funds because the Richmond banks had aided a rebellion by making loans to the Confederacy.

Lewis concluded that the Brantley County Confederate gold legend was probably fabricated from a combination of the legend told in Snow White Sands and the actual gold shipments after the war. Indeed, no one who was an eyewitness to the events ever documented that the gold was actually lost. Martha Mizell Puckett, the author of Snow White Sands, had failed to include footnotes, references or even a simple bibliography to support the presence of gold in Brantley County.

In conclusion, historical research has determined only $70,000 of the gold belonging to the banks in Richmond is missing, but not lost, as it was accounted for in the robbery during its shipment back to Richmond. What remained of the Confederate treasury, in the form of gold and other valuable coins, was disbursed as payroll to Confederate troops during its transport south. By the end of the war, nothing remained in the coffers of the Confederate treasury except for its incalculable amount of debt.

Categories: Ancient Treasure, Civil War | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Week in the Civil War…..


Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee wrote this week 150 years ago in the Civil War to the president of the Confederacy as his battered army continued its recovery from defeat at Gettysburg. Both North and South had experienced heavy bloodletting in the fight and were bidding to regroup after what would turn out to be the pivotal battle of the war. In a letter dated July 31, 1863, Lee told Confederate President Jefferson Davis that the adverse turn of events at Gettysburg for the South cannot be blamed on anyone but himself. “No blame can be attached to the army for its failure to accomplish what was projected by me, nor should it be censured for the unreasonable expectations of the public. I am alone to blame, in perhaps expecting too much of its prowess & valour,” Lee wrote Davis. In the same letter, Lee added: “Our loss has been heavy, that of the enemy’s proportionally so.” And he concluded that his plan could have worked if all the elements of his war strategy had come together as expected: I still think if all things could have worked together it would have been accomplished.” Many letters were going back and forth between Davis and Lee at this point in the war, with Davis at the time promising to rapidly furnish more fighters for the badly depleted Army of Northern Virginia.

Categories: Civil War | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Civil War…Confederate Spy….Rose O’Neal Greenhow..




============================================================================
She was born Maria Rosetta O’Neale in Montgomery County, Maryland to John O’Neale and Eliza Henrietta Hamilton and was orphaned as a child. When she was a teenager, she was invited to live with her aunt who ran the exclusive Congressional Boarding House in Washington, D.C. and was introduced to important figures in the Washington area. O’Neale was considered beautiful, educated, loyal, compassionate, and refined. Many were surprised when she accepted the marriage proposal of Dr. Robert Greenhow, a quiet physician and historian, who worked in the U.S. State Department and married him on Tuesday, May 27, 1835. Their marriage record lists her as Miss Rose Mariea O’Neale. Through her husband, she came to meet the leading southern politicians of the day, including Jefferson Davis, who was to become the first and only president of the Confederate States of America. The Greenhows had four daughters: Florence, Gertrude, Leila, and little Rose. Dr. Greenhow died in 1854, soon after little Rose’s birth. As the country moved toward war, Greenhow continued to host parties for both southern and northern politicians, but she made her views clear, that she was a southerner first, last, and always. A young lieutenant from Virginia named Thomas Jordan knew that Greenhow was probably the best-placed southerner in Washington and, after meeting with her, he proposed that she spy for the Confederacy, acting on behalf of Gen. Beauregard and she accepted. On July 9 and 16, 1861, Greenhow passed on secret messages to Confederate General Pierre G. T. Beauregard containing critical information regarding the 1st Bull Run (known in the South as the Battle of Manassas) campaign of Union General Irvin McDowel. Confederate President Jefferson Davis credited Greenhow’s information with securing victory at Manassas for the South. On August 11, 1861, she was able to send a report several pages long, detailing the complete Washington defense system. Every fort in the Washington area was described in detail, along with the number of guns, their caliber and range; weak spots in the earthworks; regiments identified by state origin and their strengths; the level of troop morale; number of officers and their experience; the political beliefs of the officers; the number of muskets issued to each regiment and the number of shots and grape issued for each weapon; the number of mules for freight-hauling available and the condition of the animals; itemized lists of wagons, ambulances and stores for each fort. This was the kind of information she delivered. She was arrested as a spy by Allan Pinkerton on August 23, 1861. Mrs. Greenhow was kept a prisoner in her home, which had been labeled “a clearing house for spies.” Her home was officially made her prison by government decree on August 30, 1861. When guards discovered a Confederate plot to free Greenhow, the government acted, ordering her and her daughter, “Little Rose” transferred to the Old Capitol Prison on January 18, 1862. For five months, she and her daughter remained at the Old Capitol Prison, however, even her imprisonment did not deter her from continuing to provide information to Southern loyalists. This prompted Federal authorities to banish her south. On June 2, the New York Times recorded her release and removal under close custody. On June 6, 1862, she and her daughter arrived in Richmond to wildly cheering crowds. Asked by the government to act as a courier to Confederate diplomats, she assumed the role of blockade runner and traveled to England and France. In September 1864, she boarded a blockade-runner, the Condor, bound for North Carolina. Spied by a Union gunboat in the waters just off the coast near Wilmington, North Carolina, the Condor raced ahead up the Cape Fear River hoping to avoid confrontation. Instead, the Condor ran aground on a sandbar. Desperate to escape, Greenhow boarded a lifeboat that capsized in the rough water and drowned due to the weight of over $2000 in gold that was sewed into her garments. In the afternoon of Saturday, October 1, 1864, her body was carried in a long funeral procession through the streets of Wilmington, a guard of honor accompanying her horse-drawn casket which was draped with a huge Confederate flag. Thousands of soldiers marched behind it, led by Admiral Hampden and many other Confederate officers, to Oakdale Cemetery. A squad of Confederate soldiers fired their muskets over her grave as the guns of Fort Fisher boomed in her honor. Note: A great white stone was later placed above her grave, purchased by the Ladies Memorial Association of Wilmington. On it bears the legend: “This monument commemorates the deeds of Mrs. Rose Greenhow, a bearer of dispatches to the Confederate government. She was drowned off Fort Fisher from the blockade runner ‘Condor’ while attempting to run the blockade on September 30, 1864. Her body was washed ashore at Fort Fisher Beach and brought to Wilmington.”

Categories: Civil War | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mary Elizabeth Bowser – African-American Union spy in the Confederate White House.



===========================================================================
NAME: Mary Elizabeth Bowser

DATE OF BIRTH: 1839?

PLACE OF BIRTH: Richmond, Virginia

FAMILY BACKGROUND: Mary Elizabeth Bowser was born as a slave to owner John Van Lew, a wealthy hardware merchant. His daughter, Elizabeth, and her mother freed her father’s slaves after his death in 1843 or 1851 (sources differ). Accounts record the Van Lew women buying members of their slaves’ families from other owners, when they found out they were going to be sold, and then freeing them. Another former slave named Nelson went North with Mary after the Civil War; some sources believe this was her father.

EDUCATION: Mary remained with the Van Lew family after she was freed and worked as a paid servant. Elizabeth sent Mary to the Quaker School for Negroes in Philadelphia in the late 1850s.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: After graduating, Mary returned to Richmond and married William or Wilson Bowser, a free Black man, on April 16, 1861 — just days before the Civil War began. The ceremony was highly unusual because the church parishioners were primarily white. They settled down just outside Richmond, and Mary continued to work in the Van Lew house.

After the war began, Elizabeth Van Lew asked Mary to help her in the elaborate spying system she had established in the Confederate capitol. Despite Elizabeth being a staunch abolitionist and loyal to the Union, she was a prominent member of Richmond because of her father’s wealth and status. But her views and actions (attending to Union soldiers at Libby Prison with food and medicine, in particular) earned her the enmity of her community. Elizabeth used this to her advantage — taking on a slightly crazy, muttering, slovenly personae that earned her the nickname “Crazy Bet” — to cover up her serious efforts to help the Union. In addition to the industrious spying and aiding Union prisoners (while also gleaning information from the captives), Elizabeth also helped escaped prisoners by hiding them in a secret room in her mansion. She wrote her information in cipher code, hid the messages in the soles of servants’ shoes or hollowed egg shells, then had the notes relayed to Union officers through several helpers and agents.

Mary had considerable intelligence, as well as some acting skills. In order to get access to top-secret information, Mary became “Ellen Bond,” a dim-witted, also slightly crazy, but able servant. Elizabeth had a friend take Mary along to help at functions held by Varina Davis, the wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Mary proved herself well and was eventually taken on full-time, working in the Confederate White House until just before the end of the war. Of course, they assumed she was a slave.

With the racial prejudice of the day, the assumption that slaves were illiterate and not intelligent, and the way slave servants were trained to seem invisible, Mary was able to glean considerable information simply by doing her job. While serving meals and cleaning up after, she overhead conversations about troop strategy and movement between the president and his advisors and military officers. Being literate, she was able to read letters and documents that were left out in the president’s private study. She memorized everything word for word. Apparently President Davis came to realize there was a leak in the house, but did not suspect Mary until late in the war.

Mary passed her information to either Elizabeth, whom she met occasionally at night near the Van Lew farm just outside Richmond, or Thomas McNiven, a reputable Richmond baker. With his business, both at the bakery itself and while making deliveries, he was able to receive and pass on secrets without suspicion. In his stops at the Davis household, Mary would greet him at the wagon and talk briefly. Just before he died in 1904, Thomas told his daughter Jeannette about these activities, and she in turn told her nephew, Robert Waitt Jr., who recorded them in 1952. According to Thomas, Mary was the source of the most crucial information available:

“…as she was working right in the Davis home and had a photographic mind. Everything she saw on the Rebel president’s desk, she could repeat word for word. Unlike most colored, she could read and write. She made a point of always coming out to my wagon when I made deliveries at the Davis’ home to drop information.”

Toward the end of the war, suspicion finally did fall on Mary, although it is not known how or why. She fled in January 1865, but she attempted one last act as a Union spy and sympathizer. She tried to burn down the Confederate Capitol, but was unsuccessful.

After the war, the federal government destroyed the records of Southern spy activities, to protect their lives — including Mary, Elizabeth and Thomas. This is why details are missing in their stories. Several sources state that Mary recorded her spying activities in a diary, but family members inadvertently discarded it in 1952. Other sources say the family destroyed them on purpose because they were afraid they might fall into the wrong hands. And still other sources say the diary still exists, in the possession of a Black family that refuses to release it. Apparently, the Bowser family rarely discussed her work — even among family members — fearing retaliation from lingering Confederate sympathists, and given the political and social climate in the South. There is no record of Mary’s life after the war, or her death. It is thought that she returned to the North (Philadelphia?).

In 1995, the U.S. government honored Mary Elizabeth Bowser for her efforts by inducting her in the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. During the ceremony, her contribution was described thus:

“Ms. Bowser certainly succeeded in a highly dangerous mission to the great benefit of the Union effort. She was one of the highest placed and most productive espionage agents of the Civil War. … [Her information] greatly enhanced the Union’s conduct of the war. … Jefferson Davis never discovered the leak in his household staff, although he knew the Union somehow kept discovering Confederate plans.”

Categories: Civil War | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

mayanexplore.com

Riviera Maya Travel Guide

Cajun Food, Louisiana History, and a Little Lagniappe

Preservation of traditional River Road cuisine, Louisiana history & architecture, and the communities between Baton Rouge & NOLA

Jali Wanders

Wondering and Wandering

Southpaw Tracks

“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.” ~Samuel Adams

Pacific Paratrooper

This WordPress.com site is Pacific War era information

what's the formula?

Nurturing awesomeness: from the parents of celebrities, heroes, trailblazers and leaders

Tarheel Red

A Voice of Conservatism Living in Carolina Blue

cancer killing recipe

Just another WordPress.com site

dreamshadow59

A great WordPress.com site

Mike's Look at Life

Photography, memoirs, random thoughts.

Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast

Birthplace of James Madison and Southern Plantation

Letters for Michael

Lessons on being gay, of love, life and lots of it

Sunny Sleevez

Sun Protection & Green Info

Backcountry Tranquility

A journal about my travels and related experiences :)

LEANNE COLE

Art and Practice

Lukas Chodorowicz

Travel, culture and lifestyle experienced on my adventures around the world. All photos taken by me. Instagram: @colorspark

BunnyandPorkBelly

life is always sweeter and yummier through a lens. bunnyandporkbelly [at] gmail [dot] com

%d bloggers like this: