The last days of the Confederate Army’s traveling Treasury and a robbery that purportedly left some it still unaccounted for were chronicled by Marshall Waters III at the Museum Center at Five Points during a public address Thursday.
In preparation for the Confederates, and everyone else for that matter, abandoning Richmond, Va., on April 2, 1865, plans were made to transport the Confederate Treasury and the revenue of six Richmond area banks, at the close of the Civil War.
The Confederate Treasury was made up of silver and gold coins, Mexican silver coins, Confederate Treasury notes, silver jewelry and the “floor sweepings of the Dahlonega, Ga., mint,” according to Waters.
The assets totaled close to $527,000. Waters said this would be close to $10 million in today’s economy.
The Treasury was taken from Richmond to a train station at Danville, Va. From there it went on a journey of trains and wagons avoiding Union troops and trying to return the Treasury to the Confederacy’s president, Jefferson Davis.
Waters said Davis’ wife had left Richmond with their children ahead of time. So, while the Treasury was being moved around, Davis was looking for his wife. Davis was reunited with the Treasury around May 4 in Washington, Ga. Davis went to Washington because his wife had been there, but then she traveled farther south before he arrived.
The bank assets consisted mostly of double eagle coins, silver dollars and gold coins.
Waters became interested in the Treasury and its story when he moved to Washington, Ga.
After traveling with the Treasury for several weeks on trains and wagons throughout South Carolina and Georgia, the Confederate corps of midshipmen mutinied, wanting payment for their service.
“They knew that it was over,” Waters said. “They said they were going to take all the Treasury.”
A portion of the funds were paid to the soldiers before the Treasury returned to Washington, Ga. Waters said this payout occurred at a Mrs. J.D. Moss’ house May 2-3, 1865.
Waters said the last official act of the Confederate Cabinet happened in Washington, Ga., as the remaining $145,000 was paid out. Waters said $56,116 was paid to Cabinet members, officers, soldier and naval personnel, $86,000 was paid to Lt. Cmdr. James Semple and $2,600 was unaccounted for.
Assets from the six Richmond banks have a longer history.
The money was stored at J.J. Robinson’s house that was a branch of the bank of Georgia. Then it was taken to Augusta, Ga. Later, the money was returned to Washington, Ga.
It is there that the U.S. Capt. Lot Abraham with the 4th Iowa Cavalry took the Richmond bank assets.
The assets were $450,000 in coins, or “$9 million in today’s value,” Waters said.
On May 24, 1865, the assets were moved by the 4th Iowa Cavalry to Abbeville, S.C., on wagons.
The money was guarded by two sergeants, five privates and five Teamsters, Waters said.
“Clearly not enough guards,” Waters said.
The party stopped at the Chennault home that night, and slept in an enclosed horse lot.
Around midnight the party got a surprise, when about 20 men descended on the area. Waters said the men were thought to be Confederate soldiers “returning from East Tennessee and Kentucky.”
These Confederates broke into the containers holding the bank assets and made off with $251,029 ($5 million in today’s value).
The remaining money was returned to Richmond.
Later, $70,000 was recovered and $40,000 was found on the ground, leaving $179,000 still missing.
Waters said legends abound as to what happened to the money.
He believes the robbery did not actually occur at the Chennault house, as Mary Ann Chennault Shumate claimed in 1903.
He said the bank officials report the robbery happened at William Moss’ house. According to census data, Waters found the only Moss house at the time was Ms. J.D. Moss’ house.
The recovered money wound up in a legal battle as the Richmond banks tried to reclaim the funds.
The federal government kept $11,000 and returned the remaining $100,000.
In 1871, the money issue was back in court, as suspicions that some of the funds had been Confederate assets were voiced.
A court decision gave $16,988 to the banks in the suit and $78,276 to the federal government.
The $179,000 stolen that night was never recovered. The coins are estimated to be worth $3.6 million in today’s value.