Due to a difficulty in acquiring additional gold and silver bullion, the Confederate Congress closed all three mints after existing bullion had been used up. Therefore, the Confederacy desperately needed some other sources of local currency in order to encourage normal commerce. Many Southern states promptly created their own paper scrip, and the new Confederate Post Office began printing its own "postal currency."
The first Confederate stamp that also served as "fractional currency" had an engraving of President Jefferson Davis, while the second bore the image of Andrew Jackson of Tennessee. While allowing English, French, Spanish and even Union currency to be used as legal tender at first, the Confederacy rapidly began printing Confederate paper money.
During the War Between the States, Confederate currency had an exchange rate of as high as eight dollars in Confederate bills for a dollar in Georgia bills. The currency used to pay Confederate troops, they soon became known as "Shinplasters" by the men in gray, who often mixed their money with mud and water which they then stuffed inside their ill-fitting boots in order to make them much more comfortable.
In October 1862, the Confederacy found an unexpected supply of bullion when it seized fifty-seven kegs of gold coins along with two hundred and one boxes and three kegs of silver coin worth nearly three million dollars from the Bank of Louisiana. This windfall of bullion was first brought to the Bank of Columbus, Georgia. From here it was to have been taken to John Boston's Confederate Depository in Savannah, but somehow it ended up in Augusta instead.
The Confederate Treasury kept printing banknotes until they amounted to almost one billion dollars of nearly-worthless Confederate paper currency by 1865. President Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet fled Richmond before the city fell in the summer of 1865.
A caravan of Confederate troops guarding some five hundred thousand dollars in French "Gold Sovereigns," as well as over two hundred thousand dollars in gold, headed south to Georgia. After a large group of raiders attacked the Confederate caravan near Chennault's Plantation near Washington, Georgia, the gold was reportedly hidden.
Supposedly buried in several locations between Macon and Savannah, members of the Chennault family were tortured by Yankee troops in an attempt to force them to reveal the location of the hidden loot, and failing to divulge the information were then taken to Washington for additional interrogation.
President Jefferson Davis and his party were captured by Union troops at Irwinville, Georgia. on May 10, 1865. The Confederate treasure was never found, but Union Brigadier General E.L. Molineux and his 159th New York Volunteers reported seizing some two hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars in gold from Macon and one hundred and eighty-eight thousand dollars in gold from Savannah.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. Email Roger at rwasrer53 @gmail.com.