Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Confederate Treasury

We recently had a comment sent to us suggesting that “to learn whether or not the KGC had any actual treasure or not” we should think about what happened to the Confederate treasury after Lee’s surrender and “research that”. I just happen to have some research on that very topic so I decided I would share some of that information for the hardcore K.G.C. believers out there who think I haven’t done my due diligence.

There are a few theories as to what happened to the treasury and even how much the treasury was but none of those theories have anything to do with the K.G.C. This is where the treasure hunter has to know the difference between the two. There was some of the Confederate treasury left over after the war. The consensus is that there were two parts to this treasury; one in gold and the other in silver however, neither had anything to do with the Knights of the Golden Circle.

The silver part of the treasury came from the sale of cotton to Mexico and consisted of “39 kegs of Mexican silver dollars” which would weigh in somewhere around 9000 to 10,000 pounds or total approximately 160,000 coins. It is known the kegs of coins were transported to Danville, Virginia and stored there for a time. It’s also thought when Jefferson Davis and his group left Danville the silver was left behind, hidden in or near Danville because they would have been slowed down too much by that much weight.

The evidence at this point in time seems to point to the silver being buried on what is currently city property in Danville. That property is a cemetery and the city has steadfastly refused to let anyone attempt to recover the treasure or even drill test holes to verify it is in the cemetery. A geophysical survey of the area using pulse induction equipment was performed by a Colorado company who identified several spots that they say contain the coins. According to the company, their survey is precise enough to differentiate between silver and gold and their survey supposedly shows a small pocket of gold along with several areas of silver.

This may be a treasure that actually exists from the Confederate treasury however; it does not have anything to do with the K.G.C. Depending on which information you look at or want to believe, this silver may or may not be in Danville. Some stories say the silver was transported out of Danville along with a large amount of gold in April 1865. Without actually seeing the land survey results it would be hard to decide if there is something in the cemetery or not, other than the people of course! How many dead people are there in the cemetery?

They’re all dead, don’t you know! (Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself)

The gold part of the treasure consists of two or more stories that have apparently been blended together over time. The first story is about a wagon train carrying gold and silver that varies in amounts between $100,000 and $800,000 depending on what source you wish to believe. The wagon train consisted of either two wagons or five wagons again, depending on the source. The larger numbers for the amount of treasure has been attributed to Union Officers inflating the amount to motivate their men to find and capture the treasure. It’s commonly believed that the treasure was in one or two wagons and didn’t exceed $100,000.

This was thought to be the remainder of the Confederate treasury and was supposed to be headed for Savannah to be put on a ship and returned to the Frenchies as promised by Jefferson Davis. Apparently the French were hedging their bets and loaned money in the form of gold to the south during the war. Frogs, you just can’t trust ‘em.

Some information says on May 24th, 1865 the wagon train was attacked in Lincoln County, Georgia by “bandits” while the group spent the night on the Chennault Plantation. Dionysius Chennault owned the plantation. Ok, really, who names their kid Dionysius? Supposedly the “bandits” who attacked the treasure train made off with part of the treasure but not all of it. Stories persist to this day that the treasure of gold worth $100,000 in 1865 was buried on the Chennault Plantation. There are even stories of gold coins being found over the years along the dirt roads of the plantation after heavy rains and because of that, the plantation was dubbed the “golden farm”.

Union soldiers were sent to the farm to dig around and find the gold but they never did. These soldiers were led by Union General Edward A. Wild who gained notoriety, and lost his command, because he arrested and tortured the Chennault family trying to extract information out of them that they didn’t have. Greed is responsible for some pretty nasty things! Needless to say, the treasure was never found. Maybe that’s because it might not have really been there.

The most plausible story about what was left of the Confederate treasury is the one written by Jefferson Davis himself in 1881. In his book “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government”, Davis wrote that the “transfer of the treasure was made to Mr. Semple, a bonded officer of the Navy, and his assistant, Mr. Tidball.” Jefferson Davis stated that his instructions to Mr. Semple was to attempt to ship the gold overseas, back to the Frenchies as promised. According to Jefferson Davis, the amount of gold was $86,000 and it was handed over to Semple and Tidball in May 1865.

General John Reagan, who was with Davis in Danville, wrote that the gold was supposed to be hidden in the false bottom of a carriage so it wouldn’t be found. General accounts of history end here with Semple and Tidball dissappearing into the unknown.

Additional research has been done on these two men and it seems Mr. Tidball headed north a few days later to return to Winchester, Virginia where he built an “elaborate” house called “Linden Farm” and went on to be an influential citizen. A recent rennovation of the Tidball house uncovered a document that confirmed that Tidball had possession of part of the gold from the treasury.

Mr. Semple went on to be infatuated with the widow of President John Tyler, Julia Gardiner Tyler. To make a long story short, Semple and the widow got together and Semple spent two years traveling back and forth to Canada trying to stir the pot between Britain and the U.S. by clandestinely helping the Finian Brotherhood who was planning an attack on Canada. Gee, I wonder how long that war would have lasted? I think my two daughters could take Canada!

Mr. Semple was known to use the alias of Allen S. James during his cladentsine travels for the Finian Brotherhood. He was also known to be supporting the widow of President Tyler, sending money to his own estranged wife, Leticia and financing his own secretive travels. After two years of this he depleted what gold he had and there went the rest of the Confederate treasury, except maybe for the 39 kegs of silver thought to still be buried in Danville.

If you are interested in researching this more a good book to get that has a lot of information in it is The Rebel and The Rose by Wesley Millett and Gerald White. It pretty much covers all of Semple’s life after he was given what was left of the Confederate treasury.

If I remember correctly, the man that thinks he has located the silver in Danville has written one or two books also. I haven’t read these books so I can't tell you if they are any good but I do know some of his information has been quoted in other books.

In my opinion, for what it’s worth to anybody, I would say the best chance of any of the Confederate treasury being found is the Mexican silver supposedly in Danville. The searchers there have made a pretty good case for the silver to be in the cemetery.

Even if you don’t accept the written word of Jefferson Davis and think the $800,000 dollar amount for the treasury is more to your liking, it doesn’t come any where near the billions of dollars said to be out there by our good ole buddy Orvus Lee Howk. There also isn’t any connection between the K.G.C. and the Confederate treasury. None of the stories, no matter which one you choose to believe put any of the treasury money in the hands of the K.G.C. None, nada, zilch.

This is by no means the definitive word on the Confederate treasury. The stories are plentiful and lengthy and I just tried to hit the highlights for this article. Hopefully this will point anyone interested in conducting more research on the Confederate treasury in the right direction.

Maybe you could buy a cemetery plot in Danville, like a spot right over a few kegs of silver? How could the city stop you from digging in your own plot?

"Honest Mr. Mayor, I was just getting a head start on my funeral".

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