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Search for buried treasure: The mystery of millions in lost Confederate gold

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In April 1865, the Civil War ended for most Americans; however, the War and its various aspects continue to capture the interest and imagination of many Americans, who are fascinated by the conflict.

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One of the big mysteries remaining is "what happened to the Confederate treasury" or "Confederate gold" that went missing during and after the American Civil War. For years, treasure hunters and historians have tried to solve this mystery, without too much luck.

Millions of dollars in gold was said to have been lost during and after the Civil War – buried by individual plantation owners and others, and even by the confederate government, to keep it out of the hands of the "damn Yankees." In fact, $30 million dollars may have been buried outside of Savannah, Georgia, hidden for the day when the “South would rise again,” or so that the Union would not gain possession of it. Some of it just “went missing.”

One version of the story tells how Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, was attending church in Richmond, Virginia, 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 General Lee to form defense lines for just one more day. He then informed his cabinet that Richmond was to be evacuated and they would take the Confederate treasury with them. Lee advised Davis that he had until 8 p.m. to load the gold, valuables, and cabinet members onto two trains that would travel south on the only line still open. Confederate officials boarded the first train, while the second train carried a “special cargo” comprised of gold ingots, gold double eagle coins, silver coins, silver bricks and Mexican silver dollars.

When the train tracks ended, Davis and his staff traveled south on horseback. The treasure, placed into containers once used for sugar, coffee, flour, and ammunition, was loaded into in wagons for the trip to the old US Mint in Charlotte, North Carolina. However, somewhere in Wilkes County, Georgia, the wagon train was bushwhacked by stragglers from the Federal and Confederate armies, who had heard of the treasure. 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.

The belief that Confederate gold is buried in Wilkes County has persisted since the end of the war. However, searches conducted throughout the years have found nothing of value there.
Some of the Confederate treasures reportedly buried in light of Union take over were:

  • $30 Million in gold buried outside of Savannah, Georgia, a hub of minting, trading, and gold mining before it fell to Union forces. The rumor is that the gold was buried under the name of a confederate general between two false generals in a cemetery.
  • $500,000 in Confederate Gold bullion is said to be located in West Central Broward County, allegedly buried by Captain John Riley, who planned to have it shipped to Cuba but was being pursued by Union soldiers, and so he buried it.
  • $100,000 in Confederate gold went missing in Georgia in 1865, when two wagon trains filled with gold were robbed at Chennault Crossroads in Lincoln County. There are different theories about what happened to the gold. Apparently, it never left the county, and after heavy rains, many gold coins have been found along the road to Chennault Plantation.
  • Another treasure tale about hidden Confederate gold has the Confederacy moving money to Columbia, Tennessee. By all accounts, $100,000 in gold and silver coins was being transported by wagon in two wooden crates. As the men transporting the money neared Athens, Alabama, the wagon became stuck in a muddy “bog hole.” As they tried to free the wagon, they were warned that Union soldiers were on the way. Afraid that the money would fall into Union hands, the men buried the crates of gold and silver about a half mile west of an old stream crossing, about four miles north of Athens, Alabama in Limestone County. And as the story goes, the coins have never been recovered.

Canada may also hold millions in Confederate gold. Southern spies preparing for a Confederate resurgence after the Civil War are said to have buried millions of dollars in gold at sites across Canada in the 1860s. Canada was an important haven for Confederate operatives during the Civil War, who went on to form the nucleus of a secret society -- the Knights of the Golden Circle -- that kept the South's dream of independence alive for decades after the Union army's victory.

By war's end, exiled Confederates and Knights of the Golden Circle operating out of Canada had amassed a treasury estimated to be more than $2 million in gold and silver coins. Because of the strict secrecy surrounding the cash reserves and the generations that have passed since the money was buried, no one can for say for sure where the treasure is.

So whether the treasure was squirreled away for the day when the “South would rise again,” or simply hidden or lost, the fact remains there may be a fortune in Confederate gold buried across not only a dozen states in the South, but in Canada as well.

Happy treasure hunting!

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