Summary Statement, 4th Quarter, 1863 – New Hampshire

New Hampshire was represented by one line in the fourth quarter summary for 1864. That one line accounted for the lone field battery from the state:

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  • 1st Light Battery: At Brandy Station with four 3-inch Ordnance Rifles. The battery remained under command of Captain Frederick M. Edgell. In October the battery transferred out of the Third Brigade, Reserve Artillery to the Third Corps, Army of the Potomac. And with that formation, they were in winter quarters during the February when their return was submitted.

Allow me to expand upon this battery’s service through the fall a bit, as we have space to do so and… well… anytime we have a Brandy Station story I like to pontificate. The winter quarters was the 1st New Hampshire’s fourth visit to Brandy Station, if my count is correct. The first being at the opening of the 2nd Manassas Campaign, in the late summer of 1862, as part of Pope’s command.

Going forward to 1863, as part of the Reserve artillery, the battery passed through Brandy Station, and Culpeper at the close of the Gettysburg Campaign. Of course, that stay ended when Confederates initiated the Bristoe Campaign. In November, the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rappahannock into Culpeper County again. And on November 8, Edgell’s battery fought around Brandy Station. I’ll let his words summarize the engagement:

My battery marched with the reserve batteries of the Third Corps, on the morning of the 7th. Crossed the river at Kelly’s Ford at dark the same day and took position with the Second Division, reporting to General Prince. On the morning of the 8th, reported to General Carr, Third Division, and marched with his advanced brigade, arriving at the railroad at 10 a.m. About noon the enemy were found posted with artillery on a ridge east of the railroad and about a mile north of Brandy Station. One section of my battery was ordered up, and opened on the enemy with shell at about 2,000 yards distance. This, with the advance of our skirmishers, caused them to retire after firing a few rounds. My section immediately occupied the position, but finding the enemy out of range, pushed on and took position in the edge of the wood to the left of and near Brandy Station. The enemy now opened, with two 20-pounders and two smaller guns, at about 1,800 yards distance, to which we replied, and they again retired. My remaining section now came up and took position to the right of the railroad, and fired a few shots at bodies of the enemy’s cavalry, but with what effect is not known. This closed the operations for the day.

My battery expended in the whole affair 56 rounds of percussion and time shell, but a strong wind blowing across the line of fire much impaired its accuracy.

I have no casualties to report.

OR, Series I, Volume 29, Part I, Serial 48, page 573

Captain George E. Randolph, commanding the artillery brigade of Third Corps, recorded in more detail the number and type of rounds fired by the New Hampshire gunners – 20 Schenkl case, 10 Schenkl shell, and 30 Hotchkiss fuse (time or percussion not specified) shell. Randoph said 60 rounds, while Edgell said 56. Perhaps the New Hampshire battery fired four additional rounds on the previous day. Randolph went on to relate Edgell complained about the Schenkl percussion fuses, as they failed to burst on occasion. But added “I was surprised at this, for I have seldom known them to fail.” However, he did note the other batteries did not seem to have a problem.

After the fight on November 8, the Army of the Potomac pressed the Army of Northern Virginia out of Culpeper for the last time in the war. That, in turn, setup the Mine Run Campaign with the Federals moving over the Rapidan into the Wilderness. After the anti-climatic close of that campaign, the Army of the Potomac returned to Culpeper for winter quarters. First Sergeant Samuel S. Piper later described, in a service narrative for the state’s Adjutant General, the battery’s quarters as, “at Brandy Station, Va., on the plantation of the Hon. John Minor Botts.” Piper went on to call it the best camp the battery ever had. While I have not seen a photo of the New Hampshire battery in those quarters, we do have a photo of Auburn, Botts’ house on the plantation:

I am not certain exactly where the Third Corps’ artillery park was that winter. Likely between Auburn and the railroad station. Readers will recall Auburn still stands. Hopefully some future owner will recognize the significance of the structure and restore the house to its past prominence.

There are two other formations from New Hampshire that we should mention here. Both were employed as heavy artillery, and thus didn’t have cannon or stores of their own to report:

  • 1st New Hampshire Heavy Artillery Company: Not listed. Garrison of Fort Constitution, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Captain Charles H. Long remained in command.
  • 2nd New Hampshire Heavy Artillery Company: Not listed.  Garrison of Fort McClary, Portsmouth Harbor, across the entrance in Maine. Captain Ira M. Barton commanded. 

Both companies spent the winter months guarding Portsmouth. In May, both moved to Washington, D.C. to replace the other “heavies” sent forward to the front lines. Later, those two companies formed the nucleus of a full regiment of New Hampshire heavy artillery formed starting in the late summer of 1864.

The stories aside, we turn to the ammunition reported. No smoothbore, so we can move right to the Hotchkiss columns:

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  • 1st Light Battery: 169 Hotchkiss time fuse shell for 3-inch rifles.

On to the next page for more Hotchkiss rounds:

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  • 1st Light Battery: 26 percussion fuse shell, 182 bullet shell, and 80 canister for 3-inch rifles.

The next page tallies those Schenkl shells that Edgell complained of:

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  • 1st Light Battery: 180 shell for 3-inch rifles.

And another Schenkl entry on the next page:

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  • 1st Light Battery: 145 case shot for 3-inch rifles.

Turning to the small arms:

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  • 1st Light Battery: Eight Colt army revolvers, seven Colt navy revolvers, and twelve cavalry sabers.

Cartridge bags reported on the next page:

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  • 1st Light Battery: 12 cartridge bags for 3-inch rifles.

Lastly, pistol cartridges, fuse, primers, and other items:

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  • 1st Light Battery: 200 navy caliber pistol cartridges; 485 paper fuses; 1,300 friction primers; 23 yards of slow match; 500 pistol percussion caps; and 5 portfires.

One might call attention to the lack of metallic fuses reported here. Edgell complained about the Schenkl fuses in November. Then in February had no tallies. Had he discarded the object of his ire? I don’t think so. It seems the returns counted the rounds, with fuses, as a whole unit. And the columns on this page were used to account for fuses issued separate from the projectile. Regardless, we have Edgell reporting both Hotchkiss and Schenkl, a mix not preferred by Brigadier-General Henry Hunt in charge of the Army of the Potomac’s artillery.

Summary Statement, 4th Quarter, 1863 – Mississippi: Marine Brigade and USCT

The next section in the forth quarter, 1863 summary has a heading of “Mississippi”:

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Even a cursory read of Civil War history tells us Mississippi was decidedly “Confederate.” Indeed, the second state to secede. There were unionists in Mississippi… not a whole lot in number… enough to constitute a battalion of mounted infantry starting in 1863. However, what we see listed under this heading are not white unionists but rather troops serving in a unit named for the river “Mississippi” and former slaves organized into a colored regiment. So basically the clerks put anything with “Mississippi” in the name under the heading, regardless of origin or classification.

We’ve discussed the Mississippi Marine Brigade (MMB) in earlier posts. I still wish a full, proper history of this interesting unit were out there to reference. Those I’ve come across are either dated (the typical post-war unit histories) or what I find as somewhat superficial (focusing too much on the Ellets and less on the subordinates). As I’ve said before, the MMB was not from Mississippi… were not marines… and really not a brigade. Many have tried to spin this organization as a precursor to the Vietnam War era “Brownwater Navy.” But I think that once one gets past the surface, those stories diverge considerably.

At the end of 1863, the MMB operated out of Nachez, Mississippi as an independent command within the Seventeenth Corps. Brigadier General Alfred W. Ellet commanded the brigade. His nephew, Colonel John A. Ellet, commanded the ram fleet Major David S. Tallerday commanded the 1st Infantry Regiment MMB. The 1st Cavalry Battalion fell under Major James M. Hubbard. And Captain Daniel Walling commanded a battery of artillery. During the fall months of 1863, the MMB saw active service keeping the Mississippi River safe for navigation. In two significant actions, one at Goodrich Landing in October and the other outside Natchez in early December, the MMB operated with sections of artillery against Confederate troops. So we turn to the listings to see what artillery they had on hand:

  • 1st Battery MMB: On the US Steamer Baltic with six 3-inch rifles. Also known as Battery C, Segebarth’s Pennsylvania Marine Artillery. Captain Daniel P. Walling commanded.
  • Section of 1st Battery: On board US Steamer Diana with two 12-pdr heavy field guns.
  • 2nd Battery MMB: Indicated at Natchez with no artillery, but with a note I think reads “entered in first January.” There is no record of a second MMB battery. So this line is suspicious to say the least.
  • Company F, 1st Infantry, MMB: On the US Steamer Diana with four 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

These summary lines indicate the MMB had twelve field artillery pieces (so long as one agrees with the designation of the “heavy” 12-pdr as a field piece). However, an abstract from returns for the Army of Tennessee dated January 1864 has the MMB with six heavy artillery pieces and no field artillery. As with many wartime records, I think we see loose application of definitions in play here.

Inside of these lines clearly labeled MMB is one simply indicating “2d Arty.” This is distinct from the MMB, not having that abbreviation, nor dittos carrying from a line above. It does seem to match with an entry seen in the previous quarter that I believe for the 2nd Mississippi Heavy Artillery, African Descent – a USCT regiment. Indeed, that regiment had postings to both Natchez and Vicksburg as indicated on the station column for this line entry. As such, I will transcribe this line for that regiment:

  • Company I, 2nd Mississippi Heavy Artillery, A.D.: At Natchez with two 12-pdr field howitzers.

Allow me to go a bit deeper with the 2nd Mississippi Heavy, as… well… heavy artillery doesn’t get enough attention in my opinion, and colored heavy artillery regiments get practically none!

According to the post return for Natchez in December 1863, the 2nd Mississippi Heavy had ten organized companies with 31 officers and 844 men reporting for duty (296 men were sick, detailed, or in confinement). At that time, Lieutenant-Colonel Hubert A. McCaleb commandedthe regiment. But in January, Colonel Bernard G. Farrar took command, having formerly led the 30th Missouri Infantry. Specific to Company I, which appears on the summary line, Captain Harbert Harberts, formerly of the 46th Illinois Infantry, commanded. Lieutenants James W. Steele and Robert Lang (both also from the 46th Illinois) were other company officers. I plan to follow up with another post specific to the 2nd Mississippi Heavy detailing the officers assigned and other interesting things from the rank and file.

For now, let us turn to the ammunition reported on hand. Starting with the smoothbore:

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  • Section on Steamer Diana: 38 shot, 88 shell, and 157 case for 12-pdr field guns.
  • Company I, 2nd Mississippi HA: 100 shell and 88 case for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Company F, 1st Infantry MMB: 138 shell and 941 case for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

On to the next page:

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  • Section on Steamer Diana: 88 canister for 12-pdr field guns.
  • Company I, 2nd Mississippi HA: 100 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.
  • Company F, 1st Infantry MMB: 149 canister for 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

To the right is an entry for Hotchkiss rounds:

  • 1st Battery, MMB: 62 time fuse shells for 3-inch rifles.

More Hotchkiss on the next page:

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  • 1st Battery, MMB: 101 percussion fuse shells and 366 canister for 3-inch rifles.

Skipping forward a couple pages, the next entry line is for Schenkl projectiles:

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  • 1st Battery, MMB: 2,024 case shot for 3-inch rifles. A healthy quantity for six guns.

On to the small arms:

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  • 1st Battery, MMB: 20 Colt navy revolvers and 20 horse artillery sabers.

Lastly, there are a couple entries for fuses and match:

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  • 1st Battery, MMB: Two yards of slow match.
  • Company I, 2nd Mississippi HA: 450 friction primers.

I would say that from the entries under Mississippi we find two interesting units. One is rather well known as a unique and somewhat unorthodox formation… though I would argue misunderstood even if well covered by historians. The second is rather obscure, with really no attention from historians. Both have wartime stories we should explore.

There is no “curse of Confederate gold”… because there is no Confederate gold!

Back in 2018, the History [Channel] debuted a series titled “The Curse of Civil War Gold,” billed as a reality show following investigators on the trail of lost Confederate gold. (Why it is not titled “Curse of Confederate Gold” would be a good study in how our contemporary discussions have altered the framing of the past… but that’s grist for some other writer to grind.) The premise of this chase is one oft repeated in fiction… and unfortunately far too often by treasure hunters.

Basically, the show contends at the end of the Civil War, Confederate President Jefferson Davis fled Richmond with the “vast” holdings of the Confederate treasury. After managing to hustle this pile of gold and silver down through the Carolinas, Davis and his treasure were captured near Irwinville, Georgia. But, the show contends, instead of turning this valuable cargo over to Federal authorities, the officers and men who captured Davis proceeded to secret all away to Michigan in a caper matching the fictional Kelly’s Heroes. Then somehow our heroes managed to lose this all when a boxcar full of the loot slipped off into Lake Michigan on one of those proverbial “dark and stormy nights.”

The History web page summarizes this story in more detail. Suffice to say, like so much that appears on History now days, it is more entertainment than actual history. I’ll forgo a line by line debunking of the premise. Years ago, when the “players” involved with this version of the story came to the fore, my friend Eric Whittenburg laid out many of the faults of the premise (here and here). In particular, Eric discussed the role of Colonel Robert H. G. Minty in the Confederate gold story, at length. The “smoking gun” that puts away Minty’s alleged involvement is the fact, as Eric and historian Rand Bitter point out, that the former cavalry commander experienced a great deal of financial difficulty after the war. One might think if Minty had pocketed some of Jeff Davis’ gold, fortunes would have been different.

Back in 2008, Hans Kuenzi wrote an excellent article for the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable on the story of lost Confederate gold. The article is a good starting point, with a summary of the facts pertaining to the Confederate treasury and the end of the war. Kuenzi casts full light on a lot of alleged shadowy circumstances regarding the gold and other riches claimed to be “out there” for the finding. His summary is there is nothing “lost” per say, but just an interesting story about the accounting for the treasury as the Confederacy met its end.

However, if you have watched any of the show, you know there are many open ended speculations that allow the proponents to keep the dream alive. The problem is speculations distract from the facts. And here is one key fact, which I think the TV show conveniently overlooks, that kills the myth:

HDQRS. CAVALRY CORPS, MIL. DIV. OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
Macon, Ga., June 4, 1865.
Hon. E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War, Washington, D.C.:
Your dispatch of June 3 is received. I have already had this country from Florida to Charlotte, N. C., searched for the thirteen millions of treasure previously reported by General Halleck and other fabulous amounts reported by various parties. I am convinced from all the information I can gather that the entire amount of gold and silver with which Davis left Richmond did not exceed one million and a half; that the most of this was paid to his officers and men between Charlotte and Washington, Ga., and the balance scattered amongst people who were regarded trustworthy. Of this, $6,000 was delivered to one of my officers by Robert Toombs. I suspect the remainder was stolen from the people’s homes by disbanded rebel cavalry, assisted by our own men. Every house where rebels have been in Georgia has been searched. It is also reported that the small sums in the possession of Davis’ party were pillaged by the captors. I will send to Irwin County to ascertain if they overlooked any, and will set a watch for the colored man Jones.
J. H. WILSON,
Brevet Major-General.

Official Records, Series I, Volume XLIX, Part 2, Serial 104, page 955

Consider the correspondent and the recipient of this dispatch. Major-General James Wilson commanded the Cavalry Corps, Military Division of the Mississippi, which at the end of the war conducted a massive raid through Alabama and Georgia to finish off what Sherman had started. As result of being the senior military officer in the sector, Wilson was the “man on the spot” to deal with Jefferson Davis. So we must treat this as a bona fide report from the field. Stanton, of course, was the Secretary of War at the time. In the immediate aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination, Stanton exercised more influence on the military situation than any other civilian.

Those endpoints defined, this sort of correspondence (from a senior officer in the field directly to the Secretary of War) was commonplace during the Civil War. In this particular case, Wilson is responding directly to inquiries and requests from the Secretary’s office. If handled as similar correspondence during the war, and we have no evidence it was not, the messages past through normal military channels – meaning everyone in the chain of command at least knew the correspondence was taking place, if not completely informed of the content.

The preface of the dispatch, citing Stanton’s message of June 3 indicates not only was the inquiry sent by telegraph, but the response was also sent that way. Very likely, as standard practice by late war, the message was encrypted by cypher when sent. Furthermore the telegraph operators were trusted men employed by the War Department, and “cleared” as we would call it today. Thus we might consider this equal of a classified dispatch in the 20th century sense… or classified email in the 21st century parlance.

What that means is this dispatch is not some under-cover or covert communication. Nor was it some prop in a cover-up to distract from a caper pulled off in the waning days of the Civil War. It is an official report, through official channels, within view of all those who needed to know about the situation. Nor was there any secret or covert message system which would be used in lieu of this official system.

Furthermore, consider the provenance of this dispatch, historically speaking. It was, after the war was deemed at an end, filed just like thousands (hundreds of thousands if not millions) of dispatches and reports from the war. Then near the end of the 19th century, a team of appointed men went through those papers with instructions to compile them into what we know as “The Official Records.” In short, this dispatch was seen, by men who’s business was to know, as military correspondence worth preserving as part of the record of events. Basically, an artifact. Er… A FACT!

The next layer of this context is the time at which the dispatch was written. June 4, 1865. Just over two months from Davis’ flight, with gold in tow, from Richmond. Less than two months since Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. In the weeks since those climatic events in Virginia, Lincoln fell to an assassin’s bullet, Johnston surrendered in North Carolina, and Davis himself captured in Georgia. By the first of June, all major Confederate military forces were non-existent. What remained was the job of cleaning up the aftermath, ensuring a transition from war to peace. And with that existed a strong desire to tie up any and all loose ends. After all, Congress was now reluctant to keep military funding at wartime levels… time to close the books. So we can read into Stanton’s inquiry and Wilson’s response the need to “settle up” all activities associated with suppressing the Confederacy.

That framing set, what did Wilson tell Stanton… and us today?

First, there were wild claims of fantastic amounts of money up for grabs as the Confederacy collapsed. Wilson, at the point of contact of these claims, debunks them with authority. “I am convinced from all the information I can gather that the entire amount of gold and silver with which Davis left Richmond did not exceed one million and a half …”

Second, Wilson gave us two numbers to work with here. Citing Major-General Henry Halleck, an officer known to be excitable in the moment, there’s a claim of $13 million. Then there’s Wilson’s assessment of $1.5 million. A lot of variance. But maybe BOTH are accurate. Hear me out here. Neither number is identified as US dollars or Confederate dollars. During the winter months of 1865, inflation crippled the Confederate economy. Reports out of Richmond had one US dollar of gold selling for between $66 and $107 Confederate dollars. So if Halleck were citing reports documenting the value in Confederate dollars, depending on the moment in time and exchange rate, $13 million in Confederate might translate to $1.5 million in US.

And that exchange rate must be factored into not only the military reports, but also in the claims, myths, and legends that followed the war. Most authoritative accounts of the Confederate treasury’s demise indicate just over $1 million (in US dollars) left Richmond with Davis. And of that, around half was “secured” (being kind… “seized” might be more accurate) from the Richmond banks. Thus the actual Confederate treasury holdings were likely valued around $500,000 to $600,000, again in US dollars, as it departed Richmond. Subtract from that sums paid out to Confederate troops at Danville and other points as the Confederate government fled, and the sum drops to around $150,000 or so. Do the math on the exchange rate, and suddenly the same paltry pile is $10 million or more Confederate dollars!

Third, we have Wilson’s assertion that most of the Confederate treasury had been dispersed to pay off the men providing that last fleeting bit of security for the Confederate government. What remained, Davis (and the cabinet) had assigned to trusted officials for safe keeping. He even named a name – Robert Toombs – with $6,000. (Not to belabor a point, but that sum would be over half a million Confederate dollars!) Thus instead of a neat ledger and precise accounting, Wilson could only point generally to how the Confederate treasury faded away.

But there is no doubt that in the process of paying its way from Virginia to Georgia the Confederate treasury diminished to a very small quantity in short order. The sad part, as Wilson pointed out in the dispatch, is that much of that money, paid out to cover costs as the Confederate officials fled, was later stolen by ex-Confederates in the aftermath of war, or by his own (Federal) soldiers sent out to search homes for traces of this Confederate money. Still, none of it reaches up to the totals that would fill a railroad box car (as is claimed by proponents of this myth).

Fourth, Wilson gave what is perhaps the “kernel of truth” that is used by the speculations, saying, “It is also reported that the small sums in the possession of Davis’ party were pillaged by the captors.” In that sentence, some harbor the notion that indeed Minty’s men got their hands on millions of dollars of gold. But Wilson clearly states “small sums” only. I submit that if he put a dollar figure to that obtained from Toombs, the value from Davis’ party must have been even less. Otherwise, the ever vigilant Wilson would have called it out. Just the change in Jeff Davis’ pocket.

Lastly, Wilson acknowledged instructions to look out for a “colored man James.” Sounds mysterious and possibly leading to a cache of gold, right? Not really. Again, context is important. Wilson is replying here indirectly to an earlier report referenced by Stanton, making rounds separately (see OR, Series I, Volume XLVII, Part 3, Serial 100, page 617). Halleck had, warned to be looking for “a colored servant of Jeff. Davis, named James Jones….” Specifically, this person was purported to be sent back to obtain “two bags of money concealed near the place where Davis was captured.” And that’s why Wilson sent troops back to the Irwinville area. Two bags? Again, a far cry short of a railroad car load. And not something necessitating a grand conspiracy to conceal after the war.

So we have, as of June 3, an official report that indicates the Confederate treasury had ceased to exist. It was scattered about, in small quantities, having been spent or dispersed. Jeff Davis himself didn’t have enough on hand to be called a treasure. If I may, it was “Gone with the Wind.”

We must again go back to the context of the closing months of the Civil War. The most accurate figures we have on the Confederate finances indicate from February 1861 through October 1864 (after which records become spotty), the Confederacy spent around $2.1 billion. Balanced against that was a revenue intake, in the same period, of $2.3 billion. But, as these things are apt to require, the real story is in the numbers behind the numbers. Revenues peaked in 1863, then fell off into 1864. Yet expenditures increased for every monthly period through the war. By the last year of the war, the Confederacy was spending more on debt servicing than it was on its army. From April 1, 1864 to October 1, 1864, $246 million went to the Confederate War Department, compared to $342.5 million on debt servicing. Basically, that sucking sound you’d have heard around Richmond was all the money leaving the Confederacy. What was left in the Confederate treasury in April 1865 wasn’t much… and what was there was being mortgaged to pay for a mountain of debt!

So you see, if we go to the “court of history” and put the “lost Confederate gold” on trial, Wilson’s dispatch becomes an important piece of evidence. The five points I’ve drawn from that dispatch must be assailed by anyone making this particular case for lost gold. Otherwise, claims have no basis in fact.

The problem I have with shows like “The Curse of Lost Civil War Gold” is that it takes on the patina of historical discussion while not actually promoting or presenting historical methods. At best, the show has opened up a discussion featuring relatively overlooked Civil War figures like Minty. Such is a small step in broadening the understanding of the war. But even then, I suspect just as “Killer Angels” launched forth hundreds in search of Buster Kilrain’s grave at Gettysburg, likewise we’ll see those on the trail of Minty’s mint!

The more likely, and more dangerous, reality is that “The Curse of Lost Civil War Gold” represents a corruption of history. Instead of good sound historical method, we have a premise that suggest we dismiss “what historians have long held” to be replaced with suppositions. We are being told to assume broad, vast conspiracies have shaped the past and gone unknown to our understanding of history. It purports that dark, sinister and maniacal forces have hidden history from us. If history is presented as human experience to be learned from, then the experience offered by this quest for lost gold is that we should, without just reason, reject everything solid and factual for fanciful versions of reality. Such is damaging not only to our understanding of history, but also to our comprehension of current events. And that, I submit, is the true nature of any “curse” from this alleged lost Civil War gold.

If you ask me, the most important treasure left at the fall of the Confederacy was secured in 1865. It wasn’t gold or silver. It wasn’t even paper money. It was a collection of records, remanded to the charge of General Samuel Cooper in Charlotte, North Carolina in April 1865. Ten tons of documents and records of the Confederacy. Without which so much more of the history of the Confederacy, and thus the Civil War as a whole, would be speculative. It’s that treasure from which we learn enough to know there is no lost Confederate gold.