Lincoln, Sherman, Davis and the Lost Confederate Gold

Posted On March 1, 2016

Stories you may not know help tell the tale of what happened during the Civil War. 

by Rachel Haynie

“Follow the money” could be the notice that ties together seemingly disparate threads of Civil War history in Pat McNeely’s latest book. Titled Lincoln, Sherman, Davis and the Lost Confederate Gold, the 282-page book unfolds not just as 150-year old history, but also as news.

 “As recently as May 2015, USATODAY reported on treasure hunters who believe they have found as much as $2 million in stolen Confederate gold in a shipwreck in Lake Michigan,” said McNeely. She also is the author of the 2014 release: “Sherman’s Flame and Blame Campaign through Georgia and the Carolinas … and the Burning of Columbia.”

Columbia readers may take special interest in the section of the book detailing the involvement of George Trenholm, for whom one of the city’s main roads is named. The wealthy blockade runner became Secretary of the Confederate Treasury in 1864. The dashing and handsome Trenholm is rumored to be the historic figure on whom the “Gone with the Wind” character, Rhett Butler, was based.

Over the last century and a half, the elusive trail of Confederate gold has raised dozens of questions which McNeely answers, including:

  • Why did President Lincoln want the Confederate President and his cabinet to “escape the country” after the war?
  • Why did President Johnson’s administration believe General Sherman had been bribed with Confederate gold to let Jefferson Davis escape through the Carolinas?
  • Who were the Confederate secret agents who had been in Canada, and why was a reward issued for their capture after Lincoln was assassinated?
  • How did John Wilkes Booth gain such easy access to Ford’s Theater and escape so easily across a guarded bridge after Lincoln’s assassination, and why do the descendants of John Wilkes Booth want DNA samples from the three vertebrae taken during the autopsy of the man believed to be the killer?
  • Why did the Federal government launch decades of lawsuits and send treasury agents in search of gold in the Confederate states and England?
  • Why was neutral England asked to cede Canada and forced to pay $15.5 million to the United States after the war? 

A USC journalism professor emeritus, McNeely is also the author of “Handwritten Recipes and Memories from America’s First Families,” available on Amazon and from gift shops and book stores. She can be reached at mcneely2000@gmail.com.