Friday, December 31, 2010

Brad Meltzer’s ‘Decoded’ Hunts For Confederate Gold Treasure

By Andrew Zarowny

Brad Meltzer’s ‘Decoded’ team were at it again last night on the History Channel, this time hunting for missing Confederate gold treasure. In the waning days of the Confederacy, it’s president, Jefferson Davis, ordered that the Confederate Treasury move all of it’s gold and silver out of Richmond, Virginia. Estimated to be valued at some $500,000 at the time and considerably more today. The banks in Richmond also shipped their gold and silver, too, estimated to be around $9 Million dollars worth back then.

The treasure was to be hidden and later used to raise a fresh army and continue the fight against the Union. Needless to say, things didn’t work out as planned. The ‘Decoded’ team split up to check out two locations where the Confederate treasure had been seen during it’s flight. In Danville, Virginia, the team meets up with Bob Brewer. He claims to be a descendent of a member of the Knights of the Golden Circle, the KGC, which allegedly was charged by Jefferson Davis to hide the Confederate gold and silver.

Brewer tells the ‘Decoded’ team that he was taught about the KGC and is familiar with the code they used to mark their caches. He has been successful in locating several stashes of gold and silver in his native Arkansas, thanks to his ability to interpret KGC codes and a plastic template allegedly found in the trunk of a deceased ‘modern’ member of the KGC, which Brewer believes still exists to this day.

The Knights of the Golden Circle were a fun bunch. Founded in the 1850s, they schemed to take over the entire Caribbean and almost got their hands on the Yucatan Peninsula. During the War Between the States, the KGC plotted to kidnap Abraham Lincoln and send his severed head back to Washington, DC. While their base of support was very strong in the ‘Deep South’, they were known to have a strong following in some Northern states, like Pennsylvania.

The KGC code uses a combination of numbers, letters and symbols, like animals, and left markings on rocks and trees to denote the distance and direction to the next clue and eventually to their secret caches of loot. Brewer locates such symbols and characters on a tree at the Green Hill Cemetery in Danville, VA. After a couple of days of poking around, including the use of ground penetrating radar, they come up empty handed. However, Brewer is convinced that there is a cache somewhere in the area due to the KGC signs.

The other location, Washington, Georgia, has a more valid connection to the missing Confederate gold and silver treasure. There, Union troops actually did intercept and find about $100,000 worth of treasure, mostly silver coins. However, on the night of May 24th, 1865, a detail of five Union soldiers transporting the loot in two wagons were robbed near the Chennault Plantation in Lincoln (yes, Lincoln) County. The ambush was carried out by a group of Confederate veterans, whom oddly enough had earlier switched sides and joined the Union army.

The ambush and robbery was a messy affair, as the hijackers left thousands of silver coins on the ground in their haste. But since that night, the whereabouts of the stolen treasure is unknown. Naturally, the speculation is that the raiders were members of the KGC. The treasure of this lot was intended to be shipped overseas to France to fulfill a promise by Jefferson Davis to repay loans made to the Confederacy by France. Did it make it’s way to the French, courtesy of the KGC? Or was it already spent by the robbers? Nobody knows, at least nobody who is talking.

This episode of Brad Meltzer’s ‘Decoded’ on the History Channel was interesting in that we have here a genuine historical mystery. The idea of missing Confederate gold and silver treasure is perfect for those who fantasize about finding buried treasure. As for whether or not the Knights of the Golden Circle are still around these days, who can say? Unlike other secret societies, these guys would appear to be taking the secret part seriously. So break out the metal detectors and the bourbon, it’s time to do some treasure hunting and look for some lost Confederate gold!

The Knights of the Golden Circle Research and Historical Archives