Albert Atwell and Ed Powers say "talking trees" and buried maps point to hidden Confederate gold.
by DENICE THIBODEAU
Danville Register & Bee
Monday, August 19, 2013
Since the Civil War ended in 1865, stories of vast caches of Confederate gold have abounded without any trace of it showing up.
Two men are convinced the treasure exists and is there to be found by anyone who can crack the clues left behind about its location.
Albert Atwell, of Ridgeway, and Ed “Bubba” Powers, of Louisburg, N.C., both say they’ve been interested in treasure hunting since they were little boys.
Atwell said he first heard tales of Confederate treasure when he was about 5, when his father told him of his great-great-grandfather’s involvement in the Civil War. The story stayed with him as he grew up and his interest in Civil War history and treasure hunting continued to grow.
Powers, too, said he has heard stories of treasure since he was about 8 years old — when he found a couple of buried snuff boxes packed with silver dollars — and developed the same interests as Atwell as he grew up.
Between them, the men have gathered huge files of documents they say point to the existence of this treasure — as do “talking trees” in locations across the South.
The talking trees are ones that appear to have seemingly random marks and symbols, as well as words and numbers, believed to be written by Civil War soldiers. A huge tree in Danville’s National Cemetery is one of those talking trees, Atwell says, that — once the symbols are decoded, an effort that has taken a lifetime — point to the hiding place of maps that will reveal the 58 locations where the Confederate gold and silver are buried. He also believes the various caches of gold and silver began long before the Civil War, collected by a secret society called the Knights of the Golden Circle.
“Some of the signs on the trees say where, what town, gold is buried, but don’t say exactly where,” Atwell said. “We need the maps.”
Atwell believes his great-great-grandfather’s grave holds the maps, and believes the family history that says where that man is buried — despite the fact that the headstone on that grave names it as someone else’s resting place.
Atwell said he has asked for permission to disinter what he believes are his great-great-grandfather’s remains, so they can be tested for DNA. He also believes the disinterment will turn up the maps — and would be willing for forego the total disinterment if he could just get permission to dig 3 feet down, where he believes the maps are hidden.
Asked why they believe this treasure exists, when history shows Southern soldiers were dying of starvation and often were fighting shoeless because their boots had worn out, Atwell says the problem lay in distribution, not in having supplies. Atwell said he has found records that state in Danville alone there were warehouses full of food and shoes for the soldiers, but supply lines to them were cut off and blocked by the Yankees.
The gold coins, bars and silver the men have researched would be worth a lot now — perhaps even enough to pay off the national debt, Atwell said.
Atwell contacted John Spruyt, director of the National Cemeteries in this region, and asked for permission to open the grave in question. Spruyt turned him down, and says he will continue to do so.
“He claims there’s treasure all over the South,” Spruyt said, noting that Atwell originally wanted to open several graves, but when turned down filed a complaint against him.
Atwell also has contacted U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and Steve Muro, the Department of Veterans Affairs under secretary for memorial affairs.
Muro and U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt met with Atwell and Powers at the Danville National Cemetery in January, and the end result of the visit was another denial.
“Muro said he’d fight us tooth and nail on this,” Atwell said.
Now the men are starting to talk about what they believe in hopes that someone will believe them and help.
“Can you imagine the flack I’m getting ?” Powers said. “People say I’m chasing butterflies and there is no gold.”
Atwell, too, feels frustrated; for centuries, he said, people were looking for the treasure.
“Now we’ve found the answer and no one will listen to us,” Atwell said. “I have a funny feeling it’s all about the secret society and we’ll never know.”