previous next

The last days of the Confederate Treasury and what became of its specie.

By Captain M. H. Clark.
[It is the purpose of the Secretary to compile for early publication a full statement of the disposition made of the Confederate specie at the close of the war, which shall forever set at rest the miserable slanders against President Davis, which have been so often refuted only to be revived by the malignity of his enemies. And we ask everyone, who has any facts bearing on the question, to send them to us at once. But, in the meantime, we publish the following clear and conclusive statement by the last Acting Treasurer of the Confederacy, Captain M. H. Clark, only omitting the opening paragraphs, which are not essential:]

Clarksville, Tenn., January 10th, 1882.
To the Editor of the Courier-Journal:
* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I will state briefly as possible my connection with the Confederate Treasury, and run hastily over the route from Richmond, Va., to Washington, Ga.

I left Richmond, Va., the night of the evacuation with all the papers of the Executive office, on the special train containing the President, his staff, his Cabinet (excepting the Secretary of War, General John C. Breckinridge,) and many other government officials, being at the time the chief and confidential clerk of the Executive office. The party reached Danville, Va., next day (General Breckinridge arriving a few days afterwards) where the government officers were partially reorganized and opened, remaining there until the 10th of April, when the news of General R. E. Lee's surrender was received. The next move was to Greensboro, N. C., the headquarters of General G. T. Beauregard's little army. A stay of some days was made there, during which General J. E. Johnston reported for a conference as to the general situation. When the President's party prepared to leave, as the railroads were cut at several points south of us by the Federal cavalry under General Stoneman, who were still raiding to the southwest of our line of travel, by orders of Colonels William Preston Johnston and John Taylor Wood (of the President's staff,) I applied to General Beauregard for the necessary facilities for the journey, who directed Colonel A. R. Chisolm, of his staff, to give me carte blanche orders upon his Chief Quartermaster, Major Chisman, and his Commissary Department for what I needed, from which departments I made up a full train of [543] wagons and ambulances for my papers, the baggage of the party and the provisions necessary for our large following, for many had attached themselves to the party, and I had brought out from Richmond, Va., the “President's guard” --disabled soldiers, commanded by three one-armed officers, Captain Coe and Lieutenants Brown and Dickinson. General Beauregard sent as escort a small cavalry division, under command of that gallant Tennesseean, General George G. Dibrell, comprising Williams's brigade, under command of General W. C. P. Breckinridge; Dibrell's brigade, under Colonel W. S. McLemore, and Hewitt's battery, under Lieutenant Roberts, and perhaps a few detached small regiments. Captain Given Campbell (an active, efficient officer) and his company from the Ninth Kentucky cavalry were detailed for special service with the President, his men being used as scouts, guides and couriers, the cavalry force not traveling as a rule upon the same road as the party.

The party proceeded to Charlotte, N. C., where, after a stay of a week (where we heard of the assassination of President Lincoln), the route was taken to Abbeville, S. C. At Charlotte a large accession was made to the cavalry force--General Basil W. Duke with his brigade, General Vaughn and some other detachments from Southwest Virginia, and General Ferguson, and scattering battalions, making quite a full force, which was taken charge of by General John C. Breckinridge in his position as Major-General.

General Duke had just before won the most complete victory of his career, attacking and driving away from Marion, Va., a large force of General Stoneman's mounted infantry, who left dead and wounded on the ground, man for man, as many as Duke had under his command in the battle — a brilliant sunset in the closing career of this Kentucky soldier.

Of General Breckinridge I saw a good deal, as we occupied the same room at Mr. Heilbrun's, his son, Captain Cabell Breckinridge, being with him. At Charlottee, N. C., I replenished my stores under an order from Hon. S. R. Mallory, Secretary of the Navy, upon the Naval Storekeeper, and an incident occurred which, perhaps, caused the escape of Colonel Wood when the President's party was captured in Southern Georgia--finding a lot of good blue navy shirts among the stores, he suggested taking a few to secure change of raiment to such as might need it. He had on one of these shirts the morning of the capture, and in the dim light was enabled to pass through the blue-coated Federal cavalry, mistaken for one of their own men. Leaving Charlotte, [544] N. C., the cavalry force also took the route South under command of General John C. Breckinridge.

We arrived at Abbeville, S. C., the morning of the 2nd of May. Mr. Haldeman was there, according to recollection, and saw the party come in. While there, the President made his headquarters at Colonel Armistead Burt's, Colonel William Preston Johnston at Colonel Henry J. Leovy's, with that patriotic family, the Monroes, of Kentucky. At Abbeville, S. C., the Treasury officers reported the train at the depot, having been a part of the time under escort of Admiral Raphael Semmes's little naval force to protect it from the Federal cavalry, who were raiding on a parallel line with our route, between us and the mountains. Mr. J. A. Trenholm, the Secretary of the Treasury, having been left quite ill near the Catawba river, the President appointed the Postmaster-General, Hon. John H. Reagan, acting Secretary of the Treasury, who took charge of that department, and placed the train under charge of the cavalry to convoy it to Washington, Ga. The party, except General John C. Breckinridge, left for Washington that night, crossing the Savannah river on a pontoon bridge, stopping for breakfast and to feed horses a few miles from Washington. Colonel Burton N. Harrison had previously left the party to join Mrs. Davis and her family. At our breakfast halt, when the road was taken, Mr. Benjamin came to me and said “good-by,” as he did not intend to go farther with the party, and turned off south from that point. I never saw him again, though traveling on his track over 400 miles. Mr. Mallory left the party at Washington, Ga., going to a friend's in the neighborhood.

President Davis's headquarters were at Dr. Robertson's, whose charming family were profuse in their hospitalities, as were many others, General A. R. Lawton's (the Quartermaster-General,) and General E. P. Alexander's among the rest.

Next morning Colonel William Preston Johnston informed me that Mr. Reagan had applied for me to act as Treasurer, to take charge of the Treasury matters, and I was ordered to report to him, and doing so was handed my commission, which is now before me and reads as follows, viz:

Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865.
M. H. Clark, Esq., is hereby appointed Acting Treasurer of the Confederate States, and is authorized to act as such during the absence of the Treasurer.

[This was the last official signature President Davis affixed to any paper.] [545]

Returning to my train to get some necessary articles, President Davis rode up with his party, when what I supposed were farewell words passed between us, and my train, under charge of its Quartermaster, moved out. The Treasury train arrived shortly after President Davis's party left, and being reported at General Basil W. Duke's camp, about a mile from town, I went there with the proper authority and he turned the whole of it over to me. Selecting the shade of a large elm tree as the “Treasury Department,” I commenced my duties as “Acting Treasurer C. S.”

Now for the specie assets of the Treasury.

It must be remembered that a month or more before the evacuation of Richmond, Va., for the relief of the people, to furnish them a currency to buy supplies outside of our lines, and also to call in currency to pay off the troops, and for other purposes, the Treasury Department had opened its depositories and had been selling silver coin, the rate being fixed at $60 for $1 in coin. While at Danville, Va., the Treasury Department resumed these sales, the rate there being $70 for $1.

About $40,000 in silver, generally reported (and no doubt correctly) at $39,000, was left at Greensboro, N. C., as a military chest for the forces there, under charge of the Treasurer, Mr. John C. Hendren; all of the balance was turned into my hands, which amounted, in gold and silver coin, gold and silver bullion, to $288,022.90. Adding the $39,000 left at Greensboro, N. C., the Treasury contained in coin and bullion when it left Danville, Va., $327,022.90.

If the Treasury at Richmond had contained $2,500,000 in coin certainly the brave men of our armies would never have suffered so severely from want of sufficient food and clothing as they did during the winter of 1864-‘65, for it had been demonstrated that gold could draw food and raiment from without the lines. With the train at Washington, Ga., however, was the specie belonging to the Virginia banks, which some time before had been ordered to be turned over to their officers, who had accompanied it out from Richmond, and, devoted to their duties, had never left it; but the proper officer had not been present to make the transfer. It had never been mixed with the Treasury funds, but kept apart and distinct, and when Acting Secretary Reagan ordered the transfer to be made, no handling of specie or counting was necessary, but merely permission for the cashiers and tellers to take control of their own matters. I knew them all personally, having been a Richmond boy myself. The papers of this transaction are not before me, and my recollection is not positively [546] clear as to the amount, but my impression is that it was about $230,000. General E. P. Alexander has already given in your columns the afterfate of this fund. As a history of the Virginia banks' specie would make a chapter of itself, and as it was not a part of the Confederate Treasury assets, I drop further mention of it.

While at Washington, Ga., communications were received from General John C. Breckinridge that payments had been promised to the cavalry from the train by him at a halt on the road the night of the 3d. The action of General Breckinridge in the premises was ratified, and President Davis gave some other directions before he left. General Breckinridge arrived in Washington, Ga., an hour or so after President Davis left, and my recollection of his statement was in brief as follows: That during the night of the 3d, en route from Abbeville, S. C., to Washington, Ga., he found the cavalry and train at a halt, resting. Stopping, he learned from the officers that the men were dissatisfied at the position of affairs; that they were guarding a train which could not be carried safely much farther; the Federal cavalry were known to be in full force not a great distance off; the destination and disposition of their own force was an uncertain one; their paper money was worthless for their needs; that they might never reach Washington, Ga., with it, etc. A crowd gathered around, when General Breckinridge made a little speech, appealing to their honor as Confederate soldiers not to violate the trust reposed in them, but to remain Southern soldiers and gentlemen; and that when they reached Washington with the train, fair payments should be made to them from it.

The men responded frankly and openly, saying they proposed to violate no trust; they were there to guard the train from all, and would guard it, but expressed as above what they considered due them in the matter, and, as they would be paid some money in Washington, Ga., and no one could tell what would happen before they reached there, they could give no good reason for delay.

General Breckinridge replied that, if they wished an instant compliance with his promise, he would redeem it at once, and ordered up the train to the house at which he had stopped, and had the wagons unloaded; the quartermasters being ordered to make out their payrolls, when a certain amount was counted out and turned over to the proper officers. The wagons were then reloaded, and, after the rest, the route was taken up, reaching Washington, Ga., next morning, where the quartermasters paid off from their rolls. The boys told me they got about $26 apiece; enough, they hoped, to take them through.

It is this transaction which has produced so many contradictory [547] statements from men and officers, many seeing nothing more, and regarding it as the final disbursing of the Confederate specie. Proper receipts were given and taken at the time, and I rated it as if disbursed by myself, and covered it into the Treasury accounts by the paper, of which below is a copy:

There is required for payment of troops now on the march through Georgia, the sum of one hundred and eight thousand three hundred and twenty-two dollars and ninety cents ($108,322.90), to be placed to the credit of Major E. C. White, Quartermaster.

A. R. Lawton, Quartermaster-General.


The Secretary of the Treasury will please issue as requested.

John C. Breckinridge, Sec'y of War.


M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer, will turn over to Major E. C. White the mount named within, preserving the necessary vouchers, warrant hereafter to be drawn when settlement can be regularly made.

John H. Reagan, Acting Sec'y Treasury.


Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865.
Received of M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer, C. T., the sum of one hundred and eight thousand three hundred and twenty-two dollars and ninety cents ($108,322.90) in specie, the amount called for by within paper.

My own transportation having gone forward, General Breckinridge kindly gave me his own ambulance, team and driver, which I used in driving back and forth from town to Duke's camp as my duties called me. I obtained permission from General B. and Mr. Reagan to burn a mass of currency and bonds, and burnt millions in their presence.

After the cavalry were paid there was a general order that all unattached officers and men should receive a month's pay, and below are copies of some of the receipts; but some receipts quoted are in different form; comment on these will be made later on. [548]

Estimate of funds required for the service of the Quartermaster's Department at Washington, Ga., by Captain John M. Garnett, A. Q. M.: Specie, $5,000.


Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War.


A. R. Lawton, Q. M. Gen.
Secretary of the Treasury is requested to furnish within funds.

John C. Breckinridge, Secretary of War.
M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer, will turn over to Captain Garnett the amount within named, taking the proper vouchers, a warrant to be drawn when settlement can be regularly made.

John H. Reagan, Sec'y of Treasury.

Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865.
Received of M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer, the amount of within estimate, five thousand dollars, in specie.

John M. Garnett, Capt. and A. Q. M.

Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865.
I require for the payment of the officers and men of the President's Guard fourteen hundred and fifty-four dollars ($1,454) in specie.

C. H. C. Brown, Lieutenant Commanding. Approved: Wm. Preston Johnston, Colonel and A. D. C., A. R. Lawton, Q. M. G.

M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer, will pay the within fourteen hundred and fifty-four dollars in silver, retaining this paper and the proper receipt subject to future regular settlement.

M. H. Clark will pay in addition to the within requisition, eighteen dollars, one month's pay, for E. H. Burns.

Received of M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer, C. S., fourteen hundred and seventy-two ($1,472) in full of within requisition.


Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865.
M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer:
Pay to A. G. Cantley, a clerk in the Post-office Department, fifty dollars in specie and preserve necessary vouchers until warrant can be drawn and settlement regularly made.

John H. Reagan, Acting Secretary of the Treasury.

Received the within fifty dollars in specie from M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer, C. S. A.

Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865
The Secretary of the Treasury is requested to turn over four thousand dollars to Major J. Foster, C. S., to be used for the support of the troops now under my command.

John C. Breckinridge, Secretary of War.

M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer: Turn over the above-named amount of money as requested, keeping necessary vouchers, warrant to be drawn when regular settlement can be made.

John H. Reagan, Acting Secretary of Treasury.

Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865
Received of M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer, C. S., four thousand dollars ($4,000) in gold, on within requisition.

J. M. Foster, Major, C. S.

Sir,--You will proceed to Washington, Ga., and there present to the Hon. Judge Reagan, Acting Secretary of the Treasury, estimates of the amount required to pay off the officers of the Naval School for one or more months, as he may specify.

Respecfully, your obedient servant,

Wm. H. Parker, Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding.

M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer, will pay over to J. F. Wheless the sum of $1,500 in silver, to be by him paid out pro rata, according to rank, to the officers of the navy and midshipmen who were employed in guarding the specie from Richmond to Abbeville, as shown by the accompanying petitions and list of names, and take his receipt and retain these papers.

$1,500. Received of M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer, C. S., $1,500 in gold, in full of within requisition.

J. F. Wheeless, Assistant Paymaster. Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865.


M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer: Pay over to Assistant Paymaster Wheless, in addition to the sum of $1,500, called for to pay Naval officers, etc., three hundred dollars in silver, to be paid to First Lieutenant Bradford, of the Marine Corps, taking receipt and retaining this.

Received, at Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865, of M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer, C. S., three hundred dollars in gold, to be turned over to Lieutenant Bradford, of the C. S. Marine Corps.

J. F. Wheless, Assistant Paymaster.

Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865.
M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer:
Will pay over to General Braxton Bragg, two thousand dollars in coin for transmission to the Trans-Mississippi Department; and warrant for the same to be drawn when settlement can be regularly made; taking his receipt therefor.

Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865
Received of M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer, two thousand dollars ($2,000) in coin, called for by within paper.

Braxton Bragg, General C. S. A.

Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865
* * * * Received of A. R. Lawton, Quartermaster-General C. S. A., the following pay funds in specie: $806 for payment of five commissioned officers and twenty-six men, belonging to Brigadier-General L. York's Louisiana Brigade.

Leigh Watkins, Acting Assistant Quartermaster. Approved: D. Gatley, Lieutenant-Colonel.
Respectfully referred to the Secretary of War. Approved: A. R. Lawton, Quartermaster-General.
Secretary of Treasury, please issue. John C. Breckinridge, Secretary of War.

M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer, will please pay over to Captain Watkins for payment to the troops specified, taking proper vouchers. Warrant to be drawn when settlement can be regulary made.

Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865
Received of M. H. Clark, Acting [551] Treasurer, eight hundred and six dollars ($806), in full of within requisition.

Leigh Watkins, Captain and Acting A. Q. M.

Estimate of funds required for the service of the Quartermaster's Department at------by Captain Joseph M. Brown. * * * * Specie $3,000.

Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War, approved for the sum of five hundred and twenty dollars ($520).

A. R. Lawton, Quartermaster-General.

May 4, 1865.
Secretary of Treasury:
Please issue.

John C. Breckinridge, Secretary of War.

M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer, will turn over to Captain Brown the amount specified within, preserving the necessary vouchers. Warrant to be drawn when a regular settlement can be made.

John H. Reagan, Acting Secretary of Treasury.

Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865
Received of M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer C. S., five hundred and twenty dollars ($520) in gold on within requisition.

Joseph M. Brown, Captain and A. Q. M.

We, the undersigned, are officers in the First Auditor's office, and desire to draw one hundred dollars in gold for our services to this date, May 4, 1865.

M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer: Pay fifty dollars to each, keeping vouchers until warrants can be drawn.

John H. Reagan, Acting Secretary of Treasury.

Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865
We, the undersigned, have received fifty dollars each in gold on within order.

Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865.
M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer:
Turn over to John C. Breckinridge, Secretary of War, one thousand dollars for transmission to the Trans-Mississippi Department, taking his receipt therefor. Warrant to be drawn when regular settlement can be made.


May 4, 1865
Received the within sum from M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer.

John C. Breckinridge, Secretary of War.

The above are examples of the receipts taken. About sunset I took leave of General Duke, with two wagons containing coin and bullion, and a little iron safe in my ambulance, he giving me an escort of twenty or thirty men, whose silver dollars were jingling in their saddlebags. Before reaching town I was halted by Major R. J. Moses to turn over to him an amount of specie which President Davis, before he left, had ordered to be placed at the disposal of the Commissary Department to feed the paroled soldiers and stragglers who were passing through, to prevent their being a burden to a section already well stripped of supplies. I went through the wagons, removing to my ambulance the gold coin and gold bullion, and turned over to Major Moses the wagons and silver bullion, and all of the escort except about ten men. The amounts stated on the boxes footed up $40,000, but Major Moses claimed that possibly some of their contents might have been disturbed. I opened the most of them, finding the contents intact, but as a compromise wrote the following receipt:

Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865
Received of M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer C. S., twenty (20) boxes of silver bullion, supposed to be worth in coin from thirty-five to forty thousand dollars, upon requisitions of the Quartermaster-General and the Commissary General of Subsistence.

To this Major Moses added:

The same having been delivered in Washington, Ga., uncounted, to be counted and weighed before two officers and certified to, a copy of certificate to be forwarded to Judge Reagan.

R. J. Moses, Major and Chief Commissary.

It was after dark when I reached Washington, and failing to find General A. R. Lawton, Quartermaster General, and General I. M. St. John, Commissary General, I made the following endorsement on the receipt:

This property was turned over to Major R. J. Moses by verbal order of Hon. John H. Reagan, acting Secretary of the Treasury, and in his presence the proper requistions were promised to be furnished by Generals Lawton and St. John, which promise was not fulfilled.

M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer, C. S. Washington, Ga., May 4, 1865.


In my statement of the specie assets of the Treasury being $288,022.90, I counted the payment to Major Moses as being $40,000.

My last payment in Washington, Ga., was of eighty-six thousand dollars ($86,000) in gold coin and gold bullion, to a trusted officer of the navy, taking his receipt for its transmission out of the Confederacy, to be held for the Treasury Department.

Judge Reagan and myself left Washington, Ga., about 11 o'clock P. M., taking with us a few of Duke's men as guides, who we dismissed with thanks a few hours afteward, and joined President Davis' party next morning, as they came out of their bivouac about sunrise.

After greetings, I found the party consisting of the President and staff and a few others, Captain Given Campbell and twelve of his men, my train and its quartermaster and party. (After Duke's command had been paid off, the men learning that full freedom was given to their action, some sixty formed themselves into a company, among them my fellow-townsmen, Messrs. W. R. Bringhurst and Clay Stacker, and rode to town and offered themselves to President Davis as an escort just as he was leaving; but it seems that he declined their courtesy, and they afterward left town with General J. C. Breckinridge.) We traveled together that day and went into camp that evening a few miles south of Sandersville, Ga. There the President heard disturbing reports from Mrs. Davis' party, they fearing attempts to steal their horses by stragglers, and decided next morning to take his staff and join her party for a few days. As everything on wheels was to be abandoned by him, and as it was decided that I was to remain with my train, the chances of the capture of which were steadily increasing, the Federal General Wilson having spread his large cavalry force out like a fan from Macon, I called the staff together, and inquiring as to their funds, found that they had only a small amount of paper currency each, except, perhaps, Colonel F. R. Lubbock, A. D. C., who had, I believe, a little specie of his private funds. Colonel Wm. Preston Johnston told me that the President's purse contained paper money only. I represented to them the chances of capture of my slower-moving train, which would be compelled mainly to keep the roads in case of danger — that they would need money for their supplies en route, and to buy boats in Florida, etc., and that I wished to pay over to them funds to be used for those purposes, and they consenting I paid, with the concurrence of Hon. John H. Reagan, the acting Secretary of the Treasury, $1,500 in gold each to Colonel John Taylor Wood, A. D. C.; Colonel Wm. Preston Johnston, A. D. C., Colonel F. R. Lubbock, A. D. C., and Colonel C. E. Thorburn (a naval [554] purchasing agent who was with the party), taking a receipt from each one, but as they were all of the same verbiage I merely give one, as follows:

Sandersville, Ga., May 6, 1865
$1,500. Received of M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer, C. S., fifteen hundred dollars ($1,500) in gold coin, the property of the Confederate States, for transmission abroad, of the safe arrival of which due notice to be given the Secretary of the Treasury.

I also paid to each $10 in silver for small uses, from a little executive office fund, which I had obtained in Danville, Va., by converting my paper when the Treasurer was selling silver there. For this I took no receipt, charging it in my office accounts. I also called up Captain Given Campbell and paid him for himself and men $300 in gold, taking the following receipt:

Received of M. H. Clark, Acting Treasurer, C. S., three hundred dollars ($300) in gold, upon requisition of Colonel John Taylor Wood, A. D. C.

given Campbell, Captain Company B. Second Kentucky Cavalry, Williams's Brigade.

I then went to Judge Reagan with a bag containing thirty-five hundred dollars ($3,500) in gold, and asked him to take it in his saddle-bags as an additional fund in case of accidents or separation. He resisted, saying that he was already weighted by some $2,000 of his own personal funds, which he had brought out from Richmond, Va., in a belt around his person, but after some argument on my part he allowed me to put it in his saddle-bags. The party then were already on horse, and “Good-bye” was said.

The President's party was captured a few days afterward, and upon their release from prison several of the party told me that every one was robbed of all they had, except Colonel F. R. Lubbock, who, after stout resistance and great risk, retained his money, upon which the party subsisted during their long imprisonment at Fort Delaware. No gold was found on President Davis when captured, for he had none.--He could only have received it through me, and I paid him none. Mr. Trenholm was left sick in South Carolina. Attorney-General Davis was left at Charlotte, N. C. Mr. Benjamin left us before reaching Washington, Ga., and Mr. Mallory at Washington. I paid the members of the Cabinet nothing, except to General Breckinridge, and his receipt quoted shows the character of that payment. The only money [555] Judge Reagan received was the money mentioned above, near Sandersville — which was a deposit, not a payment. The Treasury train was never with President Davis's party. They found it at Abbeville, South Carolina, rode away and left it there, and rode away from Washington, Georgia, shortly after its arrival there, while it was being turned over to me. It will have been noted that the receipts quoted are of two classes-payments to troops and clerks for their own services; but to officers of higher rank, like Generals Bragg and Breckinridge, or to members of the President's military family, they were for transmission to a distance, to be afterward accounted for to the Treasury Department. In my narrative of events I have given full names of persons, most of whom are still living witnesses of the occurrences at Washington, Georgia. Colonel James Wilson, of General Breckinridge's staff, was perhaps cognizant of much that I have related. A few concluding remarks may make clearer the condition of affairs which arose at Washington, Ga., on that 4th of May, 1865.

The last Cabinet meeting, which could be called such, was held at Abbeville on the 2d of May, at which it seems to have been decided that the attempt was hopeless to carry the organized force to the Trans-Mississippi Department, it being too small to cope with the enemy it would have to encounter, and it was left free to the soldiers to decide their own action — the move was to be a voluntary one. The soldiers before this had intuitively grasped the situation. The roads were full of men — paroled soldiers from Lee's and Johnston's armies; escaped men from both, having evaded surrender; men who had been exchanged and had started to join their commands — and north of Abbeville and all the way to Florida, I met men who, being still free to fight, were wending their way to the Mississippi river. I met them on my return from Florida in June, plodding their weary way back to their homes. These belong to the Atlantic States. I traveled with some all the way to Virginia; those belonging to the States west of Georgia were already home again. These men and officers were some of the pick and flower of the Confederate States armies; men who, in the four years desperate struggle, having to fight every nationality under the sun, except the “heathen Chinee,” were still volunteers. Who dare say, if 20,000 such men had re-enforced the troops of the Trans-Mississippi Department, what the result might have been? With the war going on, with its immense expenditure of treasure, the Northern debt January, 1866, could not have been much under $5,000,000,000, with the inevitable immense depreciation of its paper currency, would not the commercial North been perforce compelled to cry, “Halt?” [556]

Both sections were traveling in the same financial rut; but the Southern money traveled downward the faster.

The soldiers jingling their silver dollars on every road told the tale of the disbursement of the little Treasury, and I found on my return the wildest rumors through the country as to the amount it had contained. Five million dollars was the smallest amount mentioned.

Federal detectives were swarming along the route we had traveled, hunting papers, the Treasury and “the last man who had it in charge,” “for an immense amount must have been secreted somewhere; $5,000,000 to $15,000,000 could not vanish in the air in a day.”

But the undersigned wasn't eager to make new acquaintances, and wasn't then signing himself “Acting Treasurer, C. S.” An impression has prevailed with some that on that last day great demoralization, confusion and panic existed. Such was not so. The soldiers were orderly, and though the town was filled with men under no command, there was no rioting or violence, though the citizens feared something of the kind. In the hearts of the educated and the thinking there was a hush of deep emotion, and it seemed to me as if a gloomy pall hung in the atmosphere repressing active expression. As it was realized that a government which had been strong and loved, the exponent of all their hopes and wishes, was, perhaps, dying the death before their eyes, that whatever might be accomplished “over the river,” all east of it for a possibly long future was to be abandoned to the conqueror, with all the unnumbered woes which that implied — an agony too great for words, with the bitterness of an almost despair filling all hearts,--I rode out into the darkness that night as if from a death-bed.

You have before you a plain, unvarnished statement of the last days; the personal pronoun has been used more than I could have wished but it was unavoidable. The skecth might have been studded with incidents of the “retreat from Richmond,” interesting perhaps to those who followed the “Starry cross” to that bitter end, but this article is already too long for newspaper publication. The old Confederates brought nothing out of the war, save honor; for God's sake! and the precious memory of the dead, let us preserve that untarnished, and defend it from slanderous insinuations. To do my part, I have spoken.

M. H. Clark, Ex-Captain P. A. S., and ex Acting Treasurer C. S. A.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
May 4th, 1865 AD (23)
May 2nd (2)
January 10th, 1882 AD (1)
January, 1866 AD (1)
May 6th, 1865 AD (1)
May 3rd, 1865 AD (1)
1864 AD (1)
June (1)
April 10th (1)
January (1)
3rd (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: