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The Confederate treasure-statement of Paymaster John F. Wheless.

We purpose putting on record a complete history of the Confederate treasure from the time it left Richmond, and also of the specie of the Richmond banks (with which it has been frequently confounded) in order that the slanders concerning it which ever and anon start up may be forever silenced. We are only waiting for some promised statements from gentlemen who were in position to know whereof they [138] affirm. But as we have already published the conclusive statement of Captain Clark as to the disposition made of the treasure after it was turned over to him, we are happy to be able to add now the equally satisfactory statement of General Wheless who was with the treasure from the evacuation of Richmond until its disbursement by Captain Clark. These two papers really leave nothing more to be said, and we should be quite willing to rest the matter with them but that we wish the evidence to be cumulative.

A distinguished Confederate sends us the following introductory note to the letter of General Wheless:

General John F. Wheless, Inspector-General of Tennessee, was in 1863 a Captain in the First Teunessee Regiment of Volunteers and Assistant-Adjutant and Inspector-General of the corps commanded by Lieutenant-General Polk. At the battle of Perryville Captain Wheless was so severely wounded as to be disabled for field service. His fidelty and efficiency had gained the esteem of his corps commander, and as he had before entering the army been a banker of good repute, in Nashville, Tennessee. General Polk wrote warmly recommending him for an appointment as paymaster in the navy, as well because of his capacity as of his integrity and meritorious services in the field. In this new sphere of duty he was connected with the Confederate treasure when it was removed from Richmond and therefore specially well informed concerning it. When he saw the published report of an interview which represented General J. E. Johnston as making injurious reflections on President Davis in connection with the Confederate States treasure removed from Richmond, General Wheless, like other true-hearted Confederates, felt indignant at the slanderous insinuation and published in the Nashville American, of December 25th, a brief but decided refutation of the baseless fiction. At the suggestion of a friend he has written a fuller recital of events which preceded the appointment of Captain M. H. Clark to be treasurer, and thus completes the history of the fund from the time of leaving Richmond, Va., to that when Captain Clark closed the account at Washington, Ga.

Letter from General Wheless.

Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 10th, 1882.
Sir — It gives pleasure to comply with the request for a statement in regard to the movement of the Confederate States Treasure after the evacuation of Richmond. I was at the time paymaster in the Confederate States Navy, and about noon of April 2nd, 1865, received orders [139] to accompany the naval command under Captain Wm. H. Parker, which had been ordered to escort the Treasury Department. The cars (two I think) containing the coin, books, and a number of officials, clerks and escort, was a part of the same train on which the President and Cabinet went from Richmond to Danville. My information as to the amount of gold and silver (obtained through conversations with gentlemen connected with the Department) was to the effect that it amounted to about $200,000 mostly, silver and silver bullion. The Richmond banks also sent out about $300,000, mostly gold, in charge of their own officials or clerks, who continued with the Treasury Department in order to have the protection of its escort.

In order to avoid the frequent repetition of “Treasury Department,” I beg simply to refer to it by the expression “we.”

After remaining three or four days in Danville, we proceeded to Greensboro, N. C.; remained there a few days, and leaving about $40,000 of the silver there, moved to Charlotte. Staid there nearly a week, and went to Chester, S. C., thence to Newbury, and thence to Abbeyville, where we remained a few days, and then moved to Washington, Ga., where we took the cars for Augusta. We reached the Georgia railroad at Barnett's station, and I there met friends returning from the vicinity of Atlanta who informed me that they had seen in the Federal papers that Generals Sherman and Johnston had agreed upon an armistice. I immediately communicated the information to Captain Parker, and assured him of my confidence in the reliability of the report, and my conviction that it would end in General Johnston's surrender, and that a complete collapse of the Confederacy would immediately follow, and as soon as this became known Confederate money would become valueless, and the thousands of people of Augusta, and the large force of soldiers employed in the arsenal and other government shops there, having no other means with which to purchase supplies, would attempt the capture of the Confederate treasure, and in such an event our force was wholly inadequate for its protection, consisting only of the midshipmen and officers formerly of the Confederate States steamer “Patrick Henry.” During the few days we remained in Augusta, I invited Judge Crump (the acting or assistant treasurer) and Captain Parker to dine with me at the Planter's hotel, and urged upon them the danger that would be incurred by remaining in Augusta, and advised moving to some smaller place, or back to the vicinity of the army, where discipline and organization would be maintained longer than elsewhere. We returned over the route by which he had moved south, and reached [140] Abbeville about two or three days before the arrival of the President and Cabinet.

Captain Parker feeling the great responsibility of his position, and satisfied that his command was wholly inadequate to the protection of the treasure, earnestly requested to be relieved, which request was granted, and the treasure was taken in charge by General Basil Duke, whose command consisted of about three brigades of cavalry, and moved that night about 12 o'clock towards Washington, Georgia. I had for several days been urging Judge Crump to allow me to draw a few thousand dollars in gold to pay off the “escort,” they having faithfully discharged that duty for over a month. He was unwilling to assume what he termed “so much responsibility,” but it was agreed that when the cabinet arrived Captain Parker should see Secretary Mallory, and with him call on Secretary Trenholm and get his approval to the payment alluded to. The sickness of Mr. Trenholm prevented the consummation of this arrangement.

We proceeded upon the proper idea that the Secretary of the Treasury was in full control of that department, and we would have as soon thought of applying to the President for quartermaster or ordnance stores as for money. Of course the chief executive had authority to supervise every department, but so far as we knew he had exercised no more control over the one than the other. In fact, most of the time we were out of reach of orders, and Captain Parker had to act on his own judgment, and I have every reason to believe that President Davis had no knowledge of our return to Abbeville until he arrived there. The morning following the departure of the treasure from Abbeville, I proposed to Captain Parker that I should try to overtake it at Washington, Ga., and endeavor to get sufficient to give the command enough to enable them to get to their homes. He consented to this, and I reached Washington about 6 o'clock that evening, called at the house where the President, his staff and part of the Cabinet were quartered, learned that Judge Reagan was the acting Secretary of the Treasury, with the full power of the head of that department. I was personally acquainted with Colonel William Preston Johnston, Judge Crump, and Paymaster Semple, all of whom I met in the parlor. Colonel J. Taylor Wood, to whom Captain Parker had given me a letter, was also there. I requested the influence of these gentlemen with Judge Reagan, but made no suggestion that they should present the matter to President Davis, and though he was in the parlor that night and the next morning I did not trouble him with any reference to it. Knowing that he had entrusted the Treasury Department to Judge Reagan and was occupied [141] with matters of greater moment, I felt it would be an unwarranted intrusion to approach him with the matter.

Judge Reagan gave me an order on Captain M. H. Clark (a bonded officer whom he had authorized to disburse the funds), for $1,500 to be paid to the naval escort, and for $300 to be handed to Lieutenant Bradford, of the marines, who was under orders for the trans-Mississippi Department.

General Bragg, Colonel Oladouski, Captain Clark and myself went to the specie train together, and General Basil Duke took a small bag of gold from one of the boxes and paid us the amounts called for by the orders we held.

While in Washington I learned that about $100,000 of the coin had been paid out to the cavalry at or near Savannah river bridge, about half-way between Abbeville, S. C., and Washington, Ga. Captain Clark disbursed the balance, as I have learned from him since.

After drawing the money as above stated, I turned over the $300 to Lieutenant Bradford, and the next morning left for Abbeville, and paid off the naval command there. On my return to Washington I heard that a considerable amount of gold had been captured near that place a night or two before, which I took to be that belonging to the Richmond banks, as I heard that the bank officials who had it in custody from the time of the evacuation of Richmond left Washington with it after the president took his departure from there.

I was with the Treasury Department continuously, from the evacuation of Richmond to its final disbursement, with the exception of a few hours, and from personal knowledge can say that any statement which charges or insinuates that Jefferson Davis used any part of it for his personal benefit is without the slightest foundation, and considering the ease with which a full knowledge of all the facts could have been had, any such statement is not only unwarranted but unjust, if not wickedly malicious.

Respectfully, &c.,

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