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Volume 30, No. 3 – March 2017

The President’s Message:

The March speaker will be Patrick Falci.  Last year he gave a rousing and exciting program about Lt. General A.P. Hill.  This year Patrick will discuss the making of the movie Gettysburg.  He served as historical advisor on the movie.  In order to insure historical accuracy, he worked for five years before filming began as well as on-set.  Patrick will discuss many of the stars in the movie.  How did Sam Elliott prepare for the role of General Buford?  How Stephen Lang got the role of General Pickett?  Find out where Jeff Daniels did his research for the role of Colonel Chamberlain.  How Patrick landed the role of A.P. Hill?  Learn about the relationship between Tom Berenger who played General Longstreet and Martin Sheen who was General Lee. Discover who made their movie debut as Colonel Patton.

Please invite any guest that would like join us for this fantastic program.

Gerridine La Rovere


March 8, 2017 Program:

The Making of the Movie Gettysburg will be presented by Patrick Falci, actor and performing historian.  He portrayed A.P. Hill in the movie.  Patrick Falci always gives a mesmerizing program as he did last year portraying AP Hill.  Patrick was historical advisor for the movies Gettysburg and Gods and Generals that were written and directed by Bob Maxwell.  In addition to the historical research and supplying photographs of the era, Patrick scouted out locations in Maryland for the films.  Patrick took Maxwell on a Stonewall Jackson tour of Civil War battlefields and other historical sites.  Patrick played Rough Rider #2 in producer/actor Tom Berenger’s film of the same name.  He, served as Jeff Shaara’s historical advisor, and provided research and tours of Civil War sites portrayed in his books.  Patrick vetted John Jakes’s manuscripts for On Secret Service and Charleston, at its editor’s request.

February 8, 2017:

Our speaker was David Meisky who presented Confederate Money.  A history graduate of George Mason University, Mr. Meisky retired from the Fairfax County, Public Library.  He has re-enacted for a number of years and started appearing as “Extra Billy” Smith in the spring of 2008, after a good deal of study.  He has also performed a first-person portrayal of Captain David Meade, a Confederate army paymaster, which allowed him to display and discuss his collection of period money.  As an infantry private, he has served for a number of years with the Fairfax Rifles, Company D of the 17th Virginia Infantry Regiment.

In 1861 the Confederate States establish a financial system based on paper currency with seven issues of money (an issue means that congress authorized the Treasury to print and circulate a stated amount), totaling about 80,000,000 individual bills with a face value of about $1,700,000,000.  The bills were issued from the Treasury Department in Richmond but were printed by nine, actually ten but more on the tenth later, firms located in Richmond, Charlotte NC, Columbia SC, Augusta Ga., and early on in New Orleans.

Confederate bills were actually promissory notes.  On each bill in the first four issues it would say "Six months", later changed to "Two years" starting with the fifth issue, "after the ratification of a treaty of peace between the Confederate States and the United States the Confederate States will pay" whatever the amount of the bill was.  There were a few bills such as the fourth issue $100 that were interest bearing, in this case interest was two cents a day.

5 dollarThe bills were printed without signatures or serial numbers and these were later added by hand.  The Treasury employed about 400 people, the majority women, to hand sign and number these bills.  These people would sign their own name since they were signing for the register or treasurer, not attempting to mimic these official’s signatures.  There was concern about women signing and verifying these bills since at the time women did not usually have any financial rights but by having everyone sign with their first initial and last name you could not see that the signature was that of a woman.  An exception was the 3 million $.50 bills of the sixth and seventh issue which had printed signatures.

The bills were printed in sheets of from four to nine images depending on the denomination and issue although the usual number was eight on a sheet.  All the bills on the sheet were identical except for the plate position, a letter from A to H on each bill, which showed the position of that image on the sheet.  When the bills were numbered every bill on that sheet received the same number but that number combined with the plate position insured that each bill had a unique identification.

Before the war, it was very unusual for bills to be printed on the back.  Some early CSA denominations were blank on the back but the Treasury started having designs printed on the backs of some bills and by the seventh issue the design had been standardized with just the amount changing for the various denomination.

3 dollarThe bills had a number of designs that included portraits of Confederate leaders and various scenes, called vignettes, on different subjects.  These vignettes were like modern computer clip art in that printers would have a number of different ones handy to use when designing a bill's layout.  When dealing with a large firm you would have a choice of a number of vignettes while a local printer might only have several available.  This means the same vignette might appear on a number of unrelated bills issued by different organizations.  You will occasionally see Confederate bills with notches or semi-circles cut out of the edge or center of a note.  This is to indicate that this is a note that has been withdrawn from circulation and is on its way back to the Treasury to be destroyed.

Although they were produced in a number of locations all the bills had "Richmond" printed on them since they were issued from the Treasury Department located in that city along with the date that issue was authorized by congress.  The exception is the first issue in February, 1861, which was printed by the National Banknote Company in New York City (the tenth printer I mentioned earlier) and issued from Montgomery, AL., the capital at that time.  There were four denominations in that issue: $1000, $500, $100, and $50 with just over 600 of each being issued.  Since there were so few these bills were actually signed by the Treasurer and Registrar.

Although when they were first issued in spring of 1861 a Confederate dollar was worth almost as much as a gold dollar but as the war progressed the value of Confederate paper fell so that in January 1863 a gold dollar was worth $3.00 in Confederate paper, $18.00 in January 1864, $34.00 in January 1865, and by the final collapse in April of 1865 Confederate paper money was practically worthless.

There were other forms of paper money used in the South during the war with over 270 local government entities - states, counties, and cities - issuing currency.  The state of Florida printed about $900,000 in notes backed by the state's public lands.  Many of these state and local bills were "fractional" bills, that is for amounts less than one dollar.  There was little local issue in Florida while Virginia had a great deal of local

issue with 58 counties and 16 cities producing their own bills.  Like Confederate currency these were promises by the state or locale to pay.  With the collapse of the Confederacy there was no one to redeem Confederate money but the states and counties are still in business.  However, they cannot redeem any of the state or local issue since the last article of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that "... neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States..."

There was no government issue of paper money before the war but there were many bills issued by private concerns in circulation.  Banks, railroads, canal companies, steamship lines, and others would issue their own currency.  Some of these were reputable organizations while some were fly by night scams.  Since none of this was legal tender, money that Congress said you had to accept, you had the choice of accepting or rejecting any bill that was presented to you.  The US started printing paper money, "greenbacks" and some of this worked its way south but, in 1864 the Confederate Congress passed a law forbidding the private ownership and use of Yankee greenbacks.

The war and the establishment of the CSA opened new opportunities for practitioners of the long established American industry of counterfeiting.  An article in one of the New York newspapers in 1860 estimated that maybe 40%, possibly more, of the private bills in circulation were counterfeits.  Two of the main producers of bogus Confederate bills, also bonds and stamps, were Samuel Upham in Philadelphia and Winthrop Hilton in New York.  Both the men were producing fac-similes (that's how the word was spelled back then) of Confederate bills as "mementos of the rebellion", souvenirs in other words.  They both produced good quality reproductions which were being distributed, mainly by Union troops, throughout areas of the south.  The Confederate economy and financial system was shaky enough without this influx of funny money.  In December of 1863 the New York Police intercepted a letter from a known Confederate agent to a suspected Confederate operative which indicated that Hilton was actually producing bills that were to be smuggled south and issued by the Confederate Treasury Department as legitimate Confederate Currency.  They arrested Hilton and confiscated his plates, press, and stock.  They had to release Hilton in a couple of days but retained his materials for six months before returning everything to Hilton.  By then real CSA bills were so available and cheap it didn't pay to counterfeit them.  While Hilton may have been doing business with the Confederates it is more likely that the Confederate Secret Service set Hilton up with a fake letter to get the NYPD to put him out of business.

Most people are aware of Confederate paper money but did the Confederacy mint coins?  This is a difficult question as there are two possible answers: “Yes, but…” or “No, however…”  In 1861 there were five United States mints.  Two of them, the main mint in Philadelphia and the newest mint in San Francisco, were in states that remained in the Union while the mints in Charlotte, North Carolina; Dahlonega, Georgia; and New Orleans were in what became the Confederate States.  Of these three, New Orleans was the largest while the other two were smaller operations that had been established in the early 1840s to take advantage of gold strikes in these areas.

In January of 1861, the Federal government produced about 330,000 silver (actually 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper) half dollars at New Orleans.  When Louisiana seceded, the state took over the mint and continued production, turning out about 124,000 of the coins.  They used the original die (the die is what actually creates the image on the blank coin) so their coins still said “United States of America.”  The Confederate Treasury Department then took over and minted another 963,000 United States half dollars.  Coins of this period contained approximately the amount of metal equal to the face value of the coin and these Louisiana - and Confederate-produced coins had the same amount of silver as the U.S. - produced coins and were thus just as valuable.  There is no way to determine if an individual coin was minted by the U.S., Louisiana, or the Confederacy as the same workers used the same die and machines and the coins had the same amount of silver.

Louisiana and the Confederacy also minted United States double eagle ($20) gold coins in New Orleans.  The product runs for these coins was about 5,000 by the U.S., 9,750 by Louisiana, and 2991 by the Confederacy.  The South also minted a total of approximately 10,000 United States gold $1 and $5 coins at Charlotte and Dahlonega before running out of stock and closing down these two operations.

The Confederate States, as an independent nation, wanted to produce their own coins, not just copy U.S. coins, so it was decided to mint Confederate silver half dollars.  The first thing everyone recognized was that Miss Liberty was a southern belle, not a Yankee, so her image as it appeared on the U.S. half dollar could also appear on the Confederate coin, meaning that a new die would not have to be created.  Manufacturing the die was the hardest and most technical challenging aspect of coining.  A new die was created for the reverse side of the coin and four of the coins were struck and given to four individuals.  The idea was that the coins would be examined and a decision made as to whether production would continue with that design.  The fall of New Orleans in the spring of 1862 ended Confederate control of the New Orleans mint so no more of these coins were produced.

coinsThese four Confederate half dollars have an interesting post-war history.  They were out of sight for a number of years in private hands but over the course of time they reappeared in public view.  The first surfaced in 1879 when the man who had initially received it, Mr. B. F. Taylor, the chief coiner of the New Orleans Mint in 1861, sold it along with the die for the reverse, Confederate, side of the coin.  This coin in now in the American Numismatic Association’s collection.

The next, which had been given to Dr. E. Adams of New Orleans, did not appear until 1910 when a collector found it in a wrapped roll of half dollars he received from a bank.  It is now the property of the Newman Numismatic Education Society.

The third has the most interesting history.  It was given to the mint superintendent, William Elmore, who sent it to Secretary of the Treasury Christopher Memminger, who in turn passed it on to President Jefferson Davis.  It was with Davis when he left Richmond on April 2, 1865, and was in his wife’s luggage when he was captured in Georgia.  On the boat trip to Fortress Monroe, the luggage was searched and the coin was pilfered.  When it reappeared at an auction in 1938 it was being sold as a Scott restrike (more about them later), although its authenticity as one of the original four was later established.

The last came to public view in 1971 after passing through several owners, starting with the 1861 New Orleans Postmaster John Riddell. The Davis and Riddell coins were both sold in separate auctions several months ago, with the Davis coin commanding a high bid of $881,250 while the Riddell was a steal at $646,250.

The first of these Confederate half dollars was sold, along with the die, in 1879 to John W. Scott.  The die was not in the best condition but Scott cleaned it up and decided to produce some restrikes.  Since he didn’t have a die for the Miss Liberty face of the coin, he produced 500 tokens with the Confederate side and a message on the front that this was a restrike from an original die.  This worked well, so he decided to produce 500 coins resembling the originals.  Since he didn’t have the Miss Liberty die, he obtained 500 original 1861 half dollars, shaved the backs smooth, and then used the Confederate die to strike an image on the shaved surface.  The result was a real 1861 U.S. half dollar that appears to be a Confederate half dollar although of slightly less weight due to the shaving of the back and with a slightly flattened Miss Liberty image because of pressure during the restrike.  As previously mentioned, when the original Davis coin appeared in 1938 it was first thought to be one of these restrikes.  Mr. Scott then defaced the die so there would be no more restrikes, thus helping to maintain the value of his coins.  The die went through several hands until some years later when the listed owner stated he had donated it to the Louisiana State Historical Society.  The Society checked its holdings and could not find the die nor could it find any record that it had ever been donated.  Keep your eyes open because somewhere out there in the land of auctions, flea sales, and antique stores may be the Confederate half dollar die.

There was a period of about two months from February to April of 1861 when the Confederate States was an established nation but there was as yet no war. In late February, the Confederate Treasury Department contracted with a company in Philadelphia to produce pennies (one cent coins) for the Confederacy.  The job was assigned to Mr. Robert Lovett, who designed the coin, created the die, and produced 12 samples, in nickel, to be sent to Richmond for approval.  However, a slight snag developed:  The war had started and producing Confederate coins in Philly didn’t seem like the greatest of ideas to Mr. Lovett.  Not wanting to get in trouble with Federal authorities, he buried the twelve coins and the two dies in his basement and kept his mouth shut.  The Confederate Treasury never heard from him, and given the conditions never expected to hear from him, and so assumed that nothing had been produced.

Following the war Lovett did two things:  He dug up and started carrying one of the coins as a good luck piece and he became somewhat of a drunk.  One evening in 1871 he was engaged in his favorite activity and when he settled his bar tab he wasn’t paying attention, or was beyond paying attention, and gave the bartender the Confederate penny.  Barkeeps are notably sharp-eyed when it comes to customer payments and he spotted the unusual coin.  The cat, or in this case the coin, was out of the bag and Mr. Lovett ended up selling the twelve coins and the two dies to a collector named John Haseltine.

Haseltine sold the 12 coins (one of them fetched $141,000 at a recent auction) and decided to produce a limited number of restrikes in various metals.  The originals were made of nickel, so he produced seven coins in gold, 12 in silver, and 55 in copper.  He then defaced both dies.  These defaced dies were obtained some years later by Robert Bashlow, who in 1961 did restrikes with the damaged die: 2,500 in silver, 5,000 in goldine, and 10,000 copper.  The dies were then donated to the Smithsonian Institute.

This brings us back to the original question:  Did the Confederacy mint coins? YES, BUT they were all U.S. coins except for four half-dollar coins plus 12 one-cent coins someone else minted that the Confederate government never actually owned.  NO, HOWEVER there are a very limited number of samples that were minted by, or for, the Confederacy in addition to a number of non-Confederate coins that they produced.  If you go to the gift shop at any battlefield or historical site, you will probably be able to buy reproductions of the penny and half dollar and perhaps some reproductions of Confederate coins that never existed such as $5 and $20 imaginary gold coins.  The pennies and half dollars are sometimes labeled “restrikes” but they are not.  A restrike is made with the original die while these are reproductions.  There was discussion during the war about producing Confederate gold coins but no design or samples were ever created.

An interesting side note is that although the image of Robert E. Lee never appeared on any Confederate bill or coin it has appeared on at least two United States coins: the 1925 Stone Mountain commemorative half dollar and the 1937 Battle of Antietam half dollar.  Also on the Stone Mountain half dollar next to Lee is Stonewall Jackson.  Stonewall also appears on a Confederate $500 bill, making him one of three people whose image has appeared on both Confederate and U.S. money.  The other two are Andrew Jackson and George Washington.



Last changed: 03/01/17

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