“Ms. Yulee…asked me if I could conceal a very valuable trunk…”

On the night of April 14, 1865 in Greensboro, North Carolina, Confederate Captain Micajah H. Clark with assistance packed into ambulances and wagons Confederate Government archives, baggage of Confederate officials, and $35,000 in currency. Their goal was to secrete these invaluable records and large sum of money to the Trans-Mississippi in order to prop up continued Confederate resistance as soon as President Jefferson Davis could make it there.

From Greensboro, the train would make its way through the rest of the Tar Heel State, into South Carolina, and cut across Georgia. In the process, some of the last members to guard the train would join in the cavalcade.

A month and a day later, on May 15, now reduced to a single wagon and ambulance, pulled by mules and guarded by nine Confederate persons crossed into Florida. Unbeknownst on that hot and sunny May day, Florida would be the last state the procession would ever reach.

Cotton Wood Plantation, last stop for the baggage and treasury train of the Confederacy
(author collection)

Initially aiming toward Tallahassee and/or Madison in order to attain transport by west. A week later, angling further south, as news reached them of the further disintegration of the Confederacy; the surrender of General Joseph Johnston’s army in North Carolina. On May 22, the train found from Union papers captured in Gainesville by two of the party acting as scouts, that Johnston had indeed surrendered, that Davis had been captured in Georgia, and the other principal Confederate force east of the Mississippi River under General Richard Taylor had also capitulated.

That night the group camped at Cotton Wood, the plantation of David Levy Yulee, one of the two Confederate senators from Florida, himself not present. On the grounds was decided, after heated discussion, to disburse the remaining funds to the nine Confederates present. Thus, out of the $25,000 that remained of the original $35,000 (maintenance and other expenses of the multi-state trek had drained approximately $10,000 from the treasury), would be divided up in the following manner:

$6,790 would be held for the Davis family, which Clark would oversee until he could hand it over to next of kin of the Davis family. $1,940 would go to each of the Van Benthuysen brothers; Alfred and Jefferson Davis, Frank Emory, Tench Tilghman, W.E. Dickinson, J.W. Scott, W.S. Winder. Each of the above also received $55 for any future traveling expenses. To the scout Howard, that had preceded the convoy, went $975 and the same amount was distributed to a staff officer with the last name of Staffin. Five African-Americans that had assisted with the driving and maintenance also received $975.

With the money allocated, the Yulee’s were asked to store the treasure trove of papers. Mrs. Yulee gave the task to her son, Wickliffe, who secreted the baggage. He recorded the assignment:

“Mrs. Yulee…asked me if I could conceal a very valuable trunk where it could not be found….I informed her that I thought I could bury it in Charlie’s stable; Charlie was a Cuban Poney that was kept apart from the other horses, in a log cabin stable, to himself.

That night, after all the people were gone to bed but Mrs. Yulee, I turned the poney out of his stable, and dug a pit in the middle of his stable, and went with the wheelbarrow to the House, and took the trunk and buried it.”

Along with two other chests and an additional trunk, the personal trunk of Confederate President Jefferson Davis were buried in the Florida soil. After the deed, Captain Clark would remain in the general vicinity to ensure that no prying eyes had alerted Federal authorities as to the location of the buried treasure trove. After depositing in hiding his $1,940 portion of gold from the Confederate treasury he began his trip back to Baltimore, Maryland. The rest of the party having preceded Clark to gain their paroles, ensuring safe passage, back to their respective hometowns.

 

 

 

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3 Responses to “Ms. Yulee…asked me if I could conceal a very valuable trunk…”

  1. Harriett Condon says:

    Some of those Confederate Dollars went to a very entertaining purpose. Dear friend Chris Clark, direct descendant of Micajah Clark, asked us to help find a permanent home for several family items, one of which was the personal guest book of Jefferson and Varina Davis. We introduced him to Lee Shepherd, Curator of the Virginia Historical Society at that time. They were thrilled to be offered the opportunity to acquire it and one can see it today if requested. It was filled with well known Confederate Generals quotes, signatures, and drawings by Varina of each beloved friend.

    And Chris shared a childhood pasttime-playing with a trunk full of that old Confederate money.
    Worthless but great fun to throw around.

    • Phill Greenwalt says:

      Hey Harriett,

      Thanks for the comment and what a great follow-up to the post. Will have to make note to ask to see the personal guest book when next doing research at the VHS. Have a great evening!

  2. David Corbett says:

    Interesting that the teamsters were paid so much; not really what the modern zeitgeist would imagine. This would make an interesting expanded article.

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