Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Buried treasure…

Lee issued General Orders Numbered 72 admonishing his soldiers from plundering Northern civilians and his order was respected. Lee insisted that his army behave more “virtuous” than their Northern counterparts.

In contrast Georgia's civilian population endured the brunt of Sherman's March, suffering every depredation imaginable as Sherman vowed to "make Georgia stand up and howl" as punishment for her participation in the Confederacy. And punish Georgia his troops did, carrying on a campaign of terror and destruction that involved rape, looting, murder, and the burning of countless homes, plantations, and public buildings.

Georgia residents in the path of Sherman's March learned very quickly to protect their possessions, including livestock and food, since Sherman's army was under orders to "live off the countryside." More importantly, Georgians became quite adept at hiding their valuables (gold, silver, coins, jewelry, silverware, heirlooms, etc.) since these possessions were often the first items stolen from them.

All of this depredation resulted in a proliferation of treasure caches along the route of Sherman's March. These included small caches on the order of what we know today as "posthole banks" to medium-sized troves containing hundreds of dollars in silver and gold coin, to large treasures buried by wealthy land or plantation owners. Some of the latter contained the equivalent of thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.

Granted, many of these treasure caches were recovered by those who buried them after the passing of Sherman's columns of "bummers." But conversely, many of these hurriedly buried troves were never recovered for any number of reasons, some of which should come readily to mind considering the overall circumstances of the time.

Photo: Madison, GA is filled with antebellum mansions that were spared from destruction during Sherman's March to the Sea during the War, this is one of them.

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