My Grandfather and Confederate Gold

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The following
is a speech given to the Washington, Georgia Civil War Roundtable
on February 26, 2007.

I am deeply
honored to be here today in this wonderful town of Washington,
and I thank you for the chance to speak before such a distinguished
group of people. Claibourne has warned me that some of you all
are extremely knowledgeable about the War Between the States,
and to be careful not to make any mistakes because I will surely
get caught and be called on it. So please go easy on me.

Before I
begin I'd like to emphasize that while I am very proud of my ancestors,
I'm not bragging about anything. I can claim no personal distinction
for their heroism, which reflects what was common among the hopelessly
outnumbered, outsupplied but not outfought Confederate troops,
something in which we all take much pride.

Our ancestors
often ran low on food, ammunition, and other supplies, but never
on courage.

I write
and talk about all this because I am proud of our heritage and
committed to helping keep its memory alive and honored, amidst
the ongoing campaign to rewrite history and discredit the valor
and honor of the Confederate soldiers and their Cause. I know
that no one here today needs educating on this issue.

Here in Washington,
some very historic events have taken place, one of them involving
one of my ancestors, and I'd like to talk a little about that
today.

I
am very proud that my great grandfather, Andrew Jackson Moses,
Jr., of Sumter, S.C., and his four brothers fought for the Confederacy,
and Major Raphael Jacob Moses was their uncle, [having married
Eliza Moses, the sister of the Moses brothers' father, Andrew
Jackson Moses, Sr.]

We know firsthand,
from their letters, diaries, and memoirs, that they and their
compatriots were not fighting for slavery, as is so often alleged.
They were trying to defend themselves and their comrades, their
families, homes, and country from an often cruel invading army
that was trying to kill them, burn their homes and cities, and
destroy everything they had.

Raphael Moses
was a fifth-generation South Carolinian who in 1849 moved to Columbus,
Georgia, where he was a lawyer, planter, and owner of a plantation
he named "Esquiline." Moses' English ancestors came
to America during colonial days, one of them being his great,
great grandfather Dr. Samuel Nunez, fleeing the Inquisition. He
is credited with saving the newly-established, mosquito-infested
colony of Savannah, Georgia from being wiped out in 1733 by a
"fever," then thought to be yellow fever but which was
probably malaria.

Before the
War, Moses pioneered the commercial growing of peaches and plums
in Georgia, so it could thus be said that he is a major reason
Georgia is called The Peach State. Moses is reputed to have been
the first planter to ship and sell peaches outside of the South,
in 1851, before there was any through connection by railroad.
James C. Bonner's A
History of Georgia Agriculture, 1732–1860
, credits Moses
with being the first to succeed in preserving the flavor of shipped
peaches, by packing them in champagne baskets instead of pulverized
charcoal.

Moses knew
well and wrote in his memoirs about General Robert E. Lee (whom
he was with at Gettysburg) and other major Confederate figures.
The renowned Douglas Southall Freeman, in his authoritative work
Lee’s
Lieutenants
called Moses “…the best commissary officer
of like rank in the Confederate service.”

As General
James Longstreet’s chief commissary officer, Moses participated
in many of the major battles in the East, and was responsible
for supplying and feeding up to 54,000 troops, porters, and other
non-combatants. General Lee had forbidden him from entering private
homes in search of supplies in raids into Union territory (such
as the incursions into Pennsylvania), even when food and other
provisions were in painfully short supply.

Moses always
paid for what he took from farms and businesses, albeit in Confederate
tender.

Often while
seizing supplies, Moses encountered considerable hostility and
abuse from the local women, which he always endured in good humor,
and it became a source of much teasing from his fellow officers.

Moses always
acted honorably, compassionately, and as a gentleman. Once, when
a distraught woman approached Moses and pleaded for the return
of her pet heifer that had been caught up in a cattle seizure,
he graciously acceded.

The contrast
is striking between the humane Confederate policies and those
of the North. Union generals Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan regularly
burned and looted homes, farms, courthouses, churches, libraries,
and entire cities full of civilians, such as Atlanta and Columbia,
South Carolina, and most everything of value in between, later
engaging in the mass slaughtering of Native Americans in the West,
largely old men, women, and children in their villages, in what
we euphemistically call "The Indian Wars."

Moses' memoirs
contain some very interesting observations on the Battle of Gettysburg.
"…We lost the battle," laments Moses, "and then
came the retreat; the rain poured down in floods that night !
I laid down in a fence corner and near by on the bare earth in
an India rubber [tarp] lay General Lee biding the pelting storm."

In his memoirs,
Moses reveals that "General Longstreet did not wish to fight
the Battle of Gettysburg. He wanted to go around the hill, but
Lee objected on account of our long wagon and artillery trains."
Longstreet, as historian Ed Bearss notes, "knew what muskets
in the hands of determined troops could do," and felt that
the Union forces, holding the high ground, would have the same
advantage over his forces that the Confederates had over the Federals
at Fredericksburg. If his advice had been taken, it could have
changed the course of the War.

But Lee rejected
Longstreet's recommendation to swing his troops around the heights,
and instead ordered the attack on the center of the Union forces
at Cemetery Hill, saying of the Yankees, "I will whip them
here, or they will whip me." Honorable as always, after the
battle Lee took responsibility for the disaster, saying "All
this has been my fault." Longstreet, feeling that the ground
fought over had no military value, called that day "the saddest
of my life." Shelby Foote calls Lee's decision "The
mistake of all mistakes."

Interestingly,
the entire battle might have been avoided and the course of the
war changed if Longstreet's forces had not been forced to wait
for their reinforcements to arrive. Moses says that if the Confederates
had not been delayed near Cash Town for over a day waiting for
General Richard Stoddert Ewell's wagon train of supplies, "…I
do know that we could have marched easily from Chambersburg to
Gettysburg, in a day, and been there before the Union troops."

Moses’ three
sons also fought for the South, and one was killed at Seven Pines
in May, 1862 after performing acts of amazing valor — Lt. Albert
Moses Luria, the first Jewish Confederate to fall in battle.

He was killed
at age nineteen after courageously throwing a live Union artillery
shell out of his fortification before it exploded, thereby saving
the lives of many of his compatriots.

(The last
Confederate Jew to be killed was Major Moses’ nephew, Joshua Lazarus
Moses, of Sumter, South Carolina, the brother of my great grandfather.
Josh was killed in the battle of Fort Blakeley, Alabama, a few
hours after Lee surrendered, commanding the guns firing the last
shots in defense of Mobile. In this battle, Josh’s brothers Perry
and Horace were respectively wounded and captured.)

RUNNING
OUT OF FOOD

Prior to
Virginia's Battle of the Wilderness in May, 1864, Moses was having
more and more difficulty obtaining supplies, since farmers were
refusing to sell their crops because of increasing speculation
over prices. Moses decided to travel to Georgia, his major source
of supplies, to talk to the farmers: ["It occurred to me,
that if I could go to Georgia and speak to the people who had
sons, brothers, relatives and friends suffering for food, that
I could get supplies." Moses asked General Lee for a furlough
to go there and loosen up the pipeline, and Lee replied, "Major,
I would approve it but really we can't spare you, you know."
But when Moses explained his plans, Lee responded, "Well,
Major, if you think you can do anything for my poor boys, go and
may God crown you effort with success."]

When he arrived
in Georgia in mid-1864, Moses found few willing and able to help
out.[ In his memoirs, he recalled a meeting where he spoke at
Temperance Hall in Columbus:

There were
about thirty persons present...When I last spoke at this hall,
it was to urge the people of Columbus to send their sons and
brothers to confront the hazards of war to redress their country's
wrongs. The house was full from pit to gallery with patriotic
citizens ready for the sacrifices asked. Now I come from those
near and dear to the people here to appeal to them for bread,
for the starving Army, and I am confronted by empty benches...

Travelling
next to southwest Georgia, Moses was "met there with a very
different spirit and had a very successful trip."] But while
there, the Confederate Commissary for the state died, and Moses
was appointed to fill the post.

Still, the
pressures on Moses to obtain and distribute supplies of food remained
relentless, and towards the end of the War, the situation had
become desperate.

THE FINAL
DAYS

Moses' account
of those final, chaotic days after Lee's surrender is filled with
stories of heroism and heartbreak, humor and tragedy. (There are
many conflicting accounts of this era; what follows is from Moses'
recollections.)

With the
defeat of the Confederate forces, the capital of Richmond was
abandoned in April, 1865, and the senior government officials
and their staff headed south, avoiding Union forces, and ending
up in Georgia.

Moses tells
of Mrs. Jefferson Davis awaiting her husband in Washington, Georgia,
where he arrived accompanied by his cabinet and "a train
containing gold and silver bullion."

Moses writes,

shortly
before [General Joseph E.] Johnston's surrender, I was ordered
to Washington, Wilkes County. Soon after, Davis and his cabinet
arrived there. Mrs. Davis met her husband in Washington. A train
containing gold and silver bullion accompanied the cabinet.
It was brought from Richmond banks. I was staying with General
Toombs… I remember seeing General [ Braxton] Bragg waiting under
an oak tree to get his $20.00.

I received
an order from General Johnston to provide 250,000 rations at
Augusta for the returning soldiers…and there arrange as best
I could with general Mollyneux [Molineux] who then occupied
Augusta with Federal troops, to protect me in furnishing the
troops as they passed through Augusta and to provide for the
sick and wounded in hospitals.

One of Moses'
stories describes the close escape from arrest by the Yankees
of his close friend, and resident of this area, General Robert
A. Toombs, a leading Georgia planter who served as the South's
first Secretary of State.

Moses was
in Washington with his son Israel Moses Nunez, called "Major,"
when, he writes, "…a cavalry man rode up coming from [War
Secretary] Breckenbrige [sic] and threw over the fence a sack
containing $5,000 in gold for his [Toombs'] personal use":

He [Toombs]
handed it to Major and told him to buy corn and provisions with
it and distribute it among the returning soldiers as they passed
through Washington, and my son did so use it…

Shortly afterwards,
Moses continues, "the government came to arrest [Toombs],
and my son Major met the officer between the gate and the house,
while [Toombs] escaped out of the back way, mounted his horse,
donned blue spectacles and after many hair-breath escapes, fled
to foreign parts, where his wife followed, and he lived with her
some time in Paris."

THE LAST
ORDER OF THE LOST CAUSE

About three
weeks after the war's end, as chief commissary for Georgia, Moses
carried out what is reputed to have been the last order of the
Confederacy. It involved safeguarding and delivering the Confederate
treasury's last $40,000 of silver and/or gold bullion (perhaps
$750,000 today).

(Although
the accounts are contradictory and confusing, it appears that
Moses paid $10,000 to the Quartermaster-General in Washington
[according to Avery, p. 326], and carried $30,000 in bullion to
Augusta.)

Carrying
out the order was no easy task, amidst the anarchy of defeat,
orderly government and military discipline having collapsed, and
lawless mobs of unruly, sometimes drunken former soldiers searching
desperately for food and money.

[The
Memoirs of Jefferson Davis
, written by his wife, contain
a letter written to Davis several years after the war by Acting
Secretary of Treasury, describing how he "directed him [an
acting treasurer] to turn the silver bullion over to Major Moses,
as it was too bulky and heavy to be managed by us in our then
condition; and I saw Moses putting it in a warehouse in Washington
[Georgia] before I left there. I also directed him to burn the
Confederate notes in the presence of General Breckinridge and
myself.]

The Acting
Treasurer, Captain M.H. Clark of Clarksville, Tennessee, described
the disposition of the Confederate bullion in a 13 January, 1882
interview with the Louisville Courier Journal:

Before
reaching town [Washington, Georgia], I was halted by Major R.J.
Moses, to turn over to him the specie [coins] which president
Davis, before he left, ordered to be placed at the disposal
of the Commissary Department, to feed the paroled soldiers and
stragglers passing through, to prevent their burdening a section
already stripped of supplies. I turned over to Major Moses the
wagons and silver bullion, and all of the escort except about
ten men.

The government's
final order was handed down at its last meeting, held in Washington,
Wilkes County, Georgia on 5 May, 1865, which according to Moses,
was attended, among others, by President Jefferson Davis, Secretary
of War John C. Breckinridge, and Major Moses. (It is unclear who
actually attended the meeting, with some accounts saying that
Breckinridge arrived after Davis departed.)

And then,
as "Confederate Veteran" observes, "…at last, in
the old Heard House in Washington, on Georgia soil, the Southern
Confederacy ceased to exist and passed into history."

That Last
order reads as follows:

Major R.J.
Moses, will pay $10,000, the amount of bullion appropriated
to Q.M. [quartermaster] Dept. by Sec. War to Maj. R.R. Wood.
By order of Q.M. Gen.

[signed]
W.F. Alexander, Maj. And Asst. to Q.M. Gen., 5 May, 1865, Washington

But the Confederacy
did not die a quiet death. "By early may, 1865, realizing
the war was lost, the major units of the Confederate Army had
surrendered," author Mel Young writes in Last
Order of the Lost Cause
, the authoritative published account
for this historic event.

“Individual
Confederate soldiers, groups of soldiers, and small units were
trying to walk, ride, or move in groups back to their homes.
They were in tattered uniforms, hungry and mostly penniless.
Confederate General [Joseph E. ] Johnston, requested of President
Davis that 250,000 rations be obtained to be distributed to
these discharged soldiers.

In accepting
this responsibility, Moses, now 53 years old, showed the usual
courage and tenacity for which he was known. Facing down a turbulent
mob of former Confederates who intercepted and threatened to storm
his train in Barnett, Georgia, Moses successfully carried out
the order to deliver the remaining Confederate gold bullion to
help and provision the troops struggling to get back home,

In his classic
work, The
History of the State of Georgia, From 1850–1881
, I.W.
Avery describes the situation thusly:

Major Moses
had a stirring time with his perilous treasure. It was, of course,
known immediately that he had it in his possession. The war
had unhinged men's ideas and principles. But still more demoralizing
of the public conscience was the desperate stress of the people,
coupled with the knowledge that the Confederate cause was dead,
and that this specie was ownerless and a probable treasure trove
and booty for the Federal soldiery. Maj. Moses, with punctilious
honor, was resolved to part with it only with his life and to
deliver it according to orders in fulfillment of its kindly
mission.

Moses biggest
problem was protecting the bullion in his charge from unruly soldiers:
"The town was full of stragglers, cavalry men who had just
been paid $20.00 each. They had arms but no consciences, and the
little taste they had of specie provoked their appetites…"

Moses writes
in his memoirs that General Robert Toombs gave me the names of
ten of the Washington Artillery, all gentlemen well known to him":

I agreed
to pay them $10.00 each in gold to guard it that night and go
with me to Augusta. I then took a squad of them and destroyed
all the liquor I could find in the shops. I then got part of
a keg of powder and put it in a wooden building that was unoccupied
and put the boxes of bullion in the same room, placed my guard
outside and around the building, and gave out that I had laid
a train of powder to the outside, and if the guard was forced,
the train would be fired.

The next
morning, Moses had the bullion loaded onto a train filled with
some 200 soldiers and "29 cavalry men," and when the
train was just outside of its destination of Barnett, the trouble
started:

…the conductor,
a nice old man, came to our car and said, "Major, from
the talk I reckon the boys are going to u2018charge' your car when
we reach Barnett." Charge meant to attack it and take the
specie and divide it among themselves….I held a council with
my guard, and I told them that if they would stand by me, keep
cool, fire (and reload) through an opening we would make in
the doors, I thought we could successfully defend the car, but
they were not ready to do this, we would be overcome.

They consulted
together, and I was afraid they would conclude "To join
the Cavalry," but they finally said, "We will stand
by you as long as there is a chance to save the specie."

Avery writes
that "These desperate men, a reckless mob, coolly demanded
the money, as being as much theirs as anyone's, and they were
armed to enforce the demand."

Showing
amazing courage, Moses then went out "among the men, who
were as thick as blackbirds," and told them that "every
dollar of the bullion would be devoted to feeding their fellow
soldiers, and caring for the wounded in the hospitals at Augusta…that
they might killed me and my guard, but they would be killing men
in the discharge of a duty in behalf of their comrades ! That
if they killed us, it would be murder, while if we killed any
of them in defending the bullion, which we certainly should endeavor
to do, we would be justified, because the killing would be in
self defense and in a discharge of a sacred duty."

When two
soldiers in the crowd spoke up and vouched for Moses, "the
crowd began to disperse," but unfortunately, the train he
was meeting was over an hour late. "…the billows of the seas
rise and fall when disturbed by the winds, and this restless crowd
at the depot would surge and press up against the door of my box[car]
trying to get in, and I would have to threaten them and appeal."

Avery writes,
in a page titled "Attempted Rape of the Bullion," that
"Major Moses remonstrated quietly and argumentatively with
the menacing men surrounding him, and appealed to their honor
and patriotism and stated his orders. At length it is seemed nothing
could avert the ravishment of this specie."

"At
last, the storm seemed to be subsiding," writes Moses, when
a fellow officer warned him that some men were about to charge
his boxcar, led by a young man from Tennessee with a wound on
his cheek. Again showing remarkable courage, Moses approached
the man and said to him, "You appear to be a gentleman and
bear an honorable wound":

I then
read my orders to him, explained my position, and how trying
it was to be forced perhaps to take life and lose my own in
the performance of a duty that I could not voluntarily avoid.
I told him I had a guard and some friends in the crowd, but
we would be outnumbered unless I could enlist men like himself
in our behalf. ..

I said,
"I appeal to you in the spirit of that honor that belongs
to all brave men, to assist me in the discharge of this trust."

He seemed
embarrassed, but said, "I don't think you will have any
further trouble," and I did not.

Finally,
Moses and his men were able to catch the train to Augusta and
deliver the goods, obtaining a receipt for the delivered bullion
from Major and Quartermaster R.R. Wood dated 5 May, 1865.

The Atlanta
Journal of 6 February, 1927, in an article entitled "Last
official Writing of the Southern Confederacy," reproduced
this receipt, calling it "…the last official writing ever
issued by the Confederate administration":

It is as
historic a curiosity as the world affords, this last

flicker
of a mammoth revolution. Such thoughts cluster around it as
would make a grand epic…the paper thus testifying to the honesty
and promptness of the disbursing officer of a great shattered
government — an administration gone down hopelessly in a grand
ruin.

[The complete
story is told in Mel Young's Last
Order of the Lost Cause
, and Robert Rosen's authoritative,
The
Jewish Confederates
, and originally in I.W. Avery's
History of the State of Georgia from 1850--1881.]

In his memoirs,
Moses wrote: "I have never turned my back on an enemy that
was attacking me, or failed to forgive one as soon as he cried
for quarter. I can also say that I never deserted a friend…"

And the
Atlanta Journal in 1928 summed up Moses' career thusly: "At
the beginning of the war, although overage, he hastened to the
defense of his beloved Southland, offering his fortune, his service,
his sons — everything save his honor — a willing sacrifice on
the altar of his country."

After the
war, Raphael Moses became an outspoken critic of the Reconstruction
government in Georgia, calling its members "spies, carpetbaggers,
a class of politicians, men without character who came from the
North in swarms seeking whom they might devour." He was elected
to the Georgia House of Representatives and was named chairman
of the Judiciary Committee.

On 3 April,
1867, Robert E. Lee, then President of Washington and Lee University
in Lexington, Virginia, wrote to Moses asking him, and other prominent
men of the South, to help heal the wounds of a divided nation.

Moses remained
a loyal Confederate until the very end. When he died in 1893,
his calling card still read, "Major Raphael J. Moses, C.S.A."

Moses and
his fellow soldiers typified many of the brave, beleaguered Confederates
who honorably served their country, facing overwhelming, indeed
hopeless odds, with loyalty and valor. That terrible war ended
fourteen decades ago, but the memory of those soldiers should
never be forgotten.

Thank you
again for the opportunity to discuss and remember some of those
events here with you today.

March
9, 2007

Lewis
Regenstein [send him
mail]
, a native Atlantan, is descended on his
Mother's side from the Moses family of Georgia and South Carolina,
whose patriarch, Myer Moses, participated in the American Revolution.
Almost three-dozen members of the extended family fought for the
Confederacy, and participated in most of the major battles and campaigns
of the War. At least nine of them, largely teenagers, died in defense
of their homeland, and included the first and last Confederate Jews
to fall in battle.

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