"Strange Histories": A Cultural History of the Legend of Lost Confederate Gold in Washington, Georgia Open Access

Moore, Emily Elizabeth (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/hx11xf69w?locale=en


The legend of lost Confederate gold in Washington, Georgia has persisted since it was stolen on the night of May 24th, 1865. The story lives on in personal diaries, town tourism materials, treasure tale folklore, treasure hunting manuals, conspiracy theories, and family memory. This thesis seeks to examine how and why the robbery is understood as a meaningful event. In the aforementioned sources, the gold robbery has been construed as a reminder of bitter defeat, a charming feature of a small Southern town, a captivating treasure tale, an artifact waiting to be found, proof of the Confederacy's imminent return, and a source of pride for a prominent black family. Collective memory of the gold and its disappearance is ultimately intertwined with memory of the Civil War, and the nostalgia, emotion, and identity involved in creating remembrance. The gold - both the idea of it and its physical existence - represents a diverse array of ideas of what it means to not only preserve, but also perpetuate the history of the Civil War.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1. From Richmond to Washington and Beyond: The Gold's Journey South 4

2. A Legend is Born: Initial Interpretations of the Robbery 12

3. "A Casket Full of Precious Memoirs": The Town of Washington's Conception of its History 31

4. "A Special Kind of Treasure In Itself": The Treasure Folktale and the Treasure Hunting Community 44

5. The South Will Rise Again: A Conspiracy Theory Concerning the Gold's Whereabouts 60

6. "I Just Know": A Family Legend 80

Conclusion 93

Bibliography 95

Appendix 107

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