A new novel by Civil War historian and North Key Largo resident Michael Kenneth Smith is delving into the Confederacy’s hidden caches of gold entrusted to Jefferson Davis, which were lost or stolen after the Civil War.
On April 2, 1865, General Robert E. Lee informed his commander in chief, Jefferson Davis, that troops in Northern Virginia could no longer protect Richmond. The president of the Confederacy, being advised to evacuate the capital, fled to Danville, Virginia. After Lee’s surrender on April 9, Davis continued into the South where he was eventually captured by Union troops.
For 155 years, tensions between the former Confederate and Yankee states have persisted. And so has the legend of the Confederate treasury — hidden caches of gold entrusted to Davis that were lost or stolen after the Civil War.
Smith creates a richly layered story surrounding this fabled treasure in his latest novel, “In The Shadow of Gold: A Tale of the Confederate Treasure.” Meet Yancey Arvindale. Pressured into serving with the Confederate Navy by his domineering father, the seasick-prone young man is relieved to be reassigned to the Danville Railroad supply train at the dawn of April 1865. His duties include loading and guarding heavy boxes, some of which are marked Richmond Bank of the South.
With a bit of snooping, he learns the contents: “hard assets” being delivered to Jefferson Davis for safekeeping. Digging further by sneaking through loose floorboards, Yancey discovers more boxes filled with gold coins. When the reality of Confederate defeat hits, he starts to ponder: If the Confederacy no longer exists, whom does the Confederate treasury belong to?
After a lifetime of being discounted and bullied by his older brothers and father, Yancey seizes the opportunity to do something to prove his value as a man — and secure his future independence. At each stop along the train’s route, he slips out and buries a box of gold. When Yancey is caught in the act, he lands in jail and then nearly loses his life to a brutal beating. He is saved by the kindness of strangers — a camp of runaway slaves grappling with their newfound status as free Americans.
While recovering, Yancey finds a larger purpose for his wealth — helping others in need, especially escaped Black slaves — plus something unexpected and precious: true love.
The novel can be purchased on Amazon.