A Short History on Confederate Money

By: Johnny Kicklighter


In 1860, Christopher G. Memminger was given the task to organize the Confederate treasury. Memminger was born in Germany on January 9, 1803 and his mother and grandparents immigrated to Charleston, SC shortly after his father's death. Memminger was eventually adopted by the future governor of SC, Thomas Bennett.

After studying law, Memminger entered politics and became a member of the SC state legislature in 1836. He was responsible for writing the Constitution of the Confederate States of America as a member of the Confederate Provincial Congress. Memminger became Secretary of the CSA Treasury on Feb 21, 1861 but resigned on July 18, 1864 amid criticism for the CSA's deteriorating economy.

When the Confederacy occupied the federal mints at New Orleans, LA, Dahlonega, GA,and Charlotte, NC they discovered these facilities didn't have enough bullion to mint coins. They attempted to issue a half-dollar coin and produced four prototypes. The inability of the CSA to coin money was intensified by people hoarding coins and the bank failures that occurred following secession. The government began to issue paper money but this resulted in rapid inflation. Attempts by the CSA to curb inflation were unsuccessful.

Their financial difficulties got worse when counterfeit Confederate notes printed in the North begin to show up in the South. As a deterrent, the Confederate government made counterfeiting a capital crime, punishable by death. Samuel C. Upham of Philadelphia is credited with being the most famous of all the counterfeiters of Confederate currency. Upham produced lithographed notes as Confederate currency facsimiles and mementos of the war. Each note was marked in the margin identifying it as a facsimile. However, purchasers of the notes begin to trim off the margin and use it as genuine currency. Eventually, Upham produced currency without the margin notes selling them for pennies on the dollar.

The South issued anywhere from one to two billion dollars in paper money. This number did not include the amount issued in bonds and the currency issued by the individual states, counties, cities, companies and banks. The CSA had hoped to obtain European loans and finance the war by the sale of cotton abroad. However, the Union blockade inhibited the export of cotton. Toward the end of the war, Confederate currency became worthless. Ironically, many issues of Confederate currency are very valuable today as collectables.

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Johnny Kicklighter is a member of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans, Lt. George E. Dixon Camp # 1962, Belleville, Illinois. The Sons of Confederate Veterans honor ancestry through the preservation of history and heritage. Johnny is a collector of Confederate currency.

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