The Antietam Institute recently helped facilitate the donation of four Confederate notes to the Sharpsburgh Museum of History. We received an email in late April from Mr. Larry Lauer stating that he had a number of Confederate notes and wanted to donate them to an organization for preservation. The notes he had were $100, $50 $10 and $5. They were dated from 1861 ($50) 1862 ($100) 1863 ($5) and 1864 ($10).
Mr. Lauer said the the notes had been given to him by an aunt in 1965 when he was 16 years old. April 9th of that year was the centennial anniversary of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox. The centennial was a “big deal nationally with lots of activities around it”, he stated. Mr. Lauer was very interested in the Civil War reading books by historian Bruce Catton, who wrote “A Stillness at Appomattox” and others. His aunt also gave him a few older books about the Civil War to encourage his interest. Mr. Lauer donated a 1965 5¢ Appomattox commemorative stamp as well. It was one of the five Civil War Centennial Series stamps issued between 1961 and 1965.
Although he is not a collector, Mr. Lauer researched the notes and said from his understanding the bills from 1861 ($50) and 1862 ($100) are rarer because fewer of them were printed then in the later war years. All of the bills were printed in Richmond on rice paper which is thin and brittle. They are hand signed by different people and some are numbered and dated by hand.
The Confederate paper money was called “Graybacks” to distinguish them from the Union bills which were called “Greenbacks”. When the Army of Northern Virginia marched north, they gave these “Graybacks” to locals when they confiscated food and live stock to support the army on the move. These payments were essentially worthless, because they could not be redeemed for gold until after the war. The Union armies did the same thing. Maryland, being a border state, had soldiers from both armies fighting and marching through the region throughout the war, so both “Graybacks” and “Greenbacks” were not uncommon in local areas.
Once the Confederate notes arrived, the Institute coordinated with Ed Beeler, Executive Director of the Sharpsburgh Museum of History, to receive them. The museum will display the notes in a new exhibit interpreting the Civil War that emphasizes the struggle and hardships the civilians of Sharpsburg faced during the war.
We want to thank Larry Lauer for his generous donation to the Sharpsburgh Museum of History and are thrilled that the Institute was able to assist in making this happen. We look forward to seeing the exhibit at the museum.