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| Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Cindy A. Rose |


As Long as We Remember...

July 15, 2014

CSAs Bills of Credit

Harry M. Covert

The headline blared, “Middletown held for ransom – again.” Nope. Blaine’s Board of County Commissioners was not in the hot seat this time.


Bill Green’s photo was terrific. There was three-star Lt. Gen. Jubal Early astride his mount, pointing the finger at William Irving, rich Middletown burgess, portrayed by Don Hongell, demanding a ransom.


Historical memories can be exciting as the re-enactors have been finding. There was Mike Sipes in the saddle looking very much as General Early, born in Franklin County, Va., and one of Robert E. Lee’s key leaders along with Stonewall Jackson.


Let me applaud the News-Post for its correctness.


I always chuckle at Andy Griffith’s old line, “Save yore Confederate money boys, the South’s gonna rise again.”


For years, as a quip, I had fun using $100 Confederate bills as a notepad, long before the joy of electronic mail. It felt good using first-class U.S. stamps especially to those “nawthen” Yankee carpetbaggers who invaded the Commonwealth for fame, fortune and good living. Even here in the Free State.


So, now in the 153rd year of the commemoration of what many still refer to as the War of Northern Aggression or the War Between the States. A history buff can really get involved, even on hot weather weekends, with all of the “celebrations” scheduled through 2015. Frederick re-enactors are to be commended.


Let’s clarify, today’s insurgents of the Tea Party crowd should not be confused with the veterans of the – forgive me – Civil War.


The current commemorations brought to mind a recent visit to Reigate, Surrey, a beautiful historic market town in England and a neighborhood weekend barbecue. The food was terrific and the people made me feel at home, even the five red foxes – mother, daddy and young foxes – who watched us eat, waiting for scraps, which they received. They were not the least antsy or aggressive to humans.


These foxes had adopted the backyard of the hosts and were unbelievably tame, only afraid of a large white cat that kept them at bay. The fox family would frequently walk slowly around the flowers and shrubs, checking the availability of tasty morsels, even approaching the diners in the seats.


Across the table sat a delightful white-haired gentleman who introduced himself as Stephen Straker. “I heard you are a Yank?” he said and laughed. “No sir, I’m a Virginian.” I corrected with a smile. For the record, I’m a voting Marylander.


Mr. Straker said his family had had a long association with Virginia and the Confederate States of America. I was impressed.


He was right on the money.


Mr. Straker explained that among his prized family possessions were the actual printing plates of Confederate States of America currency in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. His forebears’ company contracted to print CSA currency back in 1861. The family business used great care and cunning to provide the paper currency, shipping to southern ports, through British Caribbean possessions.


Just how the Straker family firms were paid I didn’t find out, but I figured they traded for cotton and tobacco. They were enterprising businessmen in those days as well as today.


The first CSA dollar note was issued in April 1861 when the CSA was only two months old. According to experts, the currency was “not actually money, but bills of credit.” The paper was not secured by hard assets.


My stacks of $100 CSA notepapers have been long depleted. Before running out, I did try to use one of the bills to secure membership in the Sons of Confederate Veterans. I was refused. Had to pay with some U.S. Federal Reserve Notes containing pictures of Washington, Jefferson or Lincoln. None with Jefferson Davis. I still search for a $2 bill with Judah P. Benjamin, the CSA’s secretary of state.


Similar to my notepads, the CSA currency is worthless. Any real CSA currency existing today may be highly valuable. The most valuable, though, are those items that say, “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.”


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