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Civil War Money


American Civil War Money
from Fayette, Jefferson County, Mississippi

Before the American Civil War 1861-1865 the only legal tender was specie, gold and silver coins from the United States Mint. When the Southern states seceded these coins, and even copper pennies, disappeared from circulation into private hordes as a hedge against the uncertainties of wartime. The Confederate government issued no coinage and generally declined to print notes smaller than five dollars, so the state and local authorities filled this vacuum with fractional currency.

These bills were only redeemable at the County Treasurer’s office in Fayette and were worthless outside the immediate area. Currency traders offered pennies on the dollar to exchange notes on distant places of uncertain financial status, and often banks would not accept them at all. The local citizens took them as money because there was nothing better.

First series, 1862.

The first series of Fayette bills were issued Thursday, April 24, 1862, shortly after the disaster of Shiloh (April 6 and 7) and while a siege of New Orleans was daily expected (the city fell unexpectedly April 25.)

Typeset locally in Fayette or Rodney on tissue-thin light blue paper, with handwritten dates, these notes testify to haste and poverty. The bills state “The County of Jefferson will pay to Bearer, in Current Funds [whatever those might be] at the Treasurer's office, the sum of” the face amount.

10¢ typeset, brown overprint (catalog Leggett #1)
Signed by G. A. Guilminot, County Clerk,
and Wm. Holmes for the County Commission.

50¢ typeset, blue overprint (#5)
Signed by G. A. Guilminot, County Clerk,
and Joseph Dunbar, President of the County Commission.

$5 typeset, red overprint, serial number 6 (#10)
Signed by Guilminot and Dunbar.

Similar typeset bills for 25¢, $1, $3 also issued.

Second series, 1863.

The second series was issued almost a year later, Monday, February 23, 1863. By this time the county had adjusted to the loss of markets in Memphis and New Orleans, and the authorities could plan ahead and order from printer W. R. Robertson in Mobile. The county's finances had improved, and these notes declare “The County of Jefferson promises to pay to Bearer in Confederate funds at the Treasurer's office, the sum of” the face amount.

50¢ two schoolboys (#6)
This specimen never issued.

$5 ripe cotton boll (#9)
Signed by Guilminot and Dunbar.

$10 Ceres goddess of harvest (#11)
Signed by Guilminot and Dunbar.

There was no Third Series, as United States forces took over the county in late summer 1863. These six notes, with the three typeset notes mentioned but not shown, make the complete set of wartime Fayette money.

Reference: L. Chandler Leggett, Mississippi Obsolete Paper Money and Scrip (Iola, Wisc.: Krause Publications, 1975.)

Bruce D. Liddell,
Birmingham AL

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August 15, 2002

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