Saturday, July 28, 2007

Rebel and the Rose: James Semple, Julia Gardiner Tyler, and the Lost Confederate Gold

by Wesley Millett, Gerald White

From the publisher:
In April 1865 the Civil War was over for most Americans, including the more than 600,000 soldiers, North and South, who died from wounds or disease. Confederate President Jefferson Davis and much of his administration had fled Richmond, accompanied by an escort of cavalry, various hangers-on, and all that was left of the treasury.

With the Davis party was a navy paymaster, James S. Semple. In Washington, Georgia, a small town untouched by the war, he was entrusted with $86,000 in gold coin and bullion (about $1 million in today's money) and disappeared into the night. The treasure was secured in the false bottom of a carriage.

The Rebel and the Rose reveals for the first time what happened to the Confederate gold, until now a mystery. However, this historically accurate story is more than the accounting of a missing treasury. It is the story of a man on the run who stashes the gold and seeks to escape capture by fleeing through a devastated South swarming with Federal troops.

After hiding in the Okefenokee Swamp for months, Semple eventually reaches Nassau. Ultimately, he takes refuge in the North with Julia Gardiner Tyler, the widow of former U.S. President John Tyler and stepmother of Semple's estranged wife, Letitia. Semple is drawn to Julia, and she to him, by circumstances of war and its aftermath.

Unable to accept the end of the Confederacy and Union domination of the South, Semple collaborates with other disenfranchised leaders exiled in Canada, often traveling between the U.S. and Canada in clandestine activities under the alias of Allen S. James. Whenever he can travel to New York City, he spends as much time as he can with Julia and her family.

The Rebel and the Rose focuses on the symbiotic bond that develops between Semple ("the Rebel") and Tyler ("the Rose"). With well-documented detail, Wesley Millett and Gerald White examine Semple's growing passion for Julia, the fury of Letitia over her husband's relationship with the former first lady (and her stepmother), and the concerted attempt by members of the Tyler family, even today, to disguise the history of the Semples and the Tylers.

Wesley Millet has been a researcher and writer for more than twenty-five years. His articles appear regularly in more than a dozen national and international publications. Gerald White is a retired air force colonel and instructor at the Army War College. Before his retirement, he held senior leadership positions in air force intelligence. He is the author of several books on recent U.S. military operations.