Share This Article

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

by Wesley Millett and Gerald White, Cumberland House Publishing, 2008, $24.95

Battles, personalities, causes, politics, social aspects—variations on these facets of the Civil War have been the subjects of successive generations of books, albeit for a demand that seems equally unceasing. One cannot but wonder, however, what remains to be said of the conflict that is new. Then, sure enough, someone manages to provide an answer. The product of 12 years of research by authors Wesley Millett and Gerald White, including some detective work following up on clues contained in seemingly unrelated letters,The Rebel and the Rose seeks to explain what happened to the gold in the Confederate treasury.

The thread that led the authors to reconstruct the events following the collapse of the Confederate government came from correspondences from Rebel navy paymaster James A. Semple, who was entrusted by President Jefferson Davis with all that remained of his treasury: $86,000 in gold coins and bullion. Hiding it in the false bottom of a carriage, Semple and Edward M. Tidball left Washington, Ga., to embark on a mission to help the defeated South by any means—including assistance to the Irish Fenian Brotherhood’s scheme to invade Canada, in hopes of exacerbating the already strained relations between the United States and Great Britain. Constantly on the run, Semple found sanctuary in the Staten Island home of Julia Gardiner Tyler, widow of President John Tyler, and the object of his affections in the months to come.

The Rebel and the Rose offers the Civil War buff with something decidedly different—a tale of postwar intrigue, the travails of the defeated and a love affair that would make a page-turner of a novel. The bonus lies in the likelihood, as one examines the evidence, that this tale is true.


Originally published in the May 2009 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here