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Legend has it that in 1863, just before the outbreak of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Union Army dispatched a wagon train filled with gold that would be used to pay Union soldiers. The wagon train departed from Wheeling, West Virginia, and made it St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania. At some point after that, however, the shipment of gold disappeared.
. . .
He claims that the lost shipment contained 52 bars of gold, each weighing 50 pounds (others say that the wagon train was carrying just 26 bars), but was unable to dig for the treasure because the Dents Run site sits on state land.
“There’s no doubt in my mind it’s down there,” Parada told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2008. “I’m not going to quit until it’s dug up.”
Just as the Revolutionary War prompted the Continental Congress to issue paper currency, the financing of the Civil War provided the catalyst for the continuing evolution of U.S. currency. In 1861, the U.S. Treasury issued its first paper currency since the Continentals--Demand notes. They were printed in $5, $10, and $20 denominations, redeemable in coin on demand. Demand notes were also called "greenbacks" because their reverse sides were printed in green ink. Although Demand notes were no longer printed after 1862, they're still valid today, redeemable in current cash at face value. Demand notes were replaced by Legal Tender notes, which were issued in denominations ranging from $1 to $10,000. To save metals during the Civil War, Legal Tender notes were originally backed by faith in the government, rather than gold or silver. In 1879, the U.S. Treasury began redeeming Legal Tender notes for coin. They were issued until 1966 and are still redeemable today at face value.
Widespread hoarding of coins and the need to divert metals toward the war effort created a shortage of coins during the Civil War. Paper tickets, stamps, and bills were frequently substituted, but the scarcity was so great that Congress authorized the issuance of "paper coins" as a temporary "fractional currency." From 1862 to 1876, the federal government issued more than $368,000,000 in fractional currency in
three- to fifty-cent denominations. Called "shinplasters," these paper coins were much smaller in size than our existing currency. After the Civil War, fractional currency was no longer needed and Congress stopped issuing fractional currency in 1876.
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