2013-08-22 / News

Dr. Mark Waters to speak on ‘Midnight Raid at Chennault’

Probably the most interesting Civil War story taking place in Lincoln County was that of the Confederate Gold.

Many joke about finding the gold, but what are the facts? What really happened to the Confederate Gold? How did Graball Road get its name? How much of the Confederate Treasury was paid out to Union soldiers in disguise? What happened at the Moss House on Graball Road? Why did it take until 1893 to write the last chapter to this story? And what do we NOT know?

The next talk in the Lincoln County Historical Society’s History in the Park lecture series is entitled “Midnight Raid at Chennault” and will address these questions. Dr. Mark Waters will cover this topic the evening of 5 September at 7 pm at the Lincoln County Historical Park.

“Midnight Raid at Chennault” is a discussion of the raid that took place near Chennault in northern Lincoln County on May 25, 1865, where approximately $250,000 worth ($5M in today’s value) of gold and silver coin that had traveled with the Confederate Treasury to Washington, Ga., was successfully stolen by local citizens and returning Confederate soldiers. The original amount of $450,000 belonged to six Richmond, Va., banks and was traveling under federal guard on the way to Abbeville, S.C., for shipment back to Richmond by rail. The party had stopped for the night near Chennault before crossing the Savannah on a pontoon bridge near what is now known as Hester’s Ferry. The mostly gold coin was stored in 40 wooden kegs and was traveling in 5 wagons guarded by just two sergeants, five privates, and five teamsters. A portion of the funds was recovered the following day as $40,000 worth of coin was found littering the ground in the vicinity of the raid and on trails leading from the robbery site. In addition, a little over $70,000 was recovered from local residents and robbers. What happened, what was recovered and what was not is detailed in the presentation.

Dr. Marshall P. Waters III (Mark) is a native of Miami, Florida but he can trace his heritage back five generations in Wilkes County, Ga., to a Revolutionary War soldier who received a land grant for his service. Dr. Waters’ career has had dual paths with both military and civilian branches. He enlisted in the Naval Reserve while he was still just 16 years old and served on the USS Saratoga as an Aerographer’s Mate, achieving certification as an Aviation Flight Forecaster under Federal Aviation Administration guidelines. He was commissioned as an Ensign Aeronautical Engineering Duty Officer in 1965 and changed his designator to Meteorology in 1971.

In his civilian life he attended the University of Georgia for his bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees. Following graduation, he did graduate work at Duke University under a National Science Foundation Fellowship in physics. After that, he variously taught mathematics, physics, and statistical analysis at the high school through graduate school levels. He then worked as a mathematician and later as a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Also during this period, he served as Commanding Officer of three different Naval Oceanog- raphy and Meteorology Reserve Units. In 1986, he was recalled to active duty in the Navy and served four years at the U.S. Naval Academy as Associate Professor of Meteorology. He subsequently served as Commanding Officer of the Naval Reserve Unit which directly supports the Oceanographer of the Navy. He retired from the Naval Reserve in 1996 as a Captain with over 39 years of enlisted and commissioned service.

In civilian life, he served as the Director of Ocean Products Center, National Ocean Service of NOAA and subsequently served as Deputy Director of the Marine Prediction Center of the National Weather Service. He retired from this position in 2001 after a career of over 39 years.

Currently Dr. Waters is the Chairman of the Planning Commission for the City of Washington and he is a member of a number of history-related organizations including the Sons of the American Revolution, the Georgia Historical Society (and its speaker’s bureau), the Washington-Wilkes Historical Foundation and he was a co-founder of the Washington Civil War Roundtable. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Georgia Civil War Heritage Trails. He has published a number of technical papers regarding the application and use of digital weather satellite data in meteorology and oceanography, but he especially enjoys Civil War history. He has also published a number of articles on the Confederate Treasury and the missing Richmond, Virginia bank assets. He has appeared on The History Channel “Brad Meltzer’s Decoded”, Georgia Public Television “Georgia Traveler”, and Turner South Broadcasting “Liars and Legends” commenting on these topics. He is married to Emilie Claire Johnson of Washington. They have three grown daughters and six grandchildren.

Lincoln County Historical Society President Gary Edwards states, “Earlier in the year Bob Young spoke to us about his fictional book “The Treasure Train” which is based on the story of the Confederate Gold. Bob gave Dr. Waters credit for bringing him up to speed on the history upon which his book is based. I think this wetted our appetite for the ground truth on this and our next talk is focused on the Lincoln County portions of the story. In fact when preparing for the previous talk I actually consulted one of Dr. Waters’ papers for my background. I’m really looking forward to his talk for the rest of the story.”

The “History in the Park” lectures are held at the Lincoln County Historical Park, 147 Lumber Street, Lincolnton, Ga. on the first Thursday of the month. Desserts, water, coffee and tea (and often even home-made ice cream) will be served. There is no admission fee, however donations to the Historical Society will be gladly accepted. For questions, contact Gary Edwards, President of the Lincoln County Historical Society, at (757) 831-9556.

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