"To the Victors go the Spoils..."

Posted on 4/23/2013

In an article in the Heritage Auctions newsletter Wendell Wolka provides a complete list of military officers who appeared on United States paper money.

Everyone knows who won the Civil War. And everyone knows that the victors reap the rewards of their success. The terms of peace resulted in Reconstruction that went on for more than a decade after Appomattox, with federal troops occupying most of the southern states and military governors, in many cases, having a say in how southern states conducted their business, finances, and even politics.

However, there was also one subtle thing that must have irritated a good many Southerners who had fought for their independence. There was the little matter of who appeared on the paper money that was in everyday circulation. Eight Union Generals and one Admiral appeared on silver certificates, coin notes, and legal tender notes between the late 1880s and the early twentieth century. Some, notably Admiral David G. Farragut, Major General William Tecumseh Sherman, Major General Joseph King Mansfield, and Major General George Gordon Meade, appeared on denominations so large that the average person would probably never encounter them. But others appeared on low denomination notes that surely would have had wide spread circulation in all parts of the reunified, post war nation. To some this must have seemed like a "na-na-na-na-nana" taunt of who won and who lost.

Following is a complete list of military officers who appeared on United States paper money and a brief synopsis of their military careers. The rarest of the portraits is seen on the $1000 Treasury Notes. Just five notes from three Friedberg numbers are available to collectors. Two of those examples, a Series 1890 and Series 1891, representing the two types for the denomination will be available in the Central States Currency Platinum Night Session the evening of Friday, April 26th. The notes are estimated at $1.25 Million and $2 Million respectively.

Admiral David G. Farragut - $100 Coin Note, series 1890-1891 (issued ca. 1890-1893) Farragut was the first officer to hold the rank of Admiral in the United States navy. His most significant engagements were the capture of New Orleans in 1862 and the battle of Mobile Bay in 1864 which immortalized (in paraphrased form) his order of "Damn the torpedoes – full speed ahead!"

Lieutenant General and later General of the Army Ulysses S. Grant – Series 1886, 1891, and 1896 $5 Silver Certificates, Series 1899 $1 Silver Certificate (issued ca. 1886 – 1927) Although Grant is always depicted in civilian clothing as President, he was obviously known as the General whose victories at Shiloh, Vicksburg, the Wilderness, and Appomattox decided the war.

Major General Winfield Scott Hancock – Series 1886 $2 Silver Certificate (issued ca. 1886-1891) A Presidential candidate in 1880, Hancock is most remembered for his exploits at the battles of Fredericksburg and Gettysburg.

Major General Joseph K. Mansfield – Series 1874-1880 $500 Legal Tender Note (issued ca. 1874-1912) Mansfield was mortally wounded at the battle of Antietam while leading his troops and died on September 18, 1862.

Major General James B. McPherson – Series 1890-1891 $2 Coin Note (issued ca. 1890-1898) McPherson served at the battles of Shiloh and Vicksburg and was killed during the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864.

Major General George G. Meade – Series 1890-1891 $1000 Coin Note (issued ca. 1890-1897) Also known as "Old Snapping Turtle" due to his reputation for having a temper. While Meade played a major role in a number of battles throughout the war, his singular achievement was his victory at the Battle of Gettysburg, considered by most as the turning point of the war.

Major General Philip H. Sheridan – Series 1890-1891 $10 Coin Note, 1896 $5 Silver Certificate (issued ca. 1890-1905) Sheridan was a capable cavalry officer whose most notable achievements occurred in 1864 when his forces destroyed the economic infrastructure of the Shenandoah Valley and in 1865 during the Appomattox campaign that essentially ended the war.

Major General William Tecumseh Sherman – Series 1891 $500 Coin Note (issued ca. 1897-1898) While Sherman participated in a number of battles, he is best remembered for his conquest of Atlanta and the ensuing "March to the Sea" which hastened the end of Confederate resistance in the southeast. His selection for such a large denomination suggests that the use of his portrait would perhaps have been too controversial on a lower denomination note circulating in the South.

Major General George Thomas – Series 1890-1891 $5 Coin Note (issued ca. 1890-1905) Thomas was a methodical General who provided a critical defensive performance during the Union defeat at Chickamauga (where he earned the nickname "The Rock of Chickamauga") followed by decisive victories at Missionary Ridge and Nashville. Not being one for self-promotion, Thomas did not receive a lot of notoriety either during or after the war.

This is a guest article. The thoughts and opinions in this piece are those of their author and are not necessarily the thoughts of the Certified Collectibles Group.

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