Original February 17, 1864 issue five-dollar Confederate note in a vintage 16” by 12” frame with a poem by Sidney A. Jonas. Shortly after the Civil War ended, Major Jonas, late of General Stephen D. Lee’s staff, made his way to Richmond hoping to find transportation to his home in Aberdeen, Mississippi. Although he and his companions were broke, the sympathetic owner of the Powhatan hotel gave the former Confederates lodging for the night. While a guest at the Powhatan Jonas wrote a poem that came to be loved throughout the South, a mournful dirge to the lost Confederacy known by the simple title “Lines on the Back of a Confederate Note.” Years later Jonas wrote an account of how the poem came to be written, which was published in Volume 14 of Watson’s Magazine.
“Among the guests of the hotel was a vaudeville troupe hailing from Philadelphia, and they were very kind to the ‘Johnnie Rebs,’ as they called us. It happened that among the federal captures was a carload of unfinished Confederate notes, chiefly of large denomination, with backs blank, and these became scattered among the Yanks. Miss Annie Rush, one of the leading actresses, came into possession of quite a ‘bunch’ of this embryo money, and she brought the bills to our lounging room, distributing them with the request that each would ‘write her a sentiment as a souvenir.’ I had some little standing among the boys as a ready scribbler, and I think I wrote all the ‘sentiments’ for the gang on scratch paper, each one transcribing his offering upon the note blank allotted him. Upon my bill I wrote the lines that unwittingly struck a patriotic chord and ‘will not down.’ If I had chosen from the lot I would possibly have taken one of the other poems for mine, as time had not yet given sacred tinge to things Confederate. Among those present when the lines were written were Capt. A.B. Schell, now of Louisville, the gallant commander of Cheatham’s Sharpshooters; Capt. D.L. Sublett, late of Chattanooga, ordinance officer; Major Claire, I think of Johnson’s staff; Mr. Sublett of Virginia and others whose names I do not now recall. Of course I did not appreciate my work, writers seldom do, and would have forgotten it but for the fact that the recipient gave it, or a copy of it, to the New York Metropolitan Record, then a Southern sympathizing weekly that had a tremendous circulation South, where it appeared a few months after the war over my signature, and headed ‘Something Too Good to Be Lost.’ Since then it has appeared one or more times in almost every paper or magazine in the South; in many Northern papers, even in the Congressional Library Almanac, and in foreign prints and books of war poems, and in nine cases out of ten as anonymous, or attributed to, or claimed by others.”
Inventory Number: CON 273 / SOLD