Uncovering America's Heritage... Coin by Coin
Civil War Token (1863)
For most of us, April brings light-hearted thoughts of spring. Yet something very important happened long ago this month. In fact, if the events of April, 1865 had turned out differently, the United States might not be the country you know today. I'm Nero the Mint Police Dog, and I'd like to tell you why I chose a Civil War Token this month.
These tokens were issued during the Civil War—or the War Between the States, as some called it. The war began in 1861 when the southerners decided to separate themselves from the United States and set up their own country.
During the war years, there were shortages of many things, including currency. Because people hoarded coins and shopkeepers needed to make change, merchants issued their own one-cent tokens.
From 1861 to 1864, about 50 million tokens with thousands of different designs were made. Many had "not" written above the words "one cent" to distinguish them from real coins. The 1863 copper token you see here may have been produced by a store or by an individual person trying to help out.
The end of shortages and suffering finally came into sight on April 9, 1865, when the Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia, ending the bloodiest war our country has ever fought.
Today, when we look at these tokens, we can remember the hardships that people went through, and be thankful the war ended in victory for the United States.