The Horse Pounds are a lush, green, rugged mountainside. My Grandpa would have said their purpose is to hold the world together, as he always said of property seeming unfit for man or beast. This ridge line between The Baldwin Gulf and Wilder is hard to get to, difficult to navigate through and relatively untouched by human hand. While there were a few small farms located on the top of the mountain, there are no real roads there, not even regular paths. It’s the perfect place to hide something you don’t want anyone to find.
Legend has it that this rugged land was just where a Confederate detachment hid the payroll they were tasked with delivering. Pressed by Union soldiers, we are to understand that the Rebs sought a safe place for the gold – and the legend does believe it to be gold. They buried their goods and turned to face the enemy. Unfortunately, as was happening throughout The South, the detachment was wiped out and never returned to retrieve the gold. And there it’s been ever since.
Legends don’t often come with a lot of detail and this one is no different. We don’t know what year these events took place. That seems particularly relevant in considering Civil War legends (at least those involving gold) since the short life of the Confederate States of America and their limited gold resources would seriously confine the time period for gold movement. Moreover, gold was needed for international purchases and would not have been used for troop payroll beyond the earliest months of the war.
It’s a bittersweet legend. While it’s fascinating to think of buried treasure right here among the rolling mountains at the northeast edge of the Cumberland Plateau, I can’t help but apply historical precedent to this legend.
We seem to have a few legends floating around that incorporate Civil War soldiers into them. And, there was a Confederate training ground in Livingston – 36 miles of very hard walking from The Horse Pounds. Of course there were no major battles in our area – you have to go to Chattanooga, Nashville or Knoxville to find a battle that even gets historical notice. Of course, we had guerillas and mercenaries in operation (Tinker Dave Beaty was one of the war’s most infamous guerillas and he hails from Fentress County) so there were skirmishes among these bands. But by and large, we were very much a border-land and a remote one at that.
I guess it would be at least possible that a detachment of soldier’s clandestine movements could have brought them out to our mountain. At least the legend lives on after one hundred fifty years. Of course, it isn’t so much ‘alive’ that we’ve all gone out and dug up the horse pounds.
I have one more gold legend which I’ll discuss next week. Do you know of one?