The following account is related by Capt. William H. Parker, CSN, who had charge of the Confederate treasury in gold, silver and bullion, estimated at about $500,000, as it was transported southward in 1865. The term “Dutchman” was derived from “Deutsch,” or German, which was the language and nativity of many of the North’s soldiers – estimated at 25% by 1864. Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge and Treasury Secretary Judah. P. Benjamin were the only Confederate cabinet members not captured.
Colonel John Taylor Wood’s Escape
“I only intend to tell of the escape of my old friend and comrade, John Taylor Wood, as I had it from his lips only a few months ago in Richmond.
The party [of President Jefferson Davis] was captured just before daybreak on the 9th of May . Wood was placed [under guard] of a Dutchman, who spoke no English. While the rest of the federal troops were busy in securing their prisoners and plundering the camp, Wood held a $20 gold piece (the universal interpreter) to his guard and signified his desire to escape.
The Dutchman held up two fingers and nodded. Wood gave him $40 in gold, and stole off to a field, where he laid down among some brushwood. The federals, (under a Colonel Pritchett, I think), having finished their preparations, marched off without missing Colonel Wood.
After they were out of sight, Wood arose and found a broken-down horse, which had been left behind. He also found an old bridle, and mounting the nag, he started for Florida. I have forgotten his adventures, but somewhere on the route he fell in with Mr. [Judah] Benjamin, Secretary of State, and General [John C.] Breckinridge, Secretary of War. Benjamin and Wood owed their escape to Wood, for Wood was an old naval officer and a thorough seaman.
On the coast of Florida, they bought a rowboat and in company of a few others they rowed down the coast, intending to either cross to Cuba or the Bahamas.
Proceeding on her way to the southward, the party next fell in with a sailboat, in which there were three sailors, deserters from United States vessels at Key West, trying to make their way to Savannah. Wood and party took their boat, as she was a seaworthy craft, put the sailors on the rowboat, and gave them sailing directions for Savannah.
Wood then took the helm and steered for Cuba . . . [and] After suffering much from hunger and thirst they arrived at Matanzas (I think) and were kindly cared for by the Spanish authorities, from whom they received most respectful attention as soon as they made themselves known.”
(The Gold and Silver in the Confederate States Treasury, William H. Parker; Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. XXI, R.A. Brock, editor, 1893, excerpts pp. 312-313)