With us today is author Sneed B. Collard III, who is here to talk a little about his book, Double Eagle. I asked Sneed here today to teach us about what exactly the Double Eagle is, and where the idea came from. I will go ahead and let Sneed take over from here, since he's the real numismatist.
My third novel, Double Eagle, revolves around the discovery by two teenaged boys of a previously unknown twenty-dollar gold piece, or “double eagle,” in a Civil War fort in southern Alabama. In the story, what makes this coin so alluring is that it was minted not by the USA, but by the Confederate States of America. If the coin is indeed genuine, the boys realize, it is surely worth a fortune—a fact that propels them on a relentless search for the rest of the missing treasure.
Since Double Eagle came out, many people have asked how I came up with the idea for the Confederate twenty-dollar gold piece that is the book’s major plot premise. I have to give my son some credit for this. About three years ago, he and I decided to start collecting the State Quarters that have been so popular with young people. Looking through rolls of quarters, searching for “P” and “D” mintmarks, rekindled my own childhood fascination with coins and the histories behind them. I began reading about all kinds of coins and, one day, discovered that the Confederacy had minted four silver half dollars with their own CSA design on the reverse.
“Ah-ha!” my mind shouted.
For decades, I had been wanting to set a story on Dauphin Island, Alabama, a place where I spent a summer with my marine biologist father back in the early 1970s. “What if,” I now mused, “the Confederacy had also made a batch of their own double eagles? And what if this treasure disappeared after the Civil War? And,” I asked myself, “what if two boys discovered one of the coins in the fort on Dauphin Island?”
The four CSA half-dollars gave merit to these suppositions, but so did other historical facts. One is that the Confederacy continued minting double eagles after they took over the New Orleans Mint in 1861. The Mint still had a good supply of gold and silver sitting there, and the CSA needed money, so they just kept the presses going until all the gold was gone. The CSA did not use their own dies for these double eagles. In an odd quirk of history, they just kept using the old Union dies that were on hand. In my mind, though, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to imagine that the CSA used their own dies to mint at least a few of these coins.
Another thing that gives credence to the boys’ find is that many people believe that large amounts of Confederate gold disappeared during, or just after, the Civil War. In fact, many people still discuss this possibility and some are still searching for that gold today. As I pondered these facts, it didn’t take long to imagine that this missing gold might be in the form of CSA double eagles, and that it had been safely hidden in a Confederate fort ever since the war’s end.
I confess I have never found anything very valuable while searching for coins, but I think that every coin collector dreams about discovering just the kind of coin Mike and Kyle find in Double Eagle. One of the really cool things about coin collecting, however, is that every coin—even common coins we get in change every day—tells a story. I hope that in addition to enjoying a thrilling adventure, kids will stop the next time they get a quarter or nickel in their hands and look at the dates and mint marks. I’ll feel doubly rewarded if they ask themselves “What was going on when this coin was made? Who else has held this coin in their hands?” Coins are not just potential treasure, they are tangible links that connect us with a rich historical past. If readers spend even a few moments pondering such matters, I’ll consider Double Eagle a success.
A very big thank you to Sneed for teaching us about the Double Eagle. If you’re interested in learning more about Sneed’s book, check out his previous stops and reviews around the blog-o-sphere. Be sure to visit them all, because one or two are still giving away copies of Double Eagle.
Sneed’s guest post about how he went from being a biologist to an author.
“…Double Eagle has enough depth to appeal to a wide range of readers.”
“A great adventure story set in a well-drawn Southern setting against a great back Civil War backdrop.”
“…a fantastic adventure story for all ages to enjoy.”
“…this will become one of those rare books I will place on the high shelf, to be given to my son in a couple of years to enjoy.”
“…the perfect book to engage and age, particularly young adults, girls and boys alike.”
"...a well written, action packed mystery..."