It was early in the Civil War in April of 1862, and the battle was on. The Battle of Shiloh to be exact, in southwestern Tennessee. Confederate soldier Lt. George Dixon was in the thick of it. Unfortunately, a Union soldier got the better of him, and shot Dixon in the leg at close range. Miraculously, the bullet ricocheted off a gold coin in his pocket and Dixon lived. But why did he carry a gold coin into battle?
The story goes that before Dixon left for the war, his true love Queenie Bennett gave him an 1860-minted $20 gold coin for good luck. Queenie instructed Dixon to keep the coin with him at all times. Dixon did just that. And it saved his life.
This story has been passed down for well over a century. As is the case with word-of-mouth stories, debates arose over the tale’s validity. But all those arguments were put to rest 150 years later. Archeologists were examining the wreckage of the Civil War submarine the H.L. Hunley, of which Dixon had been the commander. While searching through the debris, they discovered a misshapen gold coin.
Upon restoration, it was discovered that this was in fact Dixon’s lucky coin. Aside from being found near Dixon’s remains, the coin also had a very specific inscription. After the coin had saved his life at Shiloh, Dixon had the coin inscribed. The obverse still showed Lady Liberty, but the reverse read:
April 6, 1862
My Life Preserver
G. E. D.
And so it was. Dixon’s life was saved by an 1860 $20 Lady Liberty gold coin. Unfortunately, the coin wasn’t enough to save him on the H.L. Hunley, which sunk after its first and only mission in February of 1864. But it did prolong the country’s memory of Dixon. Lucky coins have all kinds of origins. Come tell us about yours.