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In October 1865, six months after the end of the Civil War, the side-wheel steamer SS Republic was bound from New York to New Orleans. Aboard the former Civil War blockade ship was precious cargo to aid in the rebuilding of the war-ravaged city of New Orleans to its prewar glory.

During and just after the Civil War, in both the North and especially the South, gold and silver coins were valued but extremely scarce commodities. Rampant inflation, caused by both sides financing their huge war costs through the near-nonstop printing of paper currency, resulted in the widespread hoarding of “hard money.” At the end of the war, the South, for all practical purposes, was broke and its paper money was worthless, its hard money virtually gone. The SS Republic was on a mission to restart the Southern economy.