Confederate State of Louisiana

Five Confederate Dollars 1863

This note depicts a vignette that is commonly known as “ The South Striking Down the Union” In it there are allegorical representations of the Union and the South. Being a Confederate banknote, the South is seen as a dominate fighter, clad in armor with sword in hand, ready to slay a fallen Union, on her side and backing away from the southern sword. While advancing menacingly toward the Union, the South has it’s back foot on a Bald Eagles neck as it lays helplessly on its back. The face of the Union is shown in an anticipation of its demise while the face of the South is obscured by an armored helmet.

The design has been attributed to a Blanton Duncan, who has been described as a Domineering, Conniving, unbalanced and “always landing in hot water with the Treasury Dept. and other note makers because of his stubborn, unpredictable nature.”  It is no wonder then that he later denied the allegations that he was the designer.

Blanton Duncan was born in 1827 in the State of Kentucky. He served as a Colonel in the Confederacy (did Kentucky ever have anything other than Colonels? – Just kidding!) where he led the 1st Kentucky Regiment. In his civilian life, he was an engraver.

He lived in Kentucky until 1892 when he relocated to the Los Angeles, California area, purchasing land in what is now the Manhattan Beach area. He built his house on a prominent hilltop where there is now a Duncan Drive. He became a prominent landowner, though he was still a fairly extravagant person, still mixing with lawsuits and writing to newspaper office about myriad subjects. He lived there until he was 75 years of age when he died on April 8th, 1902. He is buried in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky. His house in Manhattan Beach was abandoned and left to ruin. As it lay rotting away, tales of the house being haunted were rife.

In 1927 a fire destroyed the by then abandoned house. The fire damaged the house beyond repair and it was demolished by the city. Today, Duncan Drive is known for having several large mansions.

Information about Blanton Duncan is somewhat hard to find. At once his story is everywhere, and then it is really nothing substantial nor substantiated. Many myths about his running away to California with Confederate gold circulated, but were, over a period of time, eventually proven to be only myth.

While trying to link him to designing the ‘South Strikes Sown the Union” vignette, I did finally come across an article that locked in both the substance and substantiation of the story.


A printer by the name of Blanton Duncan offered a similar sentiment to Mr. Memminger on May 20th 1862: “I enclose you a copy of the new $20, also a design for the $2 note, 34 See Raphael P. Thian, Correspondences with the Treasury Department of the Confederate States of America, 1881: 83-4. The term “liberty cap” is an ancient symbol for freedom, first used on a 1793 penny. 35 W.S. Lyle qtd in.Ibid., 224-225. 48 which, if you approve, send back immediately for me to commence engraving. Your likeness is to go in the corner. The vignette represents the South rising in its might and striking down the North and crippling the eagle. The right hand corner represents the South reclining upon her cotton bales, and at the same time tending the olive branch.”36 Not surprisingly, Secretary Memminger shared Colonel Duncan’s feelings, and thus authorized that the “North vs. South” vignette be used on three separate bills.”

In trying to summarize why it was so hard to find anything that was ‘real’ about Blanton Duncan, I think it could be best summarized by his statement to the Confederate Treasury Secretary C. G. Memminger, where he wrote: “I could disguise myself so that the Devil himself would not know me.”

The Louisiana $5 note depicting Blanton Duncan’s vignette of “South Strikes Down the Union”