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Knights of the Golden Circle

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by tmh10, May 22, 2012.

  1. tmh10

    tmh10 Major

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    KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE. The Knights of theGolden Circle or K.G.C. had its beginnings in the formation of Southern Rights Clubs in various southern cities in the mid-1830s. These clubs were inspired by the philosophies of John C. Calhoun (1782–1850). Calhoun had an illustrious political career serving as a congressman from his home state ofSouth Carolina, a state legislator, vice president under the administrations of both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, and aU. S. senator. In addition to the Southern Rights Clubs, which advocated the re-establishment of the African slave-trade, some of the inspiration for the Knights may have come from a little-known secret organization called the Order of the Lone Star, founded in 1834, which helped orchestrate the successful Texas Revolution resulting inTexas independence fromMexico in 1836. Even before that, the K.G.C.'s roots went back to the Sons of Liberty of the American Revolutionary period.

    The Knights of theGolden Circlewas reorganized inLexington,Kentucky, onJuly 4, 1854, by five men, whose names have been lost to history, when Virginia-born Gen. George W. L. Bickley (1819–1867) requested they come together. Strong evidence suggests that Albert Pike (1809–1891) was the genius behind the influence and power of the Masonic-influenced K.G.C., while Bickley was the organization's leading promoter and chief organizer for the K.G.C. lodges, what they called “Castles,” in several states. During his lifetime, Boston-born Pike was an author, educator, lawyer, Confederate brigadier general, newspaper editor, poet, and a Thirty-third Degree Mason. From its earliest roots in the Southern Rights Clubs in 1835, the Knights of the Golden Circle was to become the most powerful secret and subversive organization in the history of the United States with members in every state and territory before the end of the Civil War. The primary economic and political goal of this organization was to create a prosperous, slave-holding Southern Empire extending in the shape of a circle from their proposed capital at Havana, Cuba, through the southern states of the United States, Mexico, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. The plan also called for the acquisition ofMexicowhich was then to be divided into fifteen new slave-holding states which would shift the balance of power in Congress in favor of slavery. Facing theGulf of Mexico, these new states would form a large crescent. The robust economy the KGC hoped to create would be fueled by cotton, sugar, tobacco, rice, coffee, indigo, and mining. These seven industries would employ slave labor.

    In early 1860 newspapers across the country reported that the Knights of theGolden Circlewere recruiting troops in numerous cities to send toBrownsville,Texas, for the planned invasion ofMexico. History is unclear about what went wrong with this invasion, but most historians agree that the well-laid plans never materialized and the invasion never happened. Some say that it failed because George Bickley was unable to provide adequate troops and supplies, but with a civil war looming on the horizon, the invasion’s failure may have been caused by the K.G.C. leaders believing they could not go to war on two fronts simultaneously. They called off their plans forMexicoand started preparing for war with the North.

    When tensions between the North and South were at a breaking point and the Civil War had not yet begun, the Knights of theGolden Circleheld their convention inRaleigh,North Carolina, fromMay 7–11, 1860. George W. L. Bickley, as president of the K.G.C., presided at this historic event. The records of this convention have survived until the present day and provide an excellent view of this order's divisions or degrees, goals, accomplishments, and size.

    The K.G.C.'s first division was described as being "absolutely a Military Degree." The first division is further divided into two classes: the Foreign and Home Guards. The Foreign Guards class was the K.G.C.'s army and was composed of those who wanted "to participate in the wild, glorious and thrilling adventures of a campaign inMexico." Those of the second class or Home Guards had two functions: to provide for the army's needs and "to defend us from misrepresentation during our absence."

    The second division or class was also divided into two classes which were the Foreign and Home Corps. The Foreign Corps was to become the order's commercial agents, postmasters, physicians, ministers, and teachers and to perform the other occupations that were vital to the achievement of K.G.C. goals. The second class of this degree was the Home Corps. Their job was to advise and to forward money, arms, ammunition, and other necessary provisions needed by the organization and its army and to send recruits as rapidly as possible.

    The two classes of the third division or degree were the Foreign and Home Councils. The third division is described in the convention's records as being "the political or governing division." The responsibilities of the Foreign Council were governmental, and it was divided into ten departments similar to those of theUnited Statesfederal government.

    One little-known historical fact that is presented in the records from the 1860 K.G.C. convention is that the Knights had their own well-organized army in 1860, before the Civil War had even begun, so they were prepared in the event of war with the North. In May of 1860 the Knights of theGolden Circlereported a total membership of 48,000 men from the North, who supported "the constitutional rights of the South," as well as men from the South, with an army of "less than 14,000 men" and new recruits joining at a rapid rate.

    Shortly before the Civil War began, the state ofTexaswas the greatest source of this organization's strength.Texaswas home for at least thirty-two K.G.C. castles in twenty-seven counties, including the towns ofSan Antonio,Marshall,Canton, and Castroville. Evidence suggests thatSan Antoniomay have served as the organization’s national headquarters for a time.
    The South began to secede from theUnionin January 1861, and in February of that year, seven seceding states ratified the Confederate Constitution and named Jefferson Davis as provisional president. The Knights of theGolden Circlebecame the first and most powerful ally of the newly-created Confederate States ofAmerica.

    Before the Civil War officially started on April 12, 1861, when shots were fired on Fort Sumter, South Carolina, and before Texas had held its election on the secession referendum on February 23, 1861, Texas volunteer forces, which included 150 K.G.C. soldiers under the command of Col. Ben McCulloch, forced the surrender of the federal arsenal at San Antonio that was under the command of Bvt. Maj. Gen. David E. Twiggs on February 15, 1861. Knights of theGolden Circlewho were involved in this mission included Capt. Trevanion Teel, Sgt. R. H. Williams, John Robert Baylor, and Sgt. Morgan Wolfe Merrick. Following this quick victory, volunteers who were mostly from K.G.C. companies, forced the surrender of all federal posts betweenSan AntonioandEl Paso.

    Perhaps the best documentation as to the power and influence of the Knights of the Golden Circle during the Civil War is The Private Journal and Diary of John H. Surratt, The Conspirator which was written by John Harrison Surratt and later edited by Dion Haco and published by Frederic A. Brady of New York in 1866. In this journal, Surratt goes into great detail when describing how he was introduced to the K.G.C. in the summer of 1860 by another Knight, John Wilkes Booth, and inducted into this mysterious organization onJuly 2, 1860, at a castle inBaltimore,Maryland. Surratt describes the elaborate and secret induction ceremony and its rituals and tells that cabinet members, congressmen, judges, actors, and other politicians were in attendance. Maybe the most significant revelation of Surratt's diary is that the Knights of theGolden Circle began plotting to kidnap Abraham Lincoln in 1860, beforeLincoln was even inaugurated in 1861, and continued throughout the Civil War, resulting in President Lincoln's assassination by fellow Knight Booth onApril 14, 1865.

    After trying unsuccessfully to peacefully resolve the conflicts between North and South, the Knights of theGolden Circlethrew its full support behind the newly-created Confederate States ofAmericaand added its trained military men to the Confederate States Army. Several Confederate military groups during the Civil War were composed either totally or in large part of members of the Knights of theGolden Circle. One notable example of K.G.C. military participation in the Civil War included the Confederate's Western Expansion Movement of 1861 and 1862 led by Lt. Col. John Robert Baylor and Gen. Henry Hopkins Sibley.

    In 1861 Albert Pike travelled toIndian Territoryand negotiated an alliance with Cherokee Chief Stand Watie. Prior to the beginning of hostilities, Pike helped Watie to become a Thirty-second Degree Scottish Rite Mason. Watie was also in the K.G.C., and he was later commissioned a colonel in command of the First Regiment of Cherokee Mounted Rifles. In May 1864 Chief Watie was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in the Confederate States Army making him the only Native American of this rank in the Confederate Army. Watie's command was to serve under CSA officers Albert Pike, Benjamin McCulloch, Thomas Hindman, and Sterling Price. They fought in engagements inIndian Territory,Kansas,Arkansas,Texas, andMissouri.

    One of the most feared organizations of all Confederates, whose members were in large part Knights of the Golden Circle, was what was called Quantrill's Guerrillas or Quantrill's Raiders. The Missouri-based band was formed in December 1861 by William Clark Quantrill and originally consisted of only ten men who were determined to right the wrongs done to Missourians by Union occupational soldiers. Their mortal enemies were the Kansas Jayhawkers and the Red Legs who were the plague ofMissouri. As the war raged on inMissouriand neighboring states, Quantrill's band attracted hundreds more men into its ranks. Quantrill's Guerrillas became an official arm of the Confederate Army after May 1862, when the Confederate Congress approved the Partisan Ranger Act. Other leaders of Quantrill's Guerrillas included William C. “Bloody Bill” Anderson, David Pool, William Gregg, and George Todd. Some of the major engagements this deadly guerrilla force participated in included theLawrence,Kansas, raid onAugust 21, 1863, the battle nearBaxter Springs,Kansas, in October 1863, and two battles at and nearCentraliainMissouriin September of 1864. The bulk of Quantrill's band wintered inGrayson County,Texas, from 1861 through 1864.

    The K.G.C. played the major role in what is referred to as the Northwest Conspiracy. The Confederate plan was to use the great numbers of Knights in the Northern states to foster a revolution that would spread across Indiana, Illinois, New York, Ohio, and any other state in the North where it was feasible. The Baker-Turner Papers, part of the U.S. War Department’s conspiracy files, revealed much of the history of this widespread movement but were kept sealed for ninety years. James D. Horan, the first person ever allowed access to the U.S. War Department's Civil War conspiracy files and the Baker-Turner Papers in the early 1950s, published Confederate Agent: A Discovery in History in 1954, which details the Northwest Conspiracy. His work used these previously-sealed documents and information gathered by numerous investigators, including the private papers of Capt. Thomas H. Hines, C.S.A., ofKentucky, who was the mastermind behind the huge conspiracy.

    Throughout the Civil War, one of the Knights of the Golden Circle's most important roles came in its infiltration of Union forces. Nowhere in the country was this influence more apparent than in the state of Missouriwhere K.G.C. members filled the ranks of the Enrolled Missouri Militia which was commonly known as the Paw Paw Militia. A newspaper article from the Daily Times ofLeavenworth,Kansas,July 29, 1864, serves as a good example in their interview with a member of the Paw Paw named Andrew E. Smith. Smith said:

    I am 22 years old and live inPlattecounty, about two miles west ofPlatteCityI was a member of Captain Johnston's company of Pawpaw militia, under Major Clark, and served about six months.... I am a member of the Knights of theGolden Circle. I joined them atPlatteCity, and was sworn in by David Jenkins of that place. All of the Pawpaw militia, so far as I know, belong to them....

    Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia atAppomattoxonApril 9, 1865. Most historians accept this date of surrender as the official end of the Civil War. The Knights of theGolden Circleas an organization, however, continued to work to achieve their goals, which included a prosperous South, for many decades after the Civil War. What had been a secret society adapted to changing conditions and, after the war, became even more secretive than ever before.

    In October 1864 U. S. Judge Advocate Joseph Holt submitted a detailed warning to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton about the dangers posed by the Knights of the Golden Circlethat was, by that time, operating under various aliases. This document is commonly called the Holt Report, but its real title is A Western Conspiracy in aid of the Southern Rebellion.

    After the war's end, the K.G.C. went underground and used many aliases to hide their activities which included making preparations for a second civil war should that option be necessary. Some K.G.C. members accompanied Confederate Gen. Joseph O. Shelby toMexico. Some soldiers returned to their homes, while others relocated to more remote frontier areas likeWest Texaswhere they could help build towns and cities that conformed to their ideals. Some Knights like Jesse Woodson James, older brother Frank James, and Cole Younger turned to robbing Northern-owned railroads, businesses, and banks after the Civil War.
    The Knights of theGolden Circle, according to most authorities, ceased its operations in 1916 for two primary reasons. TheUnited Stateshad entered World War I, and by that time most of the old Knights of theGolden Circlehad died.
    http://knightsofthegoldencircle.webs.com/
     

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  3. donna

    donna Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    Another very interesting and informative post.
     
  4. Red Harvest

    Red Harvest 2nd Lieutenant Trivia Game Winner

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    The Paw Paw militia was but a small portion of the Enrolled Missouri Militia. It was the militia of Platte County. There were other of the Enrolled militia with various degrees of infiltration, but the Paw Paw stands out.
     
  5. Linda Duff

    Linda Duff Corporal

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    What a great post! Went to the web site and read all the other articles too.
    OK...did this group give birth to the KKK? or am I wrong in this perception?
     
  6. Lee

    Lee 1st Lieutenant

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    Excellent read...........That is the first time I have read about JWB being a member of the KGC. I wonder if the "Confederados" who left the south for Brazil post ACW were KGC members?
     
  7. Robtweb1

    Robtweb1 2nd Lieutenant Retired Moderator Civil War Photo Contest
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    As with your previous post, the most in depth information about this subject I've ever seen. First I've heard about Stand Watie being a Mason.
     
    tmh10 likes this.
  8. Joshua Horn

    Joshua Horn Sergeant

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    The Private Journal and Diary of John H. Surratt, The Conspirator was written by Dion Haco, a novelist. I would be wary of anything based off of his books.
     
  9. Lee

    Lee 1st Lieutenant

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    Excellent point! Trust but verify as a great man once said..........
     
  10. tmh10

    tmh10 Major

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    When reading information on the subject of this group I also read reports of the groups stashing hidden troves of money around the country to aid it's agents. After the war Jesse James was reported to be involved in this activity both hiding and using these funds. Some sources claim there are still stashes around that have not been recovered.

    Finding Buried Treasure In The United States


    [​IMG]
    Looks like our subject interests made the top two of five.
    CCC

    (Excerpt)
    Finding Buried Treasure In The United States
    POSTED BY JIMM ON OCTOBER - 3 - 2011

    It may shock you, but there is an estimated FOUR BILLION dollars in buried treasure throughout the United States that has never been found. This is treasure that has never been found because the people who buried it are no longer alive. Here is a list of five of the largest, undiscovered treasure hoards in America.

    THE JAMES-YOUNGER TREASURE HOARD
    Jesse James was the notorious American outlaw known for robbing banks and trains with the faction known as the James-Younger gang. For 18 years (1864-1882), James forged a name for himself as an icon of the Wild West. After James' death, rumors sprang up that it wasn't really him who had been killed and then there was a million dollars in gold bars that were left unaccounted for. The money, according to legend, is buried somewhere in Missouri or Oklahoma. It was taken from the robberies and buried somewhere, but Jesse James was killed before he could retrieve it. Does it exist? No one has ever found it.

    CONFEDERATE GOLD
    After the Civil War ended, Confederate President Jefferson Davis had millions of dollars in gold - enough to rebuild another army - hidden away in throughout the South. The plan was to make shipments by train to Richmond, Virginia - the capital of the Confederacy. However, along the way, much of this treasure was stolen. It has never been found. Rumor had it that Jefferson Davis stole it for himself. Another group, known as the Knights of the Golden Circle, were supposed to be guardians of the lost silver and gold. Most likely, the treasure was buried somewhere in Danville, Virginia. Treasure hunters have been looking for it for years, but without luck.
    http://knights-of-the-golden-circle.blogspot.com/2011/10/finding-buried-treasure-in-united.html
     

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