Friday, January 4, 2013
The Knights of the Golden Circle
The Knights of the Golden Circle was a secret society that flourished in the U.S. during the American Civil War. In the beginning, the group sought to encourage the annexation of Mexico and the West Indies, which they believed would help the waning slave trade to once again flourish. But once the Civil War started, the group switched its focus from colonialism to fervent support of the newly established Confederate government. The Knights soon had thousands of followers, many of whom formed guerilla armies and began raiding Union strongholds in the West. In the Northern states, the mysterious order had an even bigger impact. Many newspapers and public figures engaged in witch-hunts where they accused supposed Southern sympathizers, including President Franklin Pierce, of being members of the Knights of the Golden Circle.
Unlike most secret societies, the Golden Circle didn’t just concern itself with clandestine meetings and mysterious plans. Instead, the group often formed renegade armies and bands of bushwhackers in order to forward their agenda by force. In 1860, a group of the Knights made a failed attempt to invade Mexico. During the war, they robbed stagecoaches and attempted a blockade of the harbor in San Francisco, and a group of them even managed to briefly take control of southern New Mexico.
John Wilkes Booth, Jesse James (above), Franklin Pierce (all rumored)