Knights of the Golden Circle

Research and Archive

The Largest K.G.C. Treasure Ever Found!

“Imagine finding 5,000 gold coins in a pot buried under your house! Inconceivable, right? But that is exactly what happened to two Baltimore boys in 1934. The coins (at least most of them) were handed over to the police, and a prolonged legal battle ensued between the boys and the elderly landlords who owned the crumbling, inner-city tenement house. In the end, young Henry Grob and Theodore Jones prevailed, with the coins being sold at auction and the proceeds (after expenses) being put into trust until the teens reached age 21.

For the past 80+ years it has been assumed that the golden fortune belonged to some unfortunate miser who had passed on without revealing to anyone where the treasure had been stashed. However, new evidence has recently surfaced which points directly to a secret Confederate society known as the Knights of the Golden Circle (K.G.C.) as the source of the immense treasure, worth more than $10 million dollars in today’s economy.”Newspaper reports there is an active local secret society

The Knights of the Golden Circle Research and Historical Archives


~ The Escape Of John Wilkes Booth ~

The gentleman most definitely escaped that night from Ford’s Theater for good after a well placed shot into the head of a tyrant and murderer… Abraham Lincoln. Another cover up by the Federal Government…they never caught him! Evidence of that being the case is presented here now with more to follow soon.


1st Virginia regiment with booth


This photograph is said to have been taken at the execution of john brown. others say it was taken in 1861. whatever the case may be, booth is pictured here. he is the gentleman on the left brandishing a dagger…

~ John Wilkes Booth’s Derringer ~
Philadelphia Derringer or “Booth Derringer”


Morphological Characteristics
Feature Measurement in Inches
Overall length 5.87
Overall height 2.79
Breech plug length 0.53
Barrel length 1.62
Rifling length 1.55
Muzzle to end of breech plug 2.16
Lock-plate center 1.90
Front outside of barrel 1.01
Middle outside of barrel 0.95
Outside of hammer 1.06
Inside trigger guard 1.04
Butt width 1.37


Members of John Wilkes Booth’s family recently came forward, claiming a sensational story has been passed down in their family — a story that has been kept secret from outsiders for years.

The secret? John Wilkes Booth, President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, did not die at a farm near Port Royal, Va., as the history books say. Instead, he escaped justice and lived for decades before committing suicide in 1903.

Family members want to prove their story by comparing DNA from bone samples taken by U.S. Army doctors in April 1865 from the body of the man purported to be Booth and compare them to bone samples of Booth’s brother Edwin. The supposed Booth bone samples currently reside at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C. Edwin Booth is buried in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass.

The mystery was recently the subject of an episode on The History Channel’s “Decoded” series.

Booth’s Flight and Death?

According to the history books, Booth was tracked down 12 days after Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. He was shot and killed in a tobacco barn on April 26, 1865.

Against the explicit orders of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, the assassin was shot by Sgt. Boston Corbett with his Colt revolver through the barn’s boards. Wounded and paralyzed, Booth was dragged from the barn to the farmhouse porch. He died three hours later. The barn and the farmhouse no longer stand.

Although Sgt. Corbett claimed he shot Booth because he thought the assassin was preparing to use his weapons, he later simply said because “Providence directed me.”

The government’s version of the events has been questioned by historians in documentaries, books, and movies for decades.

“If the man who killed Abraham Lincoln got away and a giant hoax was perpetrated on the American people, then we should know about it,” historian Nate Orlowek told The Philadelphia Inquirer

Descendants Want Answers

Today, descendants of Edwin Booth, who died in 1893, have agreed to exhume his body in an effort to put the family drama to rest.

“I just feel we have a right to know who’s buried there,” said Lois Trebisacci, 60, who told The Boston Globe she is Edwin Booth’s great-great-great granddaughter.

“I’m absolutely in favor of exhuming Edwin,” said Joanne Hulme, 60, the historian in the Booth family. “Let’s have the truth and put this thing to rest.”

Family members want to recover a bone sample from Edwin for DNA analysis. They say a reliable bone sample from the supposed body of Booth recovered in the barn could also be obtained. If the DNA is a match, that would end the controversy by proving that John Booth was killed in the barn.

But if it doesn’t match, the American history record as it is currently known would change. John Wilkes Booth would make the news again, almost 150 years after Lincoln’s murder, with the discovery that someone else was killed in the barn, and the body passed off as Booth’s.

One Theory Follows Family History

Some armchair historians and conspiracy theorists contend the real Booth was never in the barn that day and escaped to live in the Southwest.

According to their theory, while Booth was living in Texas in 1877, he confessed to Lincoln’s assassination to a friend, attorney Finis Bates upon becoming gravely ill. At that time, Bates claimed Booth had assumed the pseudonym “John St. Helen.”

But St. Helen eventually recovered. Bates later asked him about his strange confession, but St. Helen seemed to not recall saying anything and denied he was Booth. The man later left Texas for whereabouts unknown.

On Jan. 13, 1903, in Enid, Okla., a man by the name of David E. George committed suicide. In his last dying statement, the man confessed to his landlord that he was in fact John Wilkes Booth.

Upon hearing the news of the confession, Bates traveled to Enid to view the body, which he recognized as the man he had known as “St. Helen.”

Bates had the body mummified. The body appeared in carnival sideshows across the country for years as Lincoln’s assassin, with the last reported sighting in 1976.

Bates published The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth in 1907, which contains an account of St. Helen’s confession.

At least one member of the Booth family thinks all of the new publicity and attention would certainly make Lincoln’s assassin smile.

“John Wilkes Booth is probably loving this,” Trebisacci said. “Just being an actor, I’m sure he loves the controversy.”

Sources: Philadelphia Inquirer, The Boston Globe, AOL

                                                                                  Finis L. Bates ~ Author

General Albert Pike ~ C.S.A.

General Pike identified Booth around 1884 – 1885…read the encounter below.


Albert Pike was an attorney, Confederate officer, writer, and Freemason. Pike is the only Confederate military officer or figure to be honored with an outdoor statue in Washington, D.C. Born: December 29th, 1809 in Boston Massachusetts.  Died: April 2nd, 1891 in Washington D.C.
After The Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas Pike was faced with charges that his troops had scalped soldiers in the field. Major General Thomas C. Hindman also charged Pike with mishandling of money and material, ordering his arrest. Both these charges were later found to be considerably lacking in evidence; nevertheless Pike, facing arrest, escaped into the hills of Arkansas, sending his resignation from the Confederate Army on July 12th, 1862. He was at length arrested on November 3rd under charges of insubordination and treason, and held briefly in Warren Texas but his resignation was accepted on November 11th and he was allowed to return to Arkansas.


I find it interesting that General Pike is honored with a statue in Washington D.C. He was born in Boston, a Confederate of questionable character, a Freemason and was on legal business from Washington D.C. when he sited Booth. There’s something here that just smacks of not being quite right regarding his associations with all of the aforementioned.



The administration, led by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, ordered that a single photograph be taken of Booth’s corpse, says Bob Zeller, president of the Center for Civil War Photography. On April 27, 1865, many experts agree, famed Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner and his assistant Timothy O’Sullivan took the picture.

It hasn’t been seen since, and its whereabouts are unknown.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Alexander Gardner


Alexander Gardner’s work as a Civil War photographer has often been attributed to his better known contemporary, Mathew Brady. It is only in recent years that the true extent of Gardner’s work has been recognized, and he has been given the credit he deserves.


Gardner was born in Paisley, Scotland in 1821, later moving with his family to Glasgow. In 1850, he and his brother James traveled to the United States to establish a cooperative community in Iowa. Returning to Scotland to raise more money, Gardner purchased the Glasgow Sentinel, quickly turning it into the second largest newspaper in the city.
On his return to the United States in 1851, Gardner paid a visit to the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, New York, where he saw the photographs of Mathew Brady for the first time. Shortly afterward, Gardner began reviewing exhibitions of photographs in the Glasgow Sentinel, as well as experimenting with photography on his own.

In 1856, Gardner decided to immigrate to America, eventually settling in New York. He soon found employment with Mathew Brady as a photographer. At first, Gardner specialized in making large photographic prints, called Imperial photographs, but as Brady’s eyesight began to fail, Gardner took on more and more responsibilities. In 1858, Brady put him in charge of the entire gallery.

With the start of the Civil War in 1861, the demand for portrait photography increased, as soldiers on their way to the front posed for images to leave behind for their loved ones. Gardner became one of the top photographers in this field.

After witnessing the battle at Manassas, Virginia, Brady decided that he wanted to make a record of the war using photographs. Brady dispatched over 20 photographers, including Gardner, throughout the country to record the images of the conflict. Each man was equipped with his own travelling darkroom so that he could process the photographs on site.

In November of 1861, Gardner was granted the rank of honorary Captain on the staff of General George McClellan. This put him in an excellent position to photograph the aftermath of America’s bloodiest day, the Battle of Antietam. On September 19, 1862, two days after the battle, Gardner became the first of Brady’s photographers to take images of the dead on the field. Over 70 of his photographs were put on display at Brady’s New York gallery. In reviewing the exhibit, the New York Times stated that Brady was able to “bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our door-yards and along streets, he has done something very like it…” Unfortunately, Gardner’s name was not mentioned in the review.

Gardner went on to cover more of the war’s terrible battles, including Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and the siege of Petersburg. He also took what is considered to be the last photograph of President Abraham Lincoln, just 5 days before his assassination. Gardner would go on to photograph the conspirators who were convicted of killing Lincoln, as well as their execution.

After the war, Brady established a gallery for Gardner in Washington, DC. In 1867, Gardner was appointed the official photographer of the Union Pacific Railroad, documenting the building of the railroad in Kansas as well as numerous Native American tribes that he encountered.

In 1871, Gardner gave up photography to start an insurance company. He lived in Washington until his death in 1882. Regarding his work he said, “It is designed to speak for itself. As mementos of the fearful struggle through which the country has just passed, it is confidently hoped that it will possess an enduring interest.

Courtesy of Civil War Trust


The DNA of John Wilkes Booth: Nothing to Lose and Much to Learn about a Tragic Love Story
John Wilkes Booth The National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C., and the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, possess three vertebrae specimens that, according to the government, come from the body of the man who killed President Abraham Lincoln.  The vertebrae were taken from John Wilkes Booth during the official autopsy performed on April 27, 1865.  Booth had been killed a day earlier, April 26, 1865, after being shot by Union sergeant Boston Corbett at Garrett’s farm in Virginia. However, there is an ongoing effort today by Booth’s descendents, using the services of DNA specialists, to prove John Wilkes Booth did not die at Garrett’s farm on April 26, 1865, but actually lived for an additional forty years, dying in his early sixties. Booth’s descendents have long believed John Wilkes Booth escaped the Union’s attempts to capture him.
Joanne Hulme, a distant Booth relative,

wrote on March 2011, “At no time did any of John Wilkes Booth’s family identify the body at Garrett’s farm; not on the Montague, not at Weaver’s Funeral Home, and not at the barn. The goverment could have brought the Booth family forth, but chose not to. Joseph Booth, John’s brother, said numerous times that neither he nor Edwin Booth ever identified the body.” Over 95% of all Booth descendents today believe the so-called ‘body in the barn’ was not that of forefather John Wilkes Booth.
The body buried at the Arsenol Lincoln’s Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ordered the body in the barn to be immediately and secretly buried in the Old Penitentiary on the grounds of the Washington Arsenal, land now a part of Ft. McNair. A grave was dug beneath the prison floor on the evening of April 27, 1865, and the remains, wrapped in an army blanket and placed in a gun box, were lowered into a hole and covered by a stone slab. One photograph of the body had been taken during the Booth autopsy and it was given to Stanton, but the photograph immediately disappeared. Unlike Booth’s diary which was also given to Stanton and disappeared but then reaapeared two years later, the autopsy photograph, which could have identified the body as Booth’s, never reappeared.  Nearly four years later in February of 1869, President Andrew Johnson ordered the body exhumed and given to the family. Ironically, in Baptist Alley behind Ford’s Theater, the very alley in which Booth had made his escape after assassinating the President four years earlier, the casket was opened and the decomposed body, now a skeleton, was for the first time shown to a representative of the Booth family.
The skeleton was then taken to Baltimore and re-buried in February 1869 in the Booth family plot at Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland. Booth’s granddaughter Izola Forrester wrote in her 1937 book This One Mad Act that it was common knowledge in the Booth family that John Wilkes Booth did not die in the barn at Garrett’s farm. Blanche DeBar Booth, John’s niece, swore in an affidavit late in her life that her uncle John tried to contact her after the turn of the century, and that  both Edwin Booth (John’s brother) and Mary Ann Holme’s Booth (John’s mother) had personally met with John Wilkes Booth after his alleged death in April 1865.
Circuit Court for Baltimore, Maryland In October of 1994 a petition was filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore, Maryland to “exhume the alleged remains of John Wilkes Booth from Green Mount Cemetery (in Baltimore).”  Two descendents of Booth, a great niece named Lois White Rathbun and a second cousin named Virginia Eleanor Kline, filed the petition. The Booth family was assisted by historian Nathaniel Orlowek, historiographer and professor Arthur Ben Chitty from University of the South, and Washington D.C. super lawyer Mark S. Zaid. The cause for the petition was the belief that John Wilkes Booth was  not shot and killed on April 26, 1865 at Garrett’s farm, but escaped Virginia and eventually lived in Tennessee and Texas under the alias “John St. Helen” and then eventually moved to Oklahoma under the alias “David E. George” where Booth  eventually died in Enid, Oklahoma on January 13, 1903 (see Statement of Case: Appellate Brief). Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan ruled against the Booth family and declared the body buried at Green Mount could not be exhumed. After losing on appeal, the Booths turned their attention in 2010 on an effort to exhume the body of John’s brother, Edwin Booth, buried in Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge MA. Once Edwin’s body is exhumed, DNA will be compared to the vertebrae taken from the body in the barn.

If the DNA of Edwin Booth matches the vertebrae the government claims to be from John Wilkes Booth, then the “Booth Legend” will be laid to rest. If not, the interest in the man named John St. Helen/David E. George will explode. Either way, there remains an incredible and mostly unexplored story of love, tragedy and mystery–the story of David E. George.

The Suicide of David Elihu George David E. George David Elihu George committed suicide in Room #4 of the Grand Avenue Hotel in Enid, Oklahoma on Tuesday morning, January 13, 1903 by drinking strychnine poison. Mr. George was in his early sixties at the time of his death, and little was known about him when he died. David George had come to Enid just a few weeks earlier, in December 1902, and lived in the Grand Hotel paying for a week’s rent at a time. He went about town verbally advertising himself for hire as a house painter. Mr. George was in his early sixties, was known to drink heavily at night in the bars on the town square, was occasionally seen by the proprietors of the hotel sitting in the lobby reading vaudeville and/or theatrical journals. He also possessed an affinity for quoting Shakespeare. Very little else was known about this stranger–until after he died.

The Enid Wave published in its January 13, 1903 afternoon edition a one paragraph article about the David E. George suicide. A local pastor, Rev. E.C. Harper, brought the nickel paper home and read the headline to his wife Jessica. The couple had moved to Enid just a year earlier from El Reno, Oklahoma. While her husband was a pastor in El Reno in 1900, Mrs. Harper had attended to a “David George” on his sick bed. The deathly ill man had confessed to Jessica Harper that he was “John Wilkes Booth,” wishing to clear his conscience of “killing the greatest man who ever lived.” Mr. George, would eventually recover from his serious illness of 1900, and continued to work in El Reno, never mentioning again his alleged real identity. Mrs. Harper and others in El Reno, including Rev. E.C. Harper, dismissed the George’s 1900 ‘Booth confession’ as either the delusions of a sick man or the deception of an insane man. The Grand Hotel, Enid, Oklahoma today Upon reading the Enid newspaper account of  David E. George’s suicide that Tuesday evening, January 13, 1903, the Harpers wondered if this “David E. George” who died earlier that morning at the Grand Hotel could be the same David George they had known in El Reno. Mr. Harper went down to the town square and entered the Penniman Furniture Store, which doubled as a funeral parlor, and viewed the George body. With no known relatives in Enid, the body was under the care of embalmer W.H. Ryan.  Rev. Harper saw the George’s body and realized it was the same man that he and his wife had known in El Reno. The minister suggested to W.H. Ryan that government authorities should be notified because “this man confessed to my wife that he was John Wilkes Booth.” It was the next day, January 14, 1903, that the Enid newspapers had a field day with the testimony of Rev. and Mrs. Harper. Enid officials did handwriting analysis of David George’s and John Wilkes Booth’s handwriting and noted uncanny similarities. The body of George was carefully examined and several distinguishing and unique features in common with Booth were noted. The death of David E. George and his “Booth confession” to Mrs. Harper spread throughout the country via newspapers.
Finis Bates Enter Memphis, Tennessee attorney Finis Bates. Mr. Bates read in the Memphis newspaper the story about David George’s suicide and wondered if this man who confessed to being Booth could be the same man Bates knew as “John St. Helen” years earlier in Texas. Thirty years before, in the early 1870’s,  Finis Bates was a young lawyer in Granbury, Texas. He had represented a man named John St. Helen in a tax and licquor license case. In late 1872 Bate’s client, John St. Helen, became ill. St. Helen called for his attorney to come see him. Just like David E. George would later confide to Mrs. E.C. Harper in 1900 that he was in fact John Wilkes Booth, so too John St. Helen confessed to Finis Bates that he was John Wilkes Booth. However, unlike Mrs. Harper, the curious young lawyer who heard the confession took St. Helen at his word and probed his client about the Lincoln assassination. Bates transcribed St. Helen’s answers to his questions and would later discover that John St. Helen knew facts and information about the case that the government had not yet released to the public in 1872. Shortly after confessing he was Booth and giving to his attorney specific details of the Lincoln assassination, John St. Helen disappeared. Finis Bates would eventually move to Memphis, Tennessee where he became what was then called Attorney General (assistant D.A.). Bates worked for over twenty-five years seeking further information about John St. Helen and/or anybody who claimed to have seen John Wilkes Booth after 1865. In 1900 Finis Bates filed paperwork with the federal government, giving them information from the notes he transcribed during John St. Helen’s 1872 “confession.” Bates requested that the government’s John Wilkes Booth reward money be given to him (Bates) on the premise that the government had made a mistake and killed the wrong man in the barn at Garrett’s farm. Bates argued to the government that he (Bates) knew the current identity of Booth (John St. Helen) and that he could help the government capture him. The government sent a form letter back to Bates saying Booth had already been captured and killed.
After reading of the death of David E. George and his confession to being Booth, Finis Bates would make his way to Enid, Oklahoma by train in the spring of 1903 to see if George could in fact be the man he knew as John St. Helen. Finis Bates entered Penniman’s Funeral Home and, according to Mr. W.H. Ryan, turned white as a sheet when he saw David E. George’s body and exclaimed, “My old friend! My old friend John St. Helen!”
Finis Bates believed so much that David E. George/John St. Helen was in fact John Wilkes Booth that he went on to stake his professional reputation on proving it. He was not alone. The first President of the Oklahoma Historical Society, W.P. Campbell, believed David E. George/John St. Helen was John Wilkes Booth. The two books these two men wrote defending their views are available on-line. The titles of the two narrative books are self explanatory: John Wilkes Booth: Escape and Wanderings until Final Ending of the Trail at Enid, Oklahoma, January 12 (sic), 1903, by W.P. Campbell, and The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth: Or, the First True Account of Lincoln’s Assassination, Containing a Complete Confession by Booth (published 1907) by Finis Bates. These two books are lampooned by many, but Bates’ book became a bestseller (70,000 copies) within just a few months of its publication in 1907. Both these men wrote emphatically that John Wilkes Booth died in Enid, Oklahoma on January 13, 1903. The impending DNA tests by the Booth family will either destroy their century old Booth escape premise or the DNA tests will cause many historians who have mocked Bates and Campbell to re-read their material with greater focus.What picques my curiosity is the life of John St. Helen/David E. George from 1865-1872 and how he came to first encounter attorney Finis Bates in Granbury, Texas. Where did John St. Helen/David E. George come from? Who was he? What about his family? If he is proven not to be Booth, how long did he carry out his Booth deception? It is incontrovertible David E. George and John St. Helen are the same man. One does not have to come close to believing David E. George is John Wilkes Booth to see that David E. George is John St. Helen. Where was John St. Helen prior to appearing in Texas in 1872? I believe the answers to these questions form the beginning of understanding a tragic love story, regardless of your view of “The Booth Legend.”
The Mystery of the Love Story Begins In early February 1903, not quite four weeks after David E. George died in Enid, the mayor of El Reno (Booth’s former place of residence for at least three years immediately prior to Enid), received a letter from Mrs. Charles Levine of New York City. The Enid Eagle, Enid’s morning paper, reported on this letter in its February 19, 1903 edition. Mrs. Levine wrote that she was the daughter of John Wilkes Booth, and if indeed, David E. George was Mr. Booth, she was entitled to his estate, an estate that the papers were then reporting to be quite sizable (later discovered to be untrue). Most modern historians, including C. Wyatt Evans, dismiss Mrs. Levine’s letter as an attempt by a greedy easterner to either glean money or gain fame by inserting herself into the David E. George drama playing out in Enid, Oklahoma. C. Wyatt Evans lumps Mrs. Charles Levine into a very broad category of other crazy “interlopers” who tried to profit from the George death, and only devotes one paragraph to Mrs. Levine in his otherwise excellent book The Legend of John Wilkes Booth: Myth, Memory and a Mummy. Evans places his information about Mrs. Levine in the same paragraph as his description of quack “palm reader”  who also sought to profit from the George story by reading the dead man’s hand. I believe, respectfully, that C. Wyatt Evans is wrong about Mrs. Levine’s motives for “inserting herself” into the George drama in Enid.
Marriage License of John W. Booth to Louisa J. Payne February 1872 Mrs. Charles Levine was born Laura Ida Elizabeth Booth in Payne’s Cove, Tennessee, near Chattannooga  in 1873. She was the daughter of Louisa Holmes Payne and John Wilkes Booth (see marriage certificate to the left).  Louisa J. Payne was a Confederate Civil War widow. Her first husband, Confederate soldier C.Z. Payne, died in 1865 toward the end of the war.  Louisa was left to care for her young son McCager (or “Cage”). Louisa worked as a seamstress for the recently opened University of the South in Sewannee, Tennessee. In 1871 Louisa met a man named Jack Booth who claimed he was a “distant cousin” to John Wilkes Booth. Louisa fell in love, and she married Jack in February 1872. However, after the wedding, Jack told Louisa that he had a past, and his name was not really Jack. When she pressed him for the truth, Jack told her he was actually John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of the Republican President. Louisa, a devout Christian and southern Democrat, could forgive her husband for his war actions and personal deceptions to her,  but she insisted that he sign their marriage certificate with his God-given name. And so, on February 24, 1872, a new certificate was signed in the presence of Rev. C.C. Rose, listing the marriage of John Wilkes Booth and Louisa Payne. The late historiagrapher for University of the South, Dr. Arthur Ben Chitty, did extensive research into Louisa Payne and her marriage to the man claiming to be John Wilkes Booth. Dr. Chitty eventually discovered the marriage certificate itself. Dr. Chitty archived at The University of the South several audio tape interviews of men who personally knew McCager Payne, who in 1872 became John Wilkes Booth’s step-son. Dr. Chitty discovered that McCager had intimate knowledge while a youth that his stepfather was actually John Wilkes Booth.
As a newly married couple Louisa and John Wilkes Booth moved to Memphis, Tennessee because, as Louisa would later say, “my husband had been told he would be paid a large sum of money owed him for his offical work on behalf of the Confederacy.” While in Memphis, Louisa overheard some men on the street discussing her husband and pointing out where the “skunk” was now living. Louisa informed John that men knew who he was and his life was in danger. John told Louisa that it would be better if they separated for a season. He would go to Texas and she should go back to Tennessee until things cooled off. John promised Louisa that he would return to Tennessee after things settled down.

Louisa went back east to Payne’s Cove Tennessee and the man claiming to be John Wilkes Booth headed south. Unbeknown to the couple at the time, Louisa was pregnant with John’s child.  Louisa Payne would give birth to Laura Ida Elizabeth Booth, named after one of John Wilkes Booth’s sisters, while living alone in Tennessee in early 1873. Her second husband, the man she first knew as “Jack Booth,” but later laimed to be “John Wilkes Booth” went to Granbury, Texas — and would change his name to John St. Helen. Historian Steven Miller suggests that John St. Helen, the man who confessed to being “John Wilkes Booth” to attorney Finis Bates, is a different man from the person who married Louisa Payne. My research on a book about the Lincoln assassination and the bizarre connections to Enid, Oklahoma suggests they are the same man. This man–Jack Booth/John St. Helen, David E. George, is either a deluded and deceptive man who pretended to be John Wilkes Booth for over four decades, or as many in the family of John Wilkes Booth now believe, this man was actually John Wilkes Booth himself.

DNA testing in 2011 could help solve the mystery.
Back in Tennesee during 1873 Louisa Booth received financial help from the family of her deceased first husband (C.Z. “Zeb” Payne). She went  to work caring for her son McCager and her newborn infant girl. Louisa kept hope that her husband would return to her from Texas, but she never heard from him. In 1879, seven years after marrying the man who claimed to be John Wilkes Booth, beautiful 36 year old Louisa Payne was raking and burning leaves in her front yard when her dress accidentally caught fire. Louisa ran to the creek in an attempt to extinquish the flames, but the burns on her body would prove to be fatal for her. Before she died, Louisa called her six-year-old daughter Laura Ida Booth and  her fourteen-year-old son McCager Payne to her bedside. The mother informed her children that Ida’s father was John Wilkes Booth. McCager would later tell friends at the mill where he worked late in his life that he already knew John Wilkes Booth was his stepdad because of conversations he had overheard between his mom and stepdad when he was a boy. Caught listening in one time by his step-dad, McCager was threatened that if the boy told anyone that his step-dad was John Wilkes Booth, “I will kill you.”

After the death of her mother young Laura Ida Booth would go to live with friends and family. Laura Ida Booth eventually became an actress herself and married a fellow actor named Charles Levine in New York City. When Mrs. Charles Levine heard of David E. George’s death in Enid, Oklahoma in early 1903, and that David E. George had claimed to be “John Wilkes Booth” before he died, Mrs. Levine sent her letter to the the mayor of El Reno claiming George’s estate “if indeed he is John Wilkes Booth.”

Mrs. Charles Levine was serious in her query about Booth’s estate, believing herself to be his daughter. Her letter should also be taken seriously by historians. Again, one of two options is possible regarding the man who appears as Jack Booth/John St. Helen/David E. George/ and who fathered Laura Ida Booth: (1). Either this man is a devious and/or deluded individual who kept up a false front for four decades about being John Wilkes Booth, or (2). This man is actually John Wilkes Booth.
To take the latter position opens oneself up to ridicule from mainstream historians. I remain personally unpersuaded. What is certain, however, is this: The DNA testing of the vertebrae from ‘the body in barn’ will either be a match to John Wilkes Booth and lay to rest the “Booth Legend” or the DNA testing will NOT provide a match and the escape theories for Lincoln’s assassin will explode. Either way, historians ought to give Laura Ida Elizabeth Booth (Mrs. Charles Levine) and the letter she wrote to the mayor of El Reno in February 1903 far more serious attention than they are currently being given.

Civil War Alexandria’s Knights of the Golden Circle

An alleged secret history of the Knights of the Golden Circle published in 1863. (Source: Wikipedia)
The Knights of the Golden Circle were a national secret society formed in the 1830s. It aimed to extend the reach of slavery in the U.S. and annex new slave holding states in Central and South America.

During the Union army’s occupation of Alexandria (1861-1865), young Confederate ladies would have had no one around to drop a handkerchief for other than Union soldiers. Well, that wasn’t going to work, not when “the slight difference of color [between gray and blue] symbolized all the difference between heaven and hell.”[1] So what’s the next resort? Obviously, forming a local branch of the secret society known as the Knights of the Golden Circle.

Founded to create and protect a southern slave-holding empire that extended, as the goal, well into Mexico, the KGC welcomed men into its ranks who were militant in character and held strong secessionist values.[2] The Union looked upon the organization’s activities as “treasonous” and potentially dangerous to the State.[3] Before you get all excited that the ladies of Alexandria (aged ten to twenty) were running blockades or planning assassinations, know that most of the group’s activates involved crochet hooks.

Lest we spill any undue secrets, what follows is the oath the women took upon induction:

I solemnly avow in the sight of those presence that I am a true and loyal citizen of the Confederate States.

I swear that I will give no aid or comfort to any enemy or enemies of the Confederacy, and that to the best of my ability I will aid and support the government of the Confederate States.

I swear that I will not marry one who had borne arms for the United States against the Confederate States, nor a Union man, nor a Black Republican nor a Traitor.

So help me, God.[4]

As you can see from the oath, members of the Alexandria Knights swore off all men connected with the Union, including those (“Traitors”) who took the ‘oath of allegiance,’ a swearing of loyalty to the Union required by occupation authorities for a citizen to have any privileges. Besides actively avoiding the boys in blue, the women did all they could to help their boys in gray. They spent long hours making bows, neckties, pincushions, etc., sometimes with a “deftly concealed confederate flag embroidered in one corner.”[5] The Knights’ best customers were the wives of Union officers, who bought rosettes to adorn their children.

With the money made from selling handicrafts, the Knights collected as much as $128 dollars[6] (over $3,000 in today’s money according to The Inflation Calculator). The money, along with coats and blankets, was smuggled south to Richmond for the good of the Confederacy.

The closest the clandestine Confederate women came to being high profile was when they pulled off a major heist and robbed Christ Church of its commemorative George Washington plaque. The opportunity arose when local families raised a stink about Union soldiers sitting on their pew cusions in the church. Members of the Knights supervised the removal of these cushions, and in the process, also removed the plaque. They justified the act to themselves by claiming “if we do not take care of it, it will be stolen.” The plaque’s ‘relocation’ was eventually discovered and it was returned to the church, where it would eventually be taken away again by Union looters, just as the ladies feared.[7]

What became of the Knights after the end of the Civil War? Some, including the History Channel, would have you believe that the larger organization went underground in preparation for a second Civil War. But the Alexandria branch faded away without fanfare, presumably never becoming publically known. The following is the statement of an Alexandria citizen in 1886, when asked if the Knights of the Golden Circle was popular anywhere in Virginia: “If it is, it is secret.”



  1. ^ Miss S. L. Lee, “War Time in Alexandria, Virginia,” in The South Atlantic Quarterly IV(Jan.-Oct. 1905):234 (Durham, NC, 1905).
  2. ^ Keehn, David. Knights of the Golden Circle: Secret Empire, Southern Secession, Civil War. (LSU Press: 2013).
  3. ^ The Alexandria Gazette, 8 Aug. 1862, p. 2 (
  4. ^ Miss S. L. Lee, “War Time in Alexandria, Virginia,” in The South Atlantic Quarterly IV(Jan.-Oct. 1905):234 (Durham, NC, 1905).
  5. ^ Barber, James G. Alexandria in the Civil War. (H.E. Howard, Inc.: 1998).
  6. ^ Collins, Mary. The Essential Daughter: Changing Expectations for Girls at Homes, 1797 to the Present. (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002).
  7. ^ Miss S. L. Lee, “War Time in Alexandria, Virginia,” in The South Atlantic Quarterly IV(Jan.-Oct. 1905):234 (Durham, NC, 1905).


The Knights of the Golden Circle or K.G.C.

 The Knights of the Golden 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 of South Carolina, a state legislator, vice president under the administrations of both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, and a U. 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 in Texas independence from Mexico 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 the Golden Circle was reorganized in Lexington, Kentucky, on July 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 of Mexico which 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 the Gulf 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 the Golden Circle were recruiting troops in numerous cities to send to Brownsville, Texas, for the planned invasion of Mexico. 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 for Mexico and 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 the Golden Circle held their convention in Raleigh, North Carolina, from May 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 in Mexico.” 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 the United States federal 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 the Golden Circle reported 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 of Texas was the greatest source of this organization’s strength. Texas was home for at least thirty-two K.G.C. castles in twenty-seven counties, including the towns of San Antonio, Marshall, Canton, and Castroville. Evidence suggests that San Antonio may have served as the organization’s national headquarters for a time.

The South began to secede from the Union in 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 the Golden Circle became the first and most powerful ally of the newly-created Confederate States of America.

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 the Golden Circle who 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 between San Antonio and El 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 on July 2, 1860, at a castle in Baltimore, 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 the Golden Circle began plotting to kidnap Abraham Lincoln in 1860, before Lincoln was even inaugurated in 1861, and continued throughout the Civil War, resulting in President Lincoln’s assassination by fellow Knight Booth on April 14, 1865.

After trying unsuccessfully to peacefully resolve the conflicts between North and South, the Knights of the Golden Circle threw its full support behind the newly-created Confederate States of America and 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 the Golden 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 to Indian Territory and 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 in Indian Territory, Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, and Missouri.

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 of Missouri. As the war raged on in Missouri and 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 the Lawrence, Kansas, raid on August 21, 1863, the battle near Baxter Springs, Kansas, in October 1863, and two battles at and near Centralia in Missouri in September of 1864. The bulk of Quantrill’s band wintered in Grayson 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., of Kentucky, 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 Missouri where 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 of Leavenworth, 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 in Platte county, about two miles west of Platte City I 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 the Golden Circle. I joined them at Platte City, 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 at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. Most historians accept this date of surrender as the official end of the Civil War. The Knights of the Golden Circle as 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 Circle that 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 to Mexico. Some soldiers returned to their homes, while others relocated to more remote frontier areas like West Texas where 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 the Golden Circle, according to most authorities, ceased its operations in 1916 for two primary reasons. The United States had entered World War I, and by that time most of the old Knights of the Golden Circle had died.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: An Authentic Exposition of the “K.G.C.” “Knights of the Golden Circle,” or, A History of Secession from 1834 to 1861, by A Member of the Order (Indianapolis, Indiana: C. O. Perrine, Publisher, 1861). Donald S. Frazier, Blood & Treasure: Confederate Empire in the Southwest (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1996). Warren Getler and Bob Brewer, Rebel Gold: One Man’s Quest to Crack the Code Behind the Secret Treasure of the Confederacy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004). Dion Haco, ed., The Private Journal and Diary of John H. Surratt, The Conspirator (New York: Frederic A. Brady, Publisher, 1866). Joseph Holt, Report of the Judge Advocate General on “The Order of American Knights,” alias “The Sons of Liberty.” A Western Conspiracy in aid of the Southern Rebellion (Washington, D.C.: Union Congressional Committee, 1864). James D. Horan, Confederate Agent: A Discovery in History (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1954). Jesse Lee James, Jesse James and the Lost Cause (New York: Pageant Press, 1961). K.G.C., Records of the KGC Convention, 1860, Raleigh, N.C. (http://gunshowonthenet/AfterTheFact/KGC/KGC0571860.html), accessed May 5, 2010. Dr. Roy William Roush, The Mysterious and Secret Order of the Knights of the Golden Circle (Front Line Press, 2005).

Bloody Bill Anderson Mystery group:

Jay Longley and Colin Eby

 The Knights of the Golden Circle Research and Historical Archives

“The Diabolical Plot”— Ripped from the Headlines!

Last Updated by Executive Producer Lisa Q. Wolfinger on Feb 17, 2016 at 4:55 pm

Alexandria Gazette, January 1862

Editor’s Note: PBS has partnered with Mercy Street’s historical consultants to bring fans the Mercy Street Revealed blog.

In this guest blog post, Co-Creator and Executive Producer Lisa Q. Wolfinger shares with readers two real stories that served as the inspiration for the events in the Mercy Street Season Finale. ​

 Spoiler Alert: This post discusses events in the Mercy Street Season Finale, Episode 6: The Diabolical Plot.

The Mansion House affair– The town was rife yesterday with rumors of a diabolical attempt to blow up the United States hospital at the Mansion House…. A barrel had been secreted in the cellar filled with powder and projectiles and a fuse was found extending from there to the stable. In proximity to the combustibles, Lucifer matches and Chinese crackers had been plentifully distributed, and the fuse end at the stable had actually been ignited. But this fact was fortunately discovered by the guard and the progress of the slow fire extinguished. But for this watchfulness and prompt action, not only would several hundred lives probably have been lost, but other casualties resulted.

— Alexandria Gazette, January 1862


When we stumbled on this obscure story in the Alexandria Gazette we knew we needed to incorporate some version of it in our fictional world. It is quite true what people say, “fact is stranger than fiction!” In truth the “diabolical attempt” turned out to be a series of coincidences and a large dose of rumor, but since the residents of Alexandria were clearly swept up in the rumor, we decided to run with it. The gunpowder plot offered a perfect opportunity to create an edge-of-your-seat season 1 finale, while also weaving in two other historical stories we were interested in. The first was the Lincolns’ routine visits to local hospitals.

In our research we came across numerous examples of the President and his wife visiting local hospitals throughout the war. According to Lincoln scholar Ronald C. White Jr:

“President and Mrs. Lincoln often visited Union Army hospitals in and around Washington – together, separately or with their son Tad. Washington, which had been transformed into an armed camp in the early days of the war, had now become a gigantic hospital. White buildings and tents dotted the city. Many hospitals were new structures, like the Stanton Hospital at New Jersey and I Street. Others, such as the Douglass Hospital, had taken over former private mansions on Minnesota Row. Many of the forty or so hospitals were makeshift single-story wooden sheds. All were crowded. Often hundreds, sometimes thousands of wounded soldiers lay in adjoining beds.”

Though we couldn’t find a specific account of the President visiting Mansion House Hospital, our experts agreed it was probable that the Lincolns toured Alexandria’s hospitals during the war.

KnightsofGoldenCircle.jpeg The other story that intrigued us was our fictional Frank’s involvement with a clandestine Rebel terrorist organization called “The Knights of the Golden Circle.” (Note: We do not know if the real Frank was a member.) The Knights were a secret society whose members personified the radical southern mindset of the 1850’s and 60’s. The “Golden Circle” referred to their ambition to expand southern power by annexing a “circle” of slave holding territories including South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. In the lead up to the war, the Knights shifted their focus and began pushing for disunion, spearheading prosecession rallies, and intimidating Unionists in the South.

The Knights likely carried out other clandestine missions before the war including attempts to take over federal forts in Virginia and North Carolina, activating prosouthern militia around Washington, D.C., and planning an assassination of Abraham Lincoln as he passed through Baltimore in early 1861 on the way to his inauguration. Once the war started, the Knights helped build the emerging Confederate Army and assisted with the pro-Confederate Copperhead movement in northern states. With the war all but lost, various Knights supported one of their members, John Wilkes Booth, in his plot to abduct and assassinate President Lincoln.

It was not a big stretch to imagine our fictional Frank as member of the Knights of the Golden Circle receiving a mission from John Wilkes Booth to assassinate President Lincoln. The Mansion House diabolical gunpowder plot gave us a perfect framework rooted in history. Did we take some artistic license by weaving all of these elements together? Absolutely, but we were playing with coincidence rather than simply fabricating a sensationalist tale out of thin air. The remarkable thing about our diabolical plot scenario is how plausible it is.

—Co-Creator and Executive Producer Lisa Q. Wolfinger 


Review: Knights of the Golden Circle

David C. Keehn. Knights of The Golden Circle: Secret Empire, Southern Secession, Civil War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2013. xii + 308 pages. ISBN 978-0-80715-004-7.5ead1-kgc

In the summer of 1859 an organization calling itself the Knights of the Golden Circle achieved national notoriety as an influential secret society formed to defend the rights southern slaveholders. Their early purposes included expanding southern imperial interests into the “golden circle” of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. With the election of Abraham Lincoln, however, the Knights turned their attention to encouraging secession from the union, and, more aggressively, paramilitary seizure of arsenals and forts to be used to supply the yet to be formed Confederate army. At the onset of the war, the Knights were by and large absorbed into Confederate politics and the military. But at the war’s end, members of the order reemerged as central conspirators in the plot to assassinate President Lincoln.

David Keehn’s Knights of The Golden Circle traces the story of this secret society from its origins in the political turmoil of the late 1850s through the Civil War. Keehn’s study is an ambitious and well-researched work that seeks to demonstrate how a clandestine association of like-minded individuals turned the southern version of manifest destiny into an influential political force. His work is all the more interesting because secret societies are, well, secret. Thus, they are not the most reliable repositories of written sources upon which historians generally rely.

Keehn’s narrative divides into three time periods. The first extends from 1859 to 1860. During these years, the Knights’ primary goal was expansion of slaveholding interests into the Southern hemisphere, particularly Mexico. George Bickley, a big-talking vocationally adrift huckster, spearheaded the movement on the pattern of another secret society, the Order of the Lone Star (OLS). OLS members were active “filibusterers”—private military expedition forces who took it upon themselves to invade Latin American countries in the name of American interests. The Knights set out to conduct similar operations in northern Mexico, but the leadership did not wish to be associated with the filibuster tradition. They insisted its members would comply with Unites States neutrality laws, and that they would invade only if invited by Mexican sympathizers. An invitation was not forthcoming and the venture faded. Still, this period served to organize the Knights into a hierarchical structure that could direct and promote its purposes across the South.

The second period covers mid-1860 through 1861. With Lincoln’s election the Knights dropped their primary goal of invading Mexico and threw their efforts behind the southern governors who were lobbying for secession. They also disassociated themselves from Bickley’s leadership and reorganized on a decentralized model led by regimental commanders at the state level. Keehn argues that through this decentralized multistate network, the Knights became the most influential secret society advocating secession. In particular, they saw success in Texas, Virginia, and Kentucky. Also in this period, the Knights employed intimidation tactics to frighten southern unionists, and they initiated bold if not rash plans to secure federal forts and arsenals in the southern states. While most members of the Knights of the Golden Circle eventually joined the Confederate army, elements of the organization remained active early in the war only later to be absorbed into more transparent pro-southern groups such as the Minute Men and the National Volunteers.

Finally, Keehn examines the period from mid-1864 to the assassination of President Lincoln. Here, the story concentrates on the possibility of a rejuvenated Knights of The Golden Circle, intent on sabotage, kidnapping, and even murder as the Confederacy faced its inevitable demise. Keehn gives particular attention to John Wilkes Booth, a member of the Knights from its earliest days, and a core group his cohorts concentrated around Baltimore and Washington. While the evidence is largely circumstantial, Keehn implies that affiliates of the Knights of the Golden Circle aided and abetted Booth and company in a failed plot to kidnap the president, as well as in Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865.

The strength of Keehn’s argument lies in the first part the book in his treatment of George Bickley and his early efforts to establish the Knights into a paramilitary organization committed to southern slaveholding imperialism. His research provides the most extensive scholarship on Bickely to date, and Keehn offers a compelling account of how the Knights understood their mission in the political context of the times. Also of great value is Keehn’s contribution to our understanding of the organizational structure of the Knights of The Golden Circle. Membership consisted of three “degrees”—the military, the commercial and financial, and the governing, the first being the rank-and-file and the last being the leadership. Moreover, the work ably demonstrates how the intimidation tactics and militarism of an antebellum secret society translated with some ease into later extremist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan.

A weakness of the book is Keehn’s contention that the Knights played an instrumental role in Texas’s secession movement as well as in empowering Virginia’s secessionist minority. Keehn offers very little evidence that the Knights possessed such influence, nor does he provide a clear cause and effect relationship linking the group to the politics of secession in these states. Many organizations apart from the Knights were urging secession in Texas and Virginia in the early months of 1861, and if the Knights were as influential as Keehn claims more evidence needs to be forthcoming. Similarly, associating the Knights with the conspirators who assassinated Lincoln demands much more evidence than this study provides. Keehn includes many qualifiers in this section of his study—“perhaps,” “maybe,” “likely”—but again fails to establish causation.

Despite the unconvincing arguments mentioned above, Knights of the Golden Circle remains a valuable contribution to the field of Civil War studies. Keene’s work is the best examination of the origins and activities of the Knights of The Golden Circle to date, and will likely remain a required text on the subject.


Story Written By: COSMOWOLFF

It’s a little known secret that the Knights of The Golden Circle established major treasure and goods depositories in every state in the United States plus Canada, Mexico and other places in Central and South America.

A list A list of of many of the treasures and depositories buried by the Knights of the Golden Circle was listed in the book Jesse James was one of his Names, by Del Schrader and his co-author Lee Hauk a.k.a. Jesse Lee James III. All of the information for this book was provided by Lee Hauk including the specific names and list of treasures provided in code.

The KGC had a very prescribed and detailed method to burying large treasure depositories; also leaving a very sophisticated and overlapping methods of signs, clues, and many other types of locating devices. Every treasure has a name that may or may not give a clue to where the treasure is located. Remember, these treasure were not to be easily found by weekend treasure hunters but were meant to be located and opened by the right person or group of people. I will indulge myself in this article to describe some very public and well protected methods of communication left by the leaders of the Knights of the Golden Circle.

It should be also divulged that the KGC buried smaller treasures in the vicinity of large depositories in an effort the conceal and divert attention away from the major treasures or depository. They also knew better than to keep all their eggs in one basket.

If you should happen to find a locating device please do not destroy it as it may prove valuable later on as you understand the KGC method of location intelligence. Sometimes a locating sign besides pointing to something local, can also be a locating device for other treasures many miles away and in some cases hundreds of miles away in other states. I have heard of locating devices or treasure signs (symbols) strung along a chain of mountain tops covering over 120 miles. Its important to know that the exact distance between the locating devices as they can be very important and should be plotted on the oldest U.S. topographical maps that you can obtain.

In this article I will begin to list and describe certain signs and symbols which will provide a great deal of history and information on a set of of KGC treasures buried using the four corners region of the United States. It is the apex or starting reference point for one major KGC treasure known as AThe Treasure of the Four Kings@. Please keep in mind that there are also hidden KGC treasures known as The Four Queens, The Four Jacks, and The Four Aces, and possibly The Four Tens. If you can find the area where the Four Kings are located, you will start to pick up locations and clues to the other Royal Deck of Card Treasures.

The 4 Kings Treasure was listed in the book under KGC code F. The treasures listed in category code F are all located in the State of Colorado and New Mexico with locations in Arizona and Utah ie……the four kings, the four states, the four major depositories, marked by four major petroglyph sites and, with the major depositories located near or around four special mountain peaks.

Please keep in mind also that the KGC organization used numerology in many of its ciphers and if your not familiar with numerology you should know that the number four is a very dangerous and mysterious number. If I had to describe it in a few words I would describe it as a bad code or bad number.

Confederate or KGC codes utilize many variations of numbers usually associated with Masonic Symbolism and Biblical stories. A good example would be King Solomon who would be associated with the number 666, which is the amount of gold that was given to him by the Queen of Sheba. Well now, you already have a hint about two very important people associated with the KGC, a King and a Queen. I wonder if they are depicted as one of the Four Kings in the Salt Creek Canyon petroglyph site in Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah.

Also, did you know that there is or was a road in central Arizona listed as route 666, which by the way terminated in a town called Solomon in Southern Arizona. The old route 666 is a very important reference point for anyone trying to locate KGC treasure in Arizona.

Are you familiar with the Old Route 66 which of course today is Route 40, running east and west across the United States.

Have you heard of the Vanishing Wagon Train Treasure located in a famous pass between Leadville and Fairplay, Colorado. It just happens to be 66 tons of Gold carried by 33 oxen carts.

You might note that other bad KGC numbers might be 2’s, 4’s, and 8’s . Also multiple of these numbers such as 16, 32, 64, and 128

Most KGC or confederate codes are deciphered using multiples of 3’s, 5’s, and 7’s, and of course the multiples there-of, such as 12’s, 24’s, 48 and 96.

You probably won’t find to many 10’s, 15’s and 20’s or even 11’s,14’s, 21’s and 28’s associated with Confederate secret codes. If you do, you better be careful as you may be in eminent danger.

If you find a number 13 B make a camp on a trail.

Many of these referred to treasures are primary depositories and should contain many different types of goods necessary to stock a marching army. They are very heavily booby trapped and many false entrance were developed that may not be good for your health if you locate and attempt to enter one. Besides Gold and Silver they probably contain uniforms, food stuffs, saddles, livery supplies, guns, ammunition and black powder. It should be mentioned that black powder turns to nitroglycerin with age, so be careful.

Please remember that when searching for buried KGC treasure that some of the clues are very sophisticated and can have double meanings. Although I will not give you every clue, I will provide enough information to get you started in the right location and direction.

The rest is up to you.

One has to keep in mind that even though these old timers were fairly smart and clever. The one thing that they had that we don’t today is a lot of idle time.

It takes many hours, days and weeks to travel across this country by horseback or wagon. There=s lots of time to think of a lot of different things and you didn’t have to watch out for crazies on the road with you.

Happy Trails.