Thursday, November 9, 2017

Secret Political Societies in the North during the Civil War by Mayo Fesler

Secret Political Societies in the North during the Civil War
by Mayo Fesler
Indiana Magazine of History
Vol. 14, No. 3

Published by: Indiana University Press

KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE Submitted by Jack Flammang

Caveat Lector:

Submitted by Jack Flammang

The Knights of the Golden Circle is a popular riding destination about 2 miles east of the Garden of the Gods that some of you may have visited. There are some interesting rock formations there and a small overhang that has seen many campfires and has been a favorite lunch stop for many trail riders.

As many of you know, the Shawnee Trail Conservancy received a grant to develop a trailhead at this location which will be able to accommodate several truck and trailer rigs. But, how many of you knew that the name “Knights of the Golden Circle” was actually the name of the largest secret and subversive organization that existed in the U.S. during the latter half of the nineteenth century?

The Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC) was created in 1854 to establish a slave holding empire that would include many southern states in the U.S., the West Indies, Mexico, and parts of Central America. The Golden Circle would have a radius of 1200 miles and would be centered in Havana, Cuba. This empire would monopolize the production and trade of tobacco, cotton, and sugar and would be so strong that it would insure slavery could never be abolished by the northern states.

Historians and writers feel the ideas of the KGC may have come from a number of other groups. Some feel the roots may go back as far as the Sons of Liberty of the American Revolution. Others feel they were associated with ideas emanating from the Southern Rights Clubs popular in the south during the 1830’s. Others associate them with the Order of the Lone Star founded in 1834 which helped initiate the Texas Revolution. The Knights of the Golden Circle was divided into three divisions, the military, the commercial/financial, and the political. Each division was further divided into two classes that had specific duties and responsibilities. As an example, the military division was divided into the Foreign Guards who would invade Mexico while the Home Guards would help supply the Foreign Guards with supplies and provisions. Local groups that formed throughout the North and South were called Castles. They conducted their meetings at secret locations and participated in elaborate rituals that used codes, signs, and secret passwords.

Before the Civil War the KGC reportedly had their own army consisting of 16,000 men and had a total membership throughout the U.S. of 48,000. Their intention was to invade Mexico and divide it into 15 new slave holding states. This would mean there would be more slave holding states than non-slave holding states and would prevent the abolishment of slavery in the US. The KGC made one attempt to invade Mexico during the spring of 1860. For what ever reason, the attempt failed and shortly after that the Civil War broke out forcing them to postpone their plans.

When the Civil War broke, out the KGC sided with the Confederacy and participated in the war. Most of the men were soldiers, some were officers, and many were involved in conspiracies that undermined the efforts of the Union Army. Members of Quantrill’s Raiders, Jesse James, and John Wilkes Booth were all reported to be members of the KGC. It was said the KGC had plans to kidnap Lincoln before he was even elected President and that they eventually played a part in his assassination.

After the Civil War, the organization had to become even more secretive. They looked forward to the South rising again and the invasion of Mexico. Some think Jesse James and others robbed with the intent of providing funds for the KGC’s future plans. Millions of dollars are supposed to have been cached in secret locations throughout the Southwest known to only a few KGC members. There was recently a television program documenting the hunt for several of these caches.

The above is only a very brief history of this organization. Much more can be found by searching on-line. Could it be that the Knights of the Golden Circle trailhead, a favorite meeting place and lunch stop for trail riders, was also once a secret meeting place of this organization? Who knows???

Information for this article came from the Knights of the Golden Circle website and the Handbook of Texas On-line published by the Texas State Historical Association.

The Knights of the Golden Circle Research and Historical Archives

Thursday, October 5, 2017

'We Have Been and Are Yet Secessionist' – Los Angeles When the Civil War Began
July 10, 2017
The shelling of Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor started on Friday, April 12, 1861. The Civil War had begun.
In Los Angeles, where the news would arrive almost two weeks later, an Army captain – sole representative of the United States military – waited in an adobe warehouse at the edge of the city. Army muskets, ammunition, and cavalry sabers had been hidden under sacks of oats and flour. He had shown his wife where the pistols were kept. Together, they would make some defense of the Army’s stores when the secessionist “Monte boys” came to take them.
Captain Winfield Scott Hancock expected that a raid on his warehouse would start the annexation of Southern California to the secessionist cause. He believed that many Angeleños would welcome it.
The decomposition of the United States into northern and southern factions had been driven partly by California statehood in 1850. Admission of California as a “free soil” state (whose constitution outlawed slavery[i]) destabilized the balance of political power in Congress. The effects rippled through the decade, hastening the collapse of the Whig Party, putting secessionist and unionist Democrats at odds, and allowing new parties – the Know Nothings and the Republicans – to contend for federal offices.Territory of Colorado would have included all of the southern part of California from the Mexican border to Kern and Kings counties.
Californians were similarly estranged. Sectional differences and tensions within the Democratic Party encouraged division of the state into northern and southern territories. The Territory of Colorado would have included all of the southern part of California from the Mexican border to Kern and Kings counties. If the new territory was open to slavery, it might one day restore the political balance of “free soil” and “slave” states and suspend the issue of slavery for another generation.
The California legislature (described as “intensely pro-slavery”[ii]) passed the Pico Act in 1859, calling on Congress to divide the state. It was signed by Governor John B. Weller, overwhelmingly approved by voters in Southern California,[iii] and sent to Washington.
Los Angeles as the Civic War began. Angeleños endured flooding, economic stagnation, and the possibility of a secessionist coup in the opening months of the war. Photograph courtesy of Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library
Los Angeles as the Civic War began. Angeleños endured flooding, economic stagnation, and the possibility of a secessionist coup in the opening months of the war. Photograph courtesy of Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library
We are for a Pacific Republic”
Governor Weller did not expect the Territory of Colorado to relieve the political crisis, even if Congress could be persuaded. Disunion was too far advanced. If it wasn’t civil war, the result would be two weaker nations at constant odds. Distant California, Weller thought, would mean little to either North or South except to be taxed.
Weller offered the alluring alternative of independence. “If the wild spirit of fanaticism which now pervades the land,” he said, “should destroy (our) magnificent confederacy – which God forbid – (California) will not go with the south or north, but here upon the shores of the Pacific found a mighty republic, which may in the end prove the greatest of all.”[iv]
Others agreed. “We are for a Pacific Republic,” the editor of the Sonora Democrat declared. “(California) has all the elements of greatness within her borders. Situated thousands of miles from the distracted States, she would be an asylum of peace and safety …”[v] The San Francisco Herald joined in as well. Angeleños Henry Hamilton, publisher of the Los Angeles Star, and Los Angeles County Judge Benjamin Hayes also endorsed the plan.
In Stockton, a home-made flag with the legend “Pacific Republic” briefly flew.
When John Downey – an Angeleño, Democrat, and secession sympathizer – became governor in early 1860,[vi] he was less certain about independence. But Downey needed to be cautious. California’s representatives in Congress – Senators Milton Latham and William Gwin and Representatives John Burch and Charles Scott – believed that the complaints of the southern states were valid. Publically, they called for California’s neutrality in the event of civil war and hinted at the state’s eventual independence.
The fantasy of a western republic, extending from Canada into northern Mexico and from the Pacific to the Rocky Mountains, seemed more real when news of Fort Sumter reached Los Angeles on the afternoon of April 24, 1861. Henry Hamilton, secessionist publisher of the Los Angeles Star, wondered in print, “Shall we, too, strike for independence – or, like whipped spaniels, crawl at the feet of either a Southern or a Northern Confederacy?”[vii]
Los Angeles Star. Under the editorship of Henry Hamilton, the Star was the voice of secessionist agitation in Southern California. Montage of images courtesy of USC Digital Library
Los Angeles Star. Under the editorship of Henry Hamilton, the Star was the voice of secessionist agitation in Southern California. Montage of images courtesy of USC Digital Library
A fractured California, a Confederate California, or a neutral California – the alternatives, based on the reports of reliable Union men in California, seemed real enough in Washington. The War Department, knowing his loyalty to Texas, had already recalled Brigadier-General Albert Sidney Johnston, commander[viii] of the US Army in California, from his post at the San Francisco presidio. Johnston resigned his commission in early April but continued to serve until Brigadier-General Edwin Sumner arrived from the East to replace him.
Sumner was warned that Johnston knew of secessionist conspirators in San Francisco (which was true) and he suspected that Johnston might also be one of the architects of the Pacific Republic scheme (he wasn’t). But Sumner and those who advised him saw disunion everywhere in California.
Writing to the Army Adjutant General on April 28, just four days after his arrival in San Francisco, Sumner lamented,[ix]
The secessionists are much the most active and zealous party, which gives them more influence than they ought to have from their numbers. I have no doubt that there is some deep scheming to draw California into the secessionist movement, in the first place as the Republic of the Pacific, expecting afterwards to induce her to join the Southern Confederacy. ​
Ominously, Sumner warned the War Department that “the troops now here will hold their positions, but if there should be a general uprising of the people, they could not … put it down.”
Hot-bed of disloyalty”
The spirit of disunion grew worse in Southern California while Captain Hancock and his wife waited through the first three weeks of April. He surrounded the Army storehouse in Los Angeles with the high-walled wagons that hauled military freight. He collected enough pistols at his home to arm “a few loyal friends.”[x] Among the few[xi] likely to stand with him were District Attorney Ezra Drown, rancher and pro-Union polemicist Jonathan Warner, publisher Charles Conway of the Semi-Weekly Southern News, and Los Angeles port operator Phineas Banning.
General Sumner in San Francisco was pessimistic about popular support for the Union cause, particularly in Southern California. “I believe there is a large majority of Union men in the State,” he reported, “but they are supine with confidence, while there is an active and zealous party of secessionists who will make all the mischief they can.”[xii]
Jonathan Warner, writing to the Sacramento Daily Union, named the leading Angeleños he thought particularly zealous in support of secessionist mischief.[xiii][xiv]
All our judges are secessionist [Hayes and Dryden] or at least strongly tinctured with it. Our Sheriff [Tomás Sanchez] is a secessionist; our Deputy Sheriff [Andrew King] ditto; our County Clerk [John Shore] ditto – in one word, all our own public officials, with the exception of the District Attorney [Ezra Drown] and County Surveyor [William Moore] are secessionists, root and branch.
Warner could have included Mayor Damien Marchesseault among secessionist sympathizers in Los Angeles, along with attorneys Edward Kewen and Volney Howard, wealthy rancher Benjamin Wilson, physician John Griffin (brother-in-law of General Albert Sidney Johnston), former Assemblymen Daniel Showalter and Joseph Lancaster Brent, and former State Senator Cameron Thom.
Judge Benjamin Hayes, although he remained publically ambivalent, assured his sister in February that “the tone of the people here (Los Angeles) is Southern to a greater extent than might be supposed …”[xv]
Sympathy for secession had lately become something more serious for Hancock. Under the pretense of enrolling a volunteer militia for the defense of Los Angeles, secessionist leaders in February had begun recruiting among ex-southerners and native Californios. Joseph Lancaster Brent urged Judge William Dryden to formally enroll the members of what was called the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles. In March, attorney George Gift mustered a force (at least on paper) of 80 members at the county courthouse.
The membership roll was as diverse as Los Angeles. It included, along with Brent and Gift, Sheriff Tomás Sanchez, Undersheriff Alonzo Ridley, at least four other city and county law enforcement officials, and members of the Californio, German, Irish, and Jewish communities.  Most were, to one degree or another, secessionist.
Alonzo Ridley, as the unit’s captain, petitioned Adjutant General William Kibbe of the California state militia to supply 80 rifles, Colt pistols, and sabers. Ridley was confident that the arms could be requisitioned in Los Angeles,[xvi] even though it was generally known that secessionists led the Mounted Rifles.
They weren’t the only show of secessionist force in early 1861. The newly organized Monte Mounted Rifles, led by Los Angeles County Undersheriff[xvii] Andrew King, made a similar request for arms. Union supporters complained of para-military organizations openly drilling in El Monte, San Bernardino, and the Holcomb Valley mining camps where a shadowy organization called the Knights of the Golden Circle was found to be training recruits who would leave for  “Dixie” and service in the Confederate States army.
Secessionist officials, armed conspirators, and Confederate recruiters – so “many active and influential citizens who are hostile to the Government whose efforts for its disintegration are strenuous and undisguised” – made Southern California, for Union men, “the nursery, resort, and hot-bed of disloyalty.” [xviii]

A county not to be relied upon”
Henry Hamilton, publisher of the Star, actively fostered the spirit of disloyalty in Los Angeles. Hamilton had mocked Lincoln during the election of 1860 and loudly supported the southern states in abandoning the Union in advance of Lincoln’s inauguration. In February 1861, Hamilton had suggested that disunion should lead to an impossible compromise. “Even if secession should run its full course, and there be presented a consolidated South against the aggressions of a united North, there may, even in that attitude … arise negotiations for a union … in which the rights of the South shall be fully and fairly stipulated and guaranteed.”[xix]
Southern rights necessarily included the right to own human property, which Hamilton defended as fundamental to the principles of the Constitution. As John W. Robinson has argued, “Historians of the pre-Civil War period would be hard put to find anywhere a more vociferous advocate of slavery.”[xx]
Hamilton was an “inflexible Confederate sympathizer” who rallied secessionist Angeleños with editorials that championed states’ rights and white supremacy. He denounced Republicans, unionist Democrats, and anyone who sought to abolish slavery. He would, the following year, describe the Civil War explicitly as a race war.
Hamilton was not alone. Edward Kewen[xxi], a nativist and white supremacist, had given rousing speeches before cheering Los Angeles audiences in the weeks leading up to the 1860 election. So had California’s newly elected U.S. Senator, Milton Latham. Democrats in the pro-secession Breckenridge Club had met in front of the Montgomery Saloon in Los Angeles every Tuesday evening before the election, often to hear Kewen speak, followed by a torchlight procession up Main Street to the old Plaza.
Having told listeners “I must confess … I am not enamored with this word loyalty,”[xxii] Kewen continued to stir up secessionist support during the first months of 1861. “Hardly a day goes by, wrote a worried Jonathan Warner, “without leading to the discovery that individuals unsuspected of disloyalty are deeply tainted with disloyalty.”[xxiii]
There was a great deal of loose talk at the bar at the Bella Union Hotel, where ex-southerners and pro-secessionists gathered, sometimes to spill out on the street with shouts of “Hurrah for Jeff Davis!” and boozy choruses of “We'll Drive the Bloody Tyrant Lincoln From Our Dear Native Soil.” With an air of urgent expectation, armed riders from San Bernardino and El Monte would appear at the Plaza, only to ride off again. Union men increasingly felt intimidated.
Charles Conway, publisher of the Semi-Weekly Southern News, understood their anxiety. His paper stood in opposition to secession and Southern California’s drift toward annexation to the newly created Confederate States.[xxiv] He attacked Hamilton, calling him a traitor, and deplored the extent of secessionist enthusiasm that Hamilton’s Star had encouraged.
We shall be set down as a county not to be relied upon, and as a county containing naught but traitors and conspirators,” Conway would later warn. [xxv] He eventually called for the suppression of Hamilton’s paper. “No other government in the world suffers itself to be misrepresented and maligned by its citizens," he would complain, "and it is time our Government should prove no exception.”[xxvi]
Hancock’s Headquarters. Captain Winfield Scott Hancock was the sole representative of the United States military in Los Angeles. He expected this adobe warehouse to be raided by Angeleño secessionists. Photograph courtesy of California State Library
Hancock’s Headquarters. Captain Winfield Scott Hancock was the sole representative of the United States military in Los Angeles. He expected this adobe warehouse to be raided by Angeleño secessionists. Photograph courtesy of California State Library
More danger of disaffection”
Both secessionists and Union men in Los Angeles expected California to be dramatically changed by the onrush of events following the fall of Fort Sumter. What form that change would take remained unclear.
Legislation to divide the state into northern and southern territories had gone to Congress two years before, but Congressional action was unlikely. The state’s pro-secession Congressional delegation had advocated the Pacific Republic scheme, but it was too fantastic to generate support now that war had begun.[xxvii] Neutrality did have support from secessionists and many Democrats, but no mechanism other than secession could enforce it. Joining the entire state to the Confederacy was unlikely, but Southern California might be annexed to the Confederate States, if momentum toward secession could be maintained.
A. S. Johnston left San Francisco on April 25 after resigning his commission. Although a committed secessionist, Johnston was a thorough soldier. He knew Hancock’s vulnerability in Los Angeles and doubtlessly warned General Sumner. And Sumner knew the psychological effect a successful move against Army supplies would have on secessionist Angeleños. It might be the signal for the “general uprising” he feared.[xxviii]
In Los Angeles, Hancock had literally circled the wagons in anticipation of a raid on his store of arms. There was little he could do now but observe, report to Sumner, and wait.
On April 29, Sumner wrote the War Department:[xxix]
I have found it necessary to withdraw the troops from Fort Mojave and place them at Los Angeles. There is more danger of disaffection at this place than any other in the state. There are a number of influential men there who are decided Secessionists, and if we have difficulty it will commence there.”
On Sumner’s order, troops from Fort Mojave and later from Fort Tejon began preparations to relieve Hancock and block secessionist ambitions in Southern California. In support of the troop movements, Hancock set two wagon trains in motion to collect stores from both forts, but it would take weeks.  Until federal troops arrived, Hancock and his store of arms remained at risk.
On May 4, Hancock wrote to Sumner that if there “should be a difficulty in California it is likely that it will first show its head (in Los Angeles), but I do not think the matter is ripe yet for any serious movement.” Hancock went on to warn Sumner that[xxx]
There are people here anxious for a difficulty and there may be (I believe there are, although not yet formidable) organizations to that end. The people generally are scarcely prepared for strife, and there is a strong loyal element among them. On the other hand, there is quite a number of reckless people who have nothing to lose, who are ready for any change, and who are active in encouraging acts tending to hostilities …
Hancock thought the city’s Union men were capable of giving him aid (encouraged perhaps by news of the troop movements underway) but “those persons who have heretofore been influential and active leaders in politics, and have exercised great control over the people, are encouraging difficulties here by open avowals of their opinions.” Hancock knew, he told Sumner, that a small artillery piece was in the hands of the secessionists and asked that Fort Tejon or Fort Mojave bring two, 12-pound howitzers. With dry understatement, Hancock wrote that “the moral effect would not be trifling in case of a difficulty.”
Winfield Scott Hancock. Hancock, like many Californians, did not favor abolition, but he would fight to preserve the Union. Photograph from Wikimedia
Winfield Scott Hancock. Hancock, like many Californians, did not favor abolition, but he would fight to preserve the Union. Photograph from Wikimedia
Hancock’s contradictory report to Sumner – Los Angeles was quiet and Union men confident but the city was restless and the Army’s response to “a difficulty” would require heavy artillery – illustrates the uncertainty that both Sumner and Hancock felt.. If Hancock were to be driven from his post, secession would have had its first victory in separating Southern California from the Union.
Both Sumner and Hancock had to consider the implications of A. S. Johnston’s arrival on May 2, trailing a cloud of rumors about his connection to secession conspiracies and the Pacific Republic scheme. After turning over his command of the Army’s Department of the Pacific to Sumner, Johnston and his family were now living with his wife’s brother, Dr. Griffin, in Los Angeles.
If Johnston had been active in plotting with secessionists to bring California into the Confederacy, Sumner and Hancock knew, then Los Angeles would naturally have been Johnston’s destination to begin the rebellion.
Hancock’s immediate concern was who would arrive first – mounted Army dragoons or “the Monte boys” and other like-minded secessionists. Rowdies in El Monte and San Bernardino had already begun to parade the bear flag of the California Republic, now taken to be a symbol of secession. Hancock expected that the next attempt to “raise aloft the flag of the ‘bear’” would come in Los Angeles on May 12, before federal troops were expected to arrive.
Hancock had learned that a group of 50 or more riders planned to meet at the Plaza and raise the flag of secession over the county courthouse. And would that end, after drinks at the Bella Union, with stripping the Army depot of its guns and ammunition?
But a different plot was underway. The secessionist leaders of the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles worried that an assault on Hancock would put their own plan at risk. They now intended to slip out of the county, cross the Colorado River at Yuma, disappear into the disputed Arizona territory, and make their way to Texas and the Confederate States.
Sheriff Sanchez (who was a 2nd lieutenant in the Mounted Rifles) hastily persuaded “the Monte boys” to hold off any demonstration in Los Angeles, and Alonzo Ridley, as captain of the Mounted Rifles, met with Johnston and invited him to join in their escape from Los Angeles.
Tent encampment. Federal military units set up temporary encampments much like this one to suppress secessionists in Los Angeles and El Monte. Photograph courtesy of Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library
Tent encampment. Federal military units set up temporary encampments much like this one to suppress secessionists in Los Angeles and El Monte. Photograph courtesy of Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library
Gone to Dixie”
On May 14, Major James Carleton and 50 mounted troopers from Fort Tejon finally rode into Los Angeles. They set up a temporary encampment about half-a-mile from the Army depot, placed strategically so as to oversee Hancock’s position and close enough to the center of town to respond the provocations of secessionists. Carleton named the site Camp Fitzgerald.
Hancock, his wife, and the Army supplies were safe. The moment had passed when secessionists might have raised a force of several hundred from El Monte, San Bernardino, and among the Californios in Los Angeles. Enough force, perhaps, to have persuaded Confederate units operating along the Texas/New Mexico border to make a thrust across the Colorado River into Southern California.[xxxi]
Hancock was ordered to active service in the East (and eventually to become a Union hero at Gettysburg). Before he left with his family in July, Hancock’s daughter rechristened Phineas Banning’s new steam tender with her name: Ada Hancock
The threat of insurrection in Southern California had ended, but Los Angeles would continue to be troubled by secessionist agitators abetted, Colonel Carleton told Sumner, by a sheriff who wouldn’t arrest them; judges who wouldn’t try them; and juries that wouldn’t convict them.
The boys from El Monte would continue through the war to swagger through doors of the Bella Union Hotel with the implication that they still might deliver vigilante “justice” to upstart Unionists. Tomás Sanchez would remain sheriff of Los Angeles County, despite his connection to leading secessionists.[xxxii] Dr. Griffin, Judge Hayes, Benjamin Wilson, and other secessionist Angeleños would continue to sympathize with the Confederacy, to the point of contributing substantially to organizations that aided wounded and disabled Confederate soldiers. And Henry Hamilton would continue to publish anti-Lincoln editorials in the Star until he was elected to the state Legislature.
A. S. Johnston, along with the most ardent secessionists among the Mounted Rifles, quietly left Los Angeles on June 16, crossed into Arizona, and with the help of secessionists there joined the Confederate States army. The Johnston/Mounted Rifles party wasn’t the first to make the desert crossing and the not last. An estimated 250 Southern Californians, many from Los Angeles, joined the Confederacy by that route.
Only two Angeleños volunteered to join the Union army: Horace Bell and the city’s zanjeroCharles Jenkins.
Jefferson Davis made Johnston the second-ranking general of the Confederate Army. He died early in the war at the battle of Shiloh, Alonzo Ridley by his side. George Gift, who had presided over the original mustering of the Mounted Rifles, became a Confederate naval officer. Joseph Brent found his own way to the Confederate States, ultimately becoming an army brigade commander. So did Cameron Thom, who became a captain in the Confederate army, returned to Los Angeles, and served at the city’s mayor from 1882 to 1884.
Horace Bell. Bell was one of only two Angeleños who volunteered to serve in the Union army. Photograph courtesy of Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library
Horace Bell. Bell was one of only two Angeleños who volunteered to serve in the Union army. Photograph courtesy of Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library
Cameron Thom. Thom had been the City Attorney, county District Attorney, and a State Senator before joining other secessionist Angeleños in fighting for the Confederate States. Photograph courtesy of Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles
Cameron Thom. Thom had been the City Attorney, county District Attorney, and a State Senator before joining other secessionist Angeleños in fighting for the Confederate States. Photograph courtesy of Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles
That leading men in Los Angeles remained openly secessionist for so long and that so many Confederate volunteers passed through the city at the start of the war troubled Unionists then and those who wrote about the Civil War in its immediate aftermath.
Had Los Angeles remained attached to the state and the Union only by the presence of Army troops, as Charles Conway of the Semi-Weekly News believed? Or had a policy of toleration on the part of some Army commanders, obliged to work with disloyal city and county officials, actually preserved Southern California, whose militant secessionists had “gone to Dixie” across the Colorado River rather than fight at home?
The Civil War remains a powerful lens through which to examine how Angeleños saw themselves then and how we see ourselves as Angeleños today.
The question doesn’t have an unequivocal answer, which is why the Civil War remains a powerful lens through which to examine how Angeleños saw themselves then and how we see ourselves as Angeleños today.
In April 1862, County Undersheriff Andrew King was arrested at his office by a troop of cavalry for the use of “treasonable expressions,” cheering for Jefferson Davis, and displaying a large portrait of Confederate General Beauregard. After taking an oath of loyalty that he regarded as meaningless, King was released, as every man arrested in Los Angeles for treasonable activity during the Civil War would be.
When the war ended, former Undersheriff Alonzo Ridley joined another dubious cause and died fighting for Emperor Maximilian in Mexico. Edward Kewen, white supremacist and former state legislator, was now willing to accept that African Americans had some civil rights. And Andrew King now ran a newspaper (ironically, what was left of Conway’s pro-Union paper).
Challenged in late 1865 to define where he and other secessionist Angeleños stood, now that the Confederacy had been defeated, King wrote a defiant reply. “We have been and are yet secessionist,” he insisted.[xxxiii] There were many Angeleños would have silently agreed.
John Gately Downey. Governor Downey’s support for secessionists ended his political career. Photograph courtesy of Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library
John Gately Downey. Governor Downey’s support for secessionists ended his political career. Photograph courtesy of Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library
Joseph Lancaster Brent. Like many other secessionists, Brent left Los Angeles to join the Confederate army. Photograph courtesy of Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library
Joseph Lancaster Brent. Like many other secessionists, Brent left Los Angeles to join the Confederate army. Photograph courtesy of Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library
Albert Sidney Johnston. Former commander of the US Army in California, Johnston left Los Angeles with the Mounted Rifles in mid-1861. He had “gone to Dixie” to join the Confederate army. Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia
Albert Sidney Johnston. Former commander of the U.S. Army in California, Johnston left Los Angeles with the Mounted Rifles in mid-1861. He had “gone to Dixie” to join the Confederate army. Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia
[viii]  Johnston took command of the Department of the Pacific on December 21, 1860.  He resigned on April 9, 1861, when his adopted home state of Texas seceded.
[x].    According to his wife, writing many years later.

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."

The Knights of the Golden Circle Research and Historical Archives

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Virtual cemetery of acknowledged and purported members of the Knights of the Golden Circle

Virtual cemetery of acknowledged and purported members of the Knights of the Golden Circle. Not an all inclusive list as there are names missing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

County officials went on trial in 1915 for buying votes


"Large groups of strangers showed up in Corpus Christi in late 1860. They came by ship from New Orleans and they left town on foot, walking south and west. Who were they? Where were they going? No one seemed to know. The Ranchero, Corpus Christi's newspaper, solved the mystery. The men belonged to the Knights of the Golden Circle, a secret society.

The Knights of the Golden Circle, or KGC, was founded in Lexington, Kentucky, on July 4, 1856, by George Bickley. It spread across the South and into Texas. Local units were called castles and members were formed into three orders, a military corps, a financial contingent, and a leadership cadre.

The KGC advocated the creation of an empire of slavery that would extend to Central America, include Mexico and the West Indies, and the southern half of the United States, from Kansas to Maryland and from Texas to Florida. As the KGC envisioned it, this slave empire would control a monopoly on tobacco, cotton, sugar, rice, and coffee and become a world power to rival ancient Rome. The North would be free to go its abolitionist way.

The KGC had an influential following in Texas, including legislators and other state leaders. There were 30 so-called castles in the state, including one in Corpus Christi.

In the fall of 1860, the mysterious movement of men toward the border was part of the KGC plan to conquer Mexico, which would be divided up and great tracts of land bestowed on loyal followers of the KGC. They had it worked out exactly how many acres each man would receive, with peons assigned as slaves to till the land.

In September 1860, the Knights began to arrive in Corpus Christi and left on foot, some heading for Brownsville and some for Laredo. The countryside filled with Knights and their campfires increased every night by new parties arriving during the day, a Galveston paper reported. One detachment of Knights passed through Corpus Christi and a week later another group arrived, the Ranchero reported on Sept. 15, 1860.

"Those who passed through last week are at Banquete," the Ranchero stated, "and it appears they are bound to suffer disappointment, as they expect to meet a large force subsequent to a march on Matamoros."

The KGC's plan to invade Mexico was badly organized and just fell apart. George Bickley, leader of the Knights, arrived in Texas and cited difficulties in raising money, buying weapons, and organizing such a large undertaking. He postponed the Mexican invasion to await the outcome of the U.S. presidential election coming in November. The dispirited Knights who had come to Texas to conquer Mexico turned tail and headed home.

Corpus Christi's own "castle" held a birthday party for the KGC on July 4, 1861. Local Knights marched to Ziegler's Hall where there were speeches, toasts, and tables filled with good things to eat. It was their last hurrah.

Some Confederate militia units were formed from ranks of the Knights and several Confederate leaders were high in the order. But the Knights of the Golden Circle's dream of creating a proslavery empire to rival ancient Rome became one of the first casualties of the Civil War."

The Knights of the Golden Circle Research and Historical Archives

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Lone Star Republics

Lone Star Republics

It's with some trepidation that I release this post.  Because it covers such a long and convoluted period, filled with all kinds of secret machinations, I'm bound to have made some mistakes.  Hopefully none of them to serious or embarrassing!  Bear that in mind.  Ultimately, for me this is a kind of  "catalogue and summary", an overview of Masonic involvement in the Republic of Texas and the filibuster expeditions linked to it.  It has branched out in quite a few directions, covering a lot of terrain, but only superficially.  There's also a lot of speculation, duly noted.  Towards the end I pose an almost stream-of-consciousness series of questions I'd like to see answered, and somebody out there probably has.  The Internet is no substitute for a first-rate university library.

A subject that gets short shrift here is Albert Pike.  I almost don't discuss him at all.  Confederate General, pre-eminent Freemason and leader of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, vocal advocate of slavery, publisher, lawyer, philosopher and mystical poet....I find it hard to imagine, given his stature, goals, time spent in the West and in New Orleans, etc., that he was not somehow involved with the Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC), at least peripherally, if not dead center.  But again, running out of steam and getting increasingly diffuse, I have decided to leave this question for another time, if ever.  As for the KGC, that's another can of worms that pops open early in this post, also deserving fuller treatment than I give it here.

There are a lot of sites out there discussing Pike and the KGC; separating the wheat from the chaff will be hard work in itself.

You might want to go through the following posts, which cover some other material relevant to this post and which mark the beginning of some of the reflections found in this "catalogue":
My visit last April to the US was a whirlwind, including an Anthony Bourdain-like 48 hours in Austin, Texas to visit my old friend and LoS banner-maker, .sWineDriveR.  .sWD. told me about a building festooned with Masonic statues and of course, I was interested in seeing them.  After a kind of dérive through downtown we decided to enter the State Capitol Building and sit in on some sort of weird parliamentary palaver; we then popped out the other side and stumbled onto the Zavala State Archives and Library.  Lo and behold, there were our Freemasons:
Sam Houston -- Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building
Anson Jones -- Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building 
Houston ('36-'38) and Jones ('44-'46) were both Presidents of the Republic of Texas (1836-1845).  Archive namesake Zavala was interim Vice-President during the interim Presidency of David Gouverneur Burnet (1836).  All four men were Freemasons.  Actually, there's no need to iterate this, for no less than 
"All of the presidents, vice presidents, and secretaries of state were Masons." [Here and hereafter all boldface added.]
My mind set in motion, I then recalled a Masonic plaque I'd seen at the Alamo 20 years prior.  TripAdvisor hooks us up with this photo:

                 - Picture of The Alamo, San Antonio

These plaques are explained at the Alamo website: 
Many Masons participated in the struggle for Texas independence. Many Texas military and political leaders were Masons, including: Stephen F. Austin, Edward Burleson, Benjamin Rush Milam, Juan Seguín, Sam Houston, David G. Burnet, Lorenzo de Zavala, Thomas Rusk, Mirabeau B. Lamar, John A. Wharton, and James W. Fannin.
Masons continued to play a significant leadership role in the Republic of Texas. According to The New Handbook of Texas (2:1169):  "Although constituting only about 1% of the population [of Texas], Masons filled some 80 percent of the republic's higher offices. All of the presidents, vice presidents, and secretaries of state were Masons." 
Turns out that despite the plaque only a handful of Masons participated in the defense of the Alamo; what they lacked in numbers there, however, they made up for by playing an out-sized role in the leadership of the Republic. 
The Texans’ first shot was fired by Eli Mitchell on October 2, 1835, near Gonzales.   He and his commander, Colonel John H. Moore, were both Masons.
Masonic historian Dr. James D. Carter counts twenty-two known Masons among the fifty-nine signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence, signed at Washington-on-the Brazos on March 2, 1836.
By 1846 Masons had served in nearly every major governmental post in the Republic. All the Presidents and Vice Presidents of the Republic of Texas were Masons.  In 1844, George K. Teulon, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas, addressing a gathering of Masons in Portland, Maine, observed  
“Texas is emphatically a Masonic Country:  Our national emblem, the ‘Lone Star’, was chosen from among the emblems selected by Freemasonry, to illustrate the moral virtues — it is a five-pointed star, and alludes to the five points of fellowship.” 
Freemasonry in Texas has grown in the last 169 years.  Today there are over 110,000 Masons in 889 lodges in The Grand Lodge of Texas, making it the fourth largest grand lodge in the world. 
The emblem he's talking about is now part of the Texas state flag and gives the state its nickname, so I decided to check out the Texas flag to get a nice clear mental picture:


I learned that this flag was only adopted in 1839.  Before 1839 the Republic of Texas used a flag designed by President (and Freemason) David Burnet The Burnet Flag, used between 1836 and 1839, is a bit more simple.  This version has a yellow star, but I've seen other versions where the star is white:

Compare that with a flag purportedly flown by Zavala:

And this next one flown by Captain William Scott's Liberals at the Battle of Concepción on October 28, 1835.

The Texian commanders at the Battle of Concepción, James Bowie and James Fannin, were both Freemasons.  I don't know about Capt. Scott.  Anyone?

What struck me about these flags, especially the Burnet flag, is that they are pretty much the exact same flag as the one used for the obscure and short-lived Republic of West Florida, something I'd read about years ago while researching something about my native state.

Here's what one source has to say about the RWF: 

In 1810, a group of prominent planters, all Freemasons, gathered in Bayou Sara near St. Francisville, and adopted a plan of government for Spanish West Florida – an area from the Perdido River to the Mississippi River and South of the 31st Parallel [Mostly in present-day Louisiana, in other words]. In September, the Fort at Baton Rouge fell and the Republic of West Florida was declared to be sovereign. The blue banner with the single white star in the middle, symbolizing the five points of fellowship under which the ringleaders met, was adopted as the official flag of the Republic. The flag would later be used in the Texas Rebellion, and it became the "Bonnie Blue Flag" in a later conflict. On December 6, 1810, Territorial Governor Claiborne, under order from President Madison, both Freemasons, incorporated West Florida in the Louisiana Territory. Thus ended the three-month-old independent nation led by Freemasons.

The "later conflict" the author refers to is the American Civil War (1861-1865).  The "Bonnie Blue Flag" was an unofficial banner of the Confederate States of America at the start of the American Civil War in 1861: 

When the state of Mississippi seceded from the Union in January 1861, a flag bearing a single white star on a blue field was flown from the capitol dome.  Harry Macarthy helped popularize this flag as a symbol of the Confederacy by composing the popular song "The Bonnie Blue Flag" early in 1861. Some seceding southern states incorporated the motif of a white star on a blue field into new state flags. 

It appears that some Texas units carried the Bonnie Blue into battle, as well.  This makes sense as the aims of the Republic of West Florida, the Republic of Texas and the Confederate States of America were pretty much the same:  preserve and expand slavery in order to support a feudal economy based on labor-intensive agriculture.  It just so happens that their unifying symbol was the Lone Star, emphasizing the Confederate model as opposed to the Federalist design of the United States.  The star represented Masonic fellowship and thus Freemasonry.  Nearly all the leaders of these and subsequent schemes were members.  The question then becomes if one use of the flag was merely inspired by the other, or if the same group of people, people belonging to the same group, were behind both uses.  At this point I'm tempted to speculate if the group was the Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC).

Freemasons organized their revolt against Spain in 1810 and formed the short-lived Republic of West Florida.  At the same time, Mexico was in the process of breaking away from Spain.  Dig this fun fact:  there are five revolutionary commanders and leaders listed on Wikipedia's page about the War for Mexican Independence (1810-1821).  They are:
  • Manuel Hidalgo
  • José Maria Morelos
  • Francisco Xavier Mina
  • Vincente Guerrero
  • Augustine de Iturbide
All were Freemasons.

We've already seen that 80% of the upper echelons of the Republic of Texas (1836-1845) were Freemasons.  In the wake of the US annexation of Texas, the unsettled boundary dispute unresolved by the Texas Revolution and the Republic of Texas erupted in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848.  All of these conflicts seem to be the same struggle in many ways, with periodic lulls.

So here's where the KGC is hard to shunt aside.  The generally accepted lifespan of the KGC is 1854-1865, but if the following quote is correct, it's possible if not probable that the group originated during or even before the Mexican-American War.  If my speculations have some merit, it could even date back to before 1810: 

The original objective of the KGC was to annex a golden circle of territories in Mexico (which would be divided into 25 slave states), Central America, northern South America, and Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean for inclusion in the United States as slave states. As anti-slavery agitation increased after the Dred Scott Decision was issued, the members proposed a separate confederation of slave states, with US states south of the Mason-Dixon line to secede and to align with other slave states to be formed from the golden circle. In either case, the goal was to increase the power of the Southern slave-holding upper class to such a degree that it could never be dislodged. 
Following the Mexican-American War of 1846, the group's original goal was to provide a force to colonize the northern part of Mexico and the West Indies. This would extend pro-slavery interests. 

This sounds a lot like an anticipation of the Confederate States of America.  We'll also take a look at a series of filibuster expeditions to several areas located in the "Golden Circle."

I later came across a paper by Antonio de la Cova, professor of Latin American studies at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute, IN, called "Filibusters and Freemasons: The Sworn Obligation."

De la Cova writes about an attempt to secure independence for Cuba from Spain in the wake of the Mexican-American War.  After his service in the war, General William Jenkins Worth was approached by a group of Cuban plantation owners who called themselves the Havana Club.

This group had already made one attempt, using privately-funded mercenaries (filibusters) to accomplish the task, but had failed.

Worth was chosen because of his military expertise, but in this case is was just as important that he was a Freemason. 

As this researcher (Lawrence Sullivan) points out, using de la Cova as his source:

In 1810, Louisiana Freemasons led a revolt against Spain that proclaimed the Republic of West Florida, an area later annexed to their state. And most of the leaders of the 1836 uprising that drove the Mexicans out of Texas were Freemasons, including Stephen Austin, Samuel Houston and David Crockett.

The professor says Freemasons also were behind failed attempts at Cuban insurrection in 1810 and '23, as well as a coup attempt in Spain in 1840.

The Havana Club was created in 1848 by wealthy plantation owners.  They feared that France and England's pressure on Spain to abolish slavery could lead to the destruction of the Cuban economy.  Much like the fears expressed by the KGC.

The plan was to hire 5,000 American Mexican War veterans to invade and overthrow the Spanish regime.  In August that year they sent an emissary to propose their plan to Worth.  This emissary 

found Worth in Newport, RI, and used international ritualistic signs, code words and a secret-grip handshake to identify himself as a brother Freemason. 

Worth was offered the substantial sum of three million dollars to execute the plan.  His salary was to be $100,000 and the remainder was to be used for raising and paying an army.  But nothing came of it.  Before any action could be taken, the War Dept. transferred Worth back to Texas and he died of cholera there not long after he arrived.  But the conspirators were not deterred.  They managed to get 400 men together on an island in the Gulf in preparation for an invasion of Cuba.  Zachary Taylor (not a Freemason) somehow caught wind of the plot and managed to stop the planned invasion with, in Sullivan's words, "a few strokes of his pen".  Some of them did get to Cuba, but didn't manage to spark the rebellion they'd hoped for. (Totally off-topic, it would be interesting to look into the parallels between this failed invasion and the Bay of Pigs).  In 1851, the same group again managed to land on Cuba's shores, only to be routed; the survivors were executed or enslaved.

Cuba wouldn't gain independence until 1902, but its flag is telling:

They incorporated Masonic emblems in the design of their flag and agreed to use the red, white, and blue tricolor of liberty. Master Mason Miguel Teurbe Tolon drew three oblong horizontal blue stripes, separated by two white stripes, to represent the three regions into which Spain divided Cuba. Lopez superimposed on the banner's left an equilateral triangle, resembling a Master Mason's apron, "for besides its Masonic significance it is also a striking geometrical figure." He rejected placing the Masonic All-Seeing Eye in the center of the triangle, as it was difficult to embroider.  Instead, they used "the Five-pointed Star of the Texas flag because it also carries a symbolic meaning," representing the Masonic five points of fellowship. 

In 1810 a group of Freemason planters had established an independent republic in present-day Louisiana.  In the same year, another group of Freemason planters also tried to achieve the very same goal in Cuba.  In 1810, the Mexican Revolution also began, incited and led by Freemasons.  Is it so wacky to think that maybe these events were coordinated by the same group of people?  As we shall later see, in every case a shadowy group of New Orleans Freemasons were implicated in these events.

The Havana Club attempted a third invasion of Cuba, to head off the abolition of slavery and the destruction of their economic privilege.  In the meantime, Freemasons had formed the Republic of Texas, accepting annexation to the US ten years after on the condition that slavery be permitted to continue.  Another provision was that "up to four additional states could be created from Texas' territory with the consent of the State of Texas (and that new states north of the Missouri Compromise Line would be free states)."  It's hard not to see a direct line from one group to another, all using the Lone Star as their symbol.  The creation of new slave-holding states in the Texas plan, for example, sounds a lot like the goal of the Knights of the Golden Circle, the Havana Club, the filibusters, the CSA....

The "Golden Circle" was to be 

....centered in Havana and was 2,400 miles (3,900 km) in diameter. It included northern South America, most of Mexico, all of Central America, Cuba, Haiti/Dominican Republic and most other Caribbean islands, and the American South. In the United States, the circle's northern border roughly coincided with the Mason-Dixon line, and within it were included such cities as Washington D.C., St. Louis, and Pittsburgh of the US, and Mexico City and Panama City (and most of those countries' areas). 

At the outbreak of the Civil War, however, the KGC focused its efforts on supporting the Confederacy through a variety of direct and subversive actions:  providing materiel and troops, stirring up anti-war sentiment in the North, fomenting rebellion in the Northwest....

After the Civil War, many of the defeated Confederates moved and set up operations in Cuba and Brazil, where slavery was still legal until the 1880's.  In Brazil they and their descendants are known as Confederados.  The dream of the Golden Circle didn't die with the Confederacy.

During the course of my investigations I came across the story of William Walker, yet another Freemason filibuster who attempted to establish slave-holding Republics in Mexico and Central America.

His first attempt was in Mexico: 

In the summer of 1853, Walker traveled to Guaymas, seeking a grant from the government of Mexico to create a colony that would serve as a fortified frontier, protecting US soil from Indian raids. Mexico refused, and Walker returned to San Francisco determined to obtain his colony, regardless of Mexico's position. He began recruiting from amongst American supporters of slavery and the Manifest Destiny Doctrine, mostly inhabitants of Kentucky and Tennessee. His intentions then changed from forming a buffer colony to establishing an independent Republic of Sonora, which might eventually take its place as a part of the American Union (as had been the case previously with the Republic of Texas). 

Like some kind of Sam Peckinpah film, Walker actually succeeded in capturing La Paz with only 45 men and declared a Republic of Lower California, putting it under the laws of Louisiana so that slavery would be legal.  He never controlled Sonora, but that didn't stop him from pronouncing Baja California part of the Republic of Sonora.  Even though other men joined him, Walker was obliged to retreat for lack of supplies and the unsurprising resistance by Mexican troops.  His plan strikes me as being a pinnacle of optimism, to put it mildly.

After his defeat, Walker was put on trial and acquitted.  He was down but not out, and set his sights on Central America.

Walker sailed to Nicaragua from San Francisco on May 3, 1855, with approximately 60 men. Upon landing, his group was reinforced by 170 locals and about 100 Americans, including the well-known explorer and journalist Charles Wilkins Webber (a veteran of the Texas Revolution) and the English adventurer Charles Frederick Henningsen.  I'm not sure if Henningsen was a Freemason, but he apparently was a "warm, personal" friend of Albert Pike, "who looked after his welfare"  when Henningsen was older and in diminished circumstances.  (References to Pike remain elusive in the works I've consulted.  De la Cova's essay mentions his name in a footnote, but only as the subject heading in 10,000 Famous Freemasons; the reference isn't to Pike.  His name does not appear at all in the books I've consulted about the Texas Revolution).

Walker's Flag of Nicaragua should look familiar:

His time in Nicaragua was turbulent and difficult to summarize quickly.  I'll just quote the essentials

[Walker] set himself up as President of Nicaragua, after conducting a fraudulent election. He was inaugurated on July 12, 1856, and soon launched an Americanization program, reinstating slavery, declaring English an official language and reorganizing currency and fiscal policy to encourage immigration from the United States. Realizing that his position was becoming precarious, he sought support from the Southerners in the U.S. by recasting his campaign as a fight to spread the institution of black slavery, which many American Southern businessmen saw as the basis of their agrarian economy. With this in mind, Walker revoked Nicaragua's emancipation edict of 1824. This move did increase Walker's popularity in the South and attracted the attention of Pierre Soulé, an influential New Orleans politician [and Freemason], who campaigned to raise support for Walker's war. Nevertheless, Walker's army, weakened by an epidemic of cholera and massive defections, was no match for the Central American coalition....

On May 1, 1857, Walker surrendered to Commander Charles Henry Davis of the United States Navy under the pressure of the Central American armies, and was repatriated. Upon disembarking in New York City, he was greeted as a hero, but he alienated public opinion when he blamed his defeat on the U.S. Navy. 

Walker set off for another aborted mission six months later.  In 1860, during yet another scheme, this time in Honduras, he was captured and executed shortly thereafter.

By this time, a pattern was quite obvious.  Southern Freemasons were hell bent on creating a new Republic in Latin America for mercantile reasons that depended upon the extension of slavery.

With this post I realize that I may just be a victim of confirmation bias, cherry-picking facts and Freemasons and ignoring the rest.  For example, I've come across a book titled The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire, 1854-1861.  It is a more detailed examination of this topic than I could ever hope to achieve.  I don't have a hard copy of the book, but it would appear from the searches I've made in in Google Books that Freemasonry and Pike aren't mentioned in these books at all.  One could argue that this is a good indication that I'm deluded.  On the other hand, if what I've managed to cobble together has any truth to it, the exclusion of Freemasonry from a discussion of the "Caribbean Empire" would constitute a serious if not fatal flaw in the author's approach.

This latter proposition is not only supported by the work of de la Cova, but at least two other books which feature extensive discussion of what are clearly a Masonic conspiracies, to use a totally loaded expression; these books are not hysterical anti-Masonic rants, but rather staid, academic works of peer-reviewed scholarship.

Take for example the following paragraphs from "Texas and the Spread of That Troublesome Secessionist Spirit through the Gulf of Mexico Basin.": 

Easily the most important meeting ground of filibusters, financiers, and politicians of all ethnicities and the key vehicle for the dissemination of political ideas was Freemasonry. Indeed, Freemasons played leading roles in every secessionist movement around the Gulf of Mexico (and elsewhere) from the Florida rebellion of 1810 and the Republic of Texas of 1836 to the Cuban separatist attempts of the late 1840s and early 1850s. As Antonio Rafael de la Cova has shown, the fraternity’s own ideology impelled its members to join such movements; it was their "sworn obligation" as he notes. For instance, Scottish Rite Masons attaining the ninth and tenth degrees vowed to assist "those who struggle against oppression" and in the thirty-second degree swore to become “"soldiers of freedom" and wage war against tyranny and despotism.

There was also an institutional dimension to the filibustering and separatist ventures of the Freemasons. Masonic lodges became privileged sites where members could meet one another regularly, exchange information, and organize rebellions and movements without fear of reprisal. Masons could provide introductions to other Masons occupying important posts, and they were always able to recognize each other through secret signs and rely on one another, as they swore on the Bible to "'always aid and assist all poor, distressed, worthy Master Masons' and to 'fly to his relief' upon seeing the Grand Hailing Sign of Distress." In the absence of political parties within the Spanish Empire in the 1800s and 1810s (and even after parties were established in Mexico in the 1820s), it was only natural that the more established lodges and grand lodges in Louisiana and elsewhere in the South would sponsor new lodges all around the Gulf of Mexico basin. Grand lodges of Louisiana and South Carolina chartered some of the earliest lodges in Cuba, and prominent Louisiana Masons--beginning with Stephen F. Austin of the Louisiana no. 109 Lodge--became influential colonists and politicians in Coahuila and Texas. Even the symbols employed in these insurrections and breakaway republics were of Masonic inspiration. The ubiquitous lone star--the five-pointed star that was in the symbol of the West Florida Republic, the Texas Republic, and the proposed project to liberate Cuba in 1848-49--represented the Masonic five points of fellowship. While Freemasons represented small minorities in each of the gulf provinces and colonies, they predominated in all filibustering/separatist movements during the first half of the nineteenth century. (Résendez, 198-199) 

Chapter 2 of Miller's New Orleans and the Texas Revolution is dedicated to detailing the machinations of the group of Freemasons in New Orleans who financed and helped foment revolution in Texas, along with the group's links to Mexican Freemasons via Zavala.  The details are stunning--addresses, dates of meetings, etc.--and leave no doubt that the Texas Revolution and the foundation of the Republic of Texas was in large part a Masonic conspiracy.  That sounds fantastic, but it's a legitimate if sensational way of phrasing it.

When we recall  that New Orleans politician (and Freemason) Pierre Soulé had campaigned on behalf of William Walker we edge closer to the conclusion that there was a sustained and concerted effort by Freemasons to create the Golden Circle, providing further evidence that the motivation was, as with Cuba's Havana Club, economic.  As Miller concludes: 

Commercial exploitation and land speculation were certainly greater forces behind any meetings with Texian representatives with New Orleans business men and capitalists. 

The disturbing fact remains that slavery was an essential component of this economic system. As I suspected, the early attempts to create these republics, from West Florida to Texas to Nicaragua--in parallel (or concert) with the efforts of the KGC--was to propagate slavery out of fears that abolition in the US would eventually destroy the economic fortunes of the planters and land speculators behind the revolutionaries and filibusters. 

Southerners had been eyeing Texas as an extension of the cotton kingdom since the early 1800s. Stephen F. Austin remarked in 1829 to Governor Augustin Viesca that he predicted that the Southern states would eventually secede from the United States. Ramón Musquiz, jefe politico of San Antonio de Béxar, wrote to the governor of Coahuila y Texas on March 11, 1833, discussing the affairs in Texas. He predicted that the Southern states would attempt to secede from the United States and “[t]he acquisition of Texas or its attachment to them when they make their attempt, would enlarge the territory belonging to the new government and because [of] this one acquisition or attachment, the new state would doubtless gain greater wealth than it would receive from the other states”.
Stephen E Austin also believed that Louisiana had a vested interest in what happened to Texas. Writing to his cousin Mary Austin Holly from New Orleans in August, 1835, Austin stated that, “It is very evident that Texas should be effectually and fully, Americanized--that is--settled by a population that will harmonize with their neighbors to the East. . . . Texas must be a slave country. It is no longer a matter of doubt. The interest of Louisiana requires that it should be. A population of fanatical abolitionists in Texas would have a very dangerous and pernicious influence on the overgrown slave population of that state. (Miller, 31-32)

"Southerners had been eyeing Texas as an extension of the cotton kingdom since the early 1800s."  Likewise Cuba, Mexico itself and Central America.

Another interesting thing with this whole Golden Circle/Slave Republic filibuster scheming is it's link with the insurrections against Spain farther south.  In ¡Viva la Revolución! I mentioned that the flag of Chile as having been inspired by the US flag.  More strikingly, it is essentially the flag of the great State of Texas:
Flag of Chile, aka La Estrella Solitaria -- "The Lone Star", 1817

Texas Flag aka The Lone Star Flag.

Joel Roberts Poinsett was sent to South America by U.S. President James Madison as a "special agent" for the United States. His job was to investigate, and presumably abet, the revolutionaries in Chile and Argentina. In Chile, he had a big influence on the revolutionary government, first urging them and then aiding them to write a constitution. Some Chilean scholars assert that an American fighting with revolutionary forces designed their country's first flag. This may have been Poinsett....or not.  In any event, the Chilean flag of 1817 has a clear debt to the US flag and later, the Texas flag would follow suit. They are essentially the same and bear the same name.

The adoption of the Chilean flag is usually attributed to José Ignacio Zenteno del Pozo y Silva, Chilean Minister of War and Navy 1817-1822 under Bernardo O'Higgins, although the actual designer is said to have been one Antonio Arcos y Arjona.

Need we add that O'Higgins and Zenteno were Freemasons and members of the clandestine Lautaro Lodge? 

Likewise Poinsett, who had served past Master of Recovery Lodge #31, Greenville, SC, and was a member of Solomon's Lodge, Charleston.

As for Arcos y Arjona, at least one source claims "ses liens avec les loges maçonniques espagnoles sont connus."  ("His links with Masonic Lodges are known").

After Robert Poinsett left Chile and returned to the United States, he was appointed the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico in 1825, after having served as a special envoy in 1822-23.  As ambassador, he became mixed up in the country’s political turmoil and was recalled in 1830.  Apparently, one reason behind his recall, which he himself requested, was the result of a Masonic dispute, with the Mexican Scottish Rite claiming he was promoting the York Rite at their expense.  We'll take a closer look at this in a moment....

Poinsett was also a "lifelong" friend of Zavala, having met him in 1822 (Henson, 28).  Poinsett was intimately involved in facilitating his voyage in the US to meet with investors interested in profiting from land acquisition in Texas (Henson, 46).  Poinsett was in the thick of Masonic intrigues over a period of thirty years, intimately involved in three revolutions in both hemispheres of the Americas.

Poinsett may have been the first to suggest the use of the Lone Star, in Chile, but it was used in Texas about the same time.  The earliest Texas Lone Star Flag was used by Dr. James Long, who led filibuster expeditions into Mexico as early as 1819.  He even set up an early attempt at a Republic of Texas, which lasted a month.  On a second expedition, he had more success, but was eventually forced to surrender and executed in Mexico in 1821.  In these he was joined by José Félix Trespalacios.  According to Edward Miller, they both met with the very same groups of merchants and capitalists (and New Orleans Freemasons) that Austin and Zavala met with some 15 years later for their more successful attempt to set up a Republic of Texas.  Long and Trespalacios clearly ran in Masonic circles, but if they themselves were Freemasons, I cannot determine.

Long's first flag is the one pictured above, but for his second expedition in 1820, he used the same flag which would be used at the same time for the Republic of West Florida; a lone white star.  The only difference was that he favored a red field as opposed to blue.

According to one website 

Among his "Supreme Council" of advisers were Stephen Barker, Horatio Bigelow, John G. Burnet, Hamlin Cook, J. Child, Peter Samuel Davenport ---, Pedro Procello, John Sibley ---, W.W. Walker, and Bernardo Gutiérrez, former commander of the Republican Army of the North. In addition to Long, Vicente Tarin, former Commandant of the Second Flying Company of Alamo de Parras and anti-Spanish resistance leader in Texas, was a signatory to Dr. Long's Declaration of Independence where he is identified as "Secretary." 

How many of these men were Freemasons?

As a brief aside, I should mention that in addition to these filibuster expeditions, one prior attempt to secede from Mexico was attempted by Anglo settlers about ten years before the Texas Revolution.

The Fredonian Rebellion took place between December 1826 and January 1827, led by Haden (or Hayden) and Benjamin Edwards.  The rebels declared the short-lived Fredonian Republic built around the colony led by older brother Haden, who was a Freemason, but that didn't stop fellow Freemason Stephen Austin from condemning Edwards' actions and actively helped quell it by sending armed men from his colony to aid the Mexican army.  Perhaps Austin feared Edwards would ruin his own plans; his correspondence indicates he felt it "premature."  Interestingly, the Fredonian flag did not feature a Lone Star.  A Freemason, but not the right kind?

After his defeat, the Edwards brothers fled to Louisiana, but Haden 

returned to Texas during the Texas Revolution and made his home in Nacogdoches until his death, on August 14, 1849. Edwards was the first worshipful master of Milam Lodge No. 2 when it was organized in 1837, a fact that indicates his status in the Anglo leadership. Until his death he was engaged in the land business. 

The filibusters were essentially mercenaries attempting to establish slave-holding republics by force.  But in Mexico there was another kind of colonist called an "empresario". The empresarios were settlers who had been granted the right to form colonies in Mexico in exchange for recruiting settlers and assuming responsibility for their welfare.  Many of the leaders of the Texas Revolution had been empresarios:  Austin, Burnet and Zavala among them.  Haden Edwards had been an empresario.

Large tracts of land were at stake and, as one can imagine, the potential for fortune lured many adventurers.  In Masonic connections, pecuniary interests, and institutional development along Mexico's far north Andrés Reséndez reports that although Freemason accounted for less than ten percent of empresario-led colonists, more than half of the land grants given to empresarios were granted to Freemasons.  With those kinds of numbers, it was inevitable that conflicts arose between Masonic camps.  In Mexico, this was played out in the rivalry between the York and Scottish Rites.  This reflected a larger conflict between centralists and federalists; the Scottish, or "escocés" favored tighter control over the colonists, including requirements made law in 1824 that they speak Spanish and practice Catholicism.  "Yorkinos" favored less restrictive and less centralist policies; unrestricted immigration, religious freedom, free trade, etc..  Thus, when Poinsett petitioned for the creation of more York Rite lodges, he was, perhaps unintentionally, promoting a federalist agenda.  His good friend Zavala, for example, received a land grant far larger than the usually-imposed limit. 

Reséndez believes that these conflicting interests between the landed classes were the prelude to the civil war which was the Texas Revolution.  In this case the fears of the escocés were borne out as a result of  a less restrictive policy regarding Anglo immigration to Texas.  Poinsett personally opposed slavery, but by favoring the Yorkinos he was in effect supporting the goals of slaveholders.

The aforementioned Colonization Law of 1824 provoked the Fredonian Rebellion.  It is telling that Milam Lodge, led  by Haden, was one of the three Lodges from which the Grand Lodge of Texas was formed in 1849; although dropped in 1858, the original Constitution affirmed that the Texas Grand Lodge were York Rite Masons.  Austin, who helped suppress the rebellion, was affiliated with the Scottish Rite; his involvement thus reflects the conflict between the Rites as part of the wider conflict of competing landed interests.  As the "Father of Texas" Austin clearly had no problem with revolution, he merely thought Edwards was being hastily imprudent to the point of madness.  That said, the contradictory fact remains that ten years after the Edwards debacle, Austin's support for revolution was prompted by Mexico's shift from a federalist to a centralist model. 

According to one history, Benjamin Edwards "was one of those who viewed the whole movement of immigrants into Texas as a prelude to ultimate annexation of the territory to the United States."  He too worried if their actions might be premature.   Bear in mind that this York/Scottish divide didn't reflect the situation the the United States.  Nicholas A. Sterne, a friend of Sam Houston, "While still in New Orleans [had] joined the Masonic lodge, including the Scottish Rite, an affiliation of great importance to him in later years."  Sterne was an active player in the Fredonian Rebellion and was arrested for smuggling arms and sentenced to death.  His Masonic affiliation saved his life.

This Mexican federalist/centralist conflict  parallels the underlying conflict of America's own Civil War.  Ironically the Southern Jurisdiction is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and Pike, it's charismatic leader for over 30 years, is the only Confederate general honored by a statue in the capital city of the Union he fought against.  Pike, incidentally, lived in New Orleans between 1853 and 1857.  During the Civil War, Pike was the Confederacy's envoy to the Native American tribes of the area and he made several contact with the Creeks and Cherokees.  Haden Edwards had also worked with the Creek and Cherokee Indians, to the extent that the flag he used, red and white bands emblazoned with the word "Independence", symbolized the red and the white man.  The 50+ percent of land grants granted to Freemason's during Edwards' day included grants to Anglo-Americans, Mexicans and Indians.

I found an interesting text here and I'd like to quote it at some length.  As I've said, I find it unlikely that some of the filibusters and impresarios weren't working in conjunction with members of the Knights of the Golden Circle.  While I'd hesitate to say these filibuster expeditions were all directed by the KGC, they certainly shared the very same aims. 

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....

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 KGC re-branded itself as the Order of American Knights in 1863 and then again as the Order of the Sons of Liberty in 1864.  I wonder if ex-Knights were among the six Confederate veterans who founded the KKK in 1865?  The Ku Klux Klan is believed to have taken it's name from the Greek κύκλος, meaning...."circle"! 

The text quoted above gives a bit of detail about their numbers and the extent of their power.  Later in the war they talked of fomenting rebellion in the Old Northwest as wells as using agents to agitate for pacifism and draft riots in the North.  Sam Houston is said to have been a member, as well as Jesse James.  Perhaps the most sinister alleged member is John Wilkes Booth.  The veracity of these claims is (perhaps) impossible to prove, but the fact is that with Houston and Booth at least, their known views correspond neatly with the stated goals of the KGC.

The Masonic character of the KGC is without doubt:  three degrees, oaths, grips, hailing signs.  This would suggest that some members had a familiarity with Freemasonry, at the very least.  The KGC, however, unlike the Freemasons, were a secret society in the true sense of the word.  Lodges don't hide their meeting places and Masons don't hide their membership.  This is how we know all of the guys we've discussed were Freemasons.  The Knights were actively opposing the US government during wartime.  You were unlikely to see a Knight sporting a KGC ring or enamel badge on their buggy.  So, we can only surmise to which extent Masons were implicated in the KGC.  As to whether or not it was an outgrowth of Freemasonry itself, while some would easily jump to that conclusion, nothing I have read so far leads me to do the same.

I would expect to find large numbers, however, of Masons as members and leaders of the KGC, given the Masonic involvement in parallel filibuster expeditions in Florida, Texas and Cuba.  Briefly put, the Masonic brotherhood in the South facilitated these schemes and used the cover and secret modes of recognition Freemasonry offered in order to carry out actions of questionable legality, schemes which would certainly have been frowned upon by the US government.

A lot of questions linger.  Is the KGC older than 1854 or did it, as widely believed, evolve from earlier groups sympathetic to slavery and the South?  Was there a central organization behind the various filibuster expeditions, or did they simply involve the same actors over a period of some decades?  Wouldn't new contenders have wanted to talk to the folks who showed interest previously, or who had already tried?  Was the KGC Masonic?  Was Albert Pike a Knight?  Was the KKK founded by ex-Knights?  Was this all about land and money, or was it an ongoing series of strikes against Catholic Spain?  Or both?  Were the 9th and 10th degrees of the Scottish Rite, which include the obligation to assist "those who struggle against oppression" and the 32nd degree obligation to become "soldiers of freedom" against despotism subordinate to the desire to maintain a ruling class's economic privileges?  Do these oaths have any value when, in addition to creating republics with Constitutional-style liberties, they also included the propagation of slavery?  Does that in turn render the US constitution worthless?

The Spanish-American War is sometimes cited as the last of the filibuster wars.  It certainly was a huge blow to Spain, the final nail in the imperial coffin.  Three important territories acquired as a result of this war adopted flags incorporating Masonic elements in their design (Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines).  Cuba may well have been the last Lone Star Republic.  Many of the leaders and generals in the independence struggle were Freemasons: 

"The Cuban Freemasonry movement was influenced by the principles of the French Revolution - "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity" - as well as the Masons' main guidelines: God, Reason, Virtue." 

Spain had already been weakened by the wars of independence led by Freemasons in the early 19th century and Americans were eager to rid Cuba of the Spanish as the one exception to the Monroe Doctrine, formulated by President and Freemason James Monroe.  "Apostle" of Cuban Independence José Marti was also a Freemason.  Marti knew that he would have to defeat the Spanish, but he was also wary of US involvement, for he knew the Cubans might have to fight for independence from another colonial power, the US.  Cuba was ceded to the US in the wake of the war, but the treaty was ignored by President (and Freemason) Teddy Roosevelt; Cuba was granted independence in 1902, although the US retained the right to have some measure of control over Cuban financial and foreign policy.

The Filipinos also feared falling into the clutches of another colonial power when the US entered into war against Spain in 1898.  The Filipinos had already been fighting for independence for a few years at that point.  The revolt against the Spanish empire had been lead by the Katipunan, a secret society whose organization and rituals were influenced by Freemasonry and whose key leadership consisted of Freemasons.  The national hero of the Philippines, Freemason Andrés Bonifacio, flew a battle flag any filibuster would have gladly flown:  a field of red emblazoned with a single white sun, or star, with the acronym "K.K.K." (for  Kataas-taasan, Kagalang-galang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Highest and Most Honorable Society of the Children of the Nation).  They would not continue to lead the fight against the US, who basically replaced the Spanish, due to internal schisms and dissension.  Their fears were not ungrounded, and the Philippines were not granted formal independence until 1946 and included one war between American occupiers and Filipino revolutionaries between 1899 and 1902.

The Spanish-American War has also been called the first of America's imperialist wars.  The War inaugurated at the beginning of "America's Century" where the American economic model rose ascendant over the world.  It was not the feudal agricultural model envisioned by the filibusters, the KGC and Southern economic interests, but that of the industrial North.  The protection of US economic interests has played out in nearly every country in the Caribbean and Latin America.  The dreams of a Golden Circle may seem far out, but American economic elites have often had their way south of the US border.  Of course, this is no longer carried out under the cloak of Freemasonry but of groups, think tanks, commissions and boardrooms.  None dare call it conspiracy and to be frank, there's no need when it can rightfully be referred to as "business as usual." 

Further reading:

De La Cova, Rafael. "Filibusters and Freemasons: The Sworn Obligation." Journal of the Early Republic 17.1 (1997).

Denslow, William R. 10,000 Famous Freemasons. Richmond: Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Co., Inc., 1957. 

Henson, Margaret Swett.  Lorenzo De Zavala: The Pragmatic Idealist.  Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1996.

May, Robert E.  The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire, 1854-1861.  Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002. 

Miller, Edward L. New Orleans and the Texas Revolution College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004.

Résendez, Andréz. "Masonic connections, pecuniary interests, and institutional development along Mexico's far north." The Divine Charter: Constitutionalism and Liberalism in Nineteenth-Century Mexico. Denton:  Texas State Historical Association, 2007. 109-132

Résendez, Andréz.  "Texas and the Spread of That Troublesome Secessionist Spirit through the Gulf of Mexico Basin." Secession As an International Phenomenon: From America's Civil War to Contemporary Separatist Movements.  Don H. Doyle.  Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010.  198-199. 

United States. Army. Office of the Judge Advocate General.  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.: Daily Chronicle Print, 1864.