Booth Tells All! -- KGC
Fri, 5 Mar 1999 23:38:40 -0500
The Knights of the Golden Circle
It was on the eve of the Civil War. Washington was rampant with
war hysteria as the nation tottered on the abyss of the approaching
conflict. To add to the increasing tension, the Capitol had been
infiltrated by a wave of Confederate spies. Indeed, the
Confederacy began the war with an espionage system already
organized and highly efficient, with tentacles reaching into secret
areas of the Federal Department. Often the Rebels knew what the
Yankees were going to do almost as soon as the decision was
reached -- and long before Union troops began to move.
One of the most energetic and efficient of these espionage rings
was a well organized secret society, the KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN
CIRCLE, (KGC), which had both Northern and Southern Branches,
closely cooperating with each other. During the Civil War the KGC
not only acted as the secret agents and fomenters of civil disorder
in the North, but it's members were smugglers of medical supplies,
recruits, arms, uniforms and ammunition.
After Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, the
organization went underground and assumed a completely new mission
-- the raising of funds to start a new Civil War, promoting the
idea of "The South Will Rise Again!" The Knights went about their
new mission with little regard for the legal principles. There
were many stories that the KGC amassed millions of dollars worth of
gold, silver, and currency which is allegedly stashed in numerous
caches around the United States.
In 1984 document were found in a Antebellum home in Savannah
Georgia, pertaining to a gold shipment buried by the KGC just
before the city was invaded by Union troops. This was said to be
gold transported from Texas.
Perhaps you are wondering just how the Knights of the Golden Circle
came into being and what happened to this organization in later
years. The middle of the last century was a spawning ground for
numerous secret societies of every description, with many persons
holding simultaneous memberships in several organizations.
Entering the scene in 1859, with his founding of the Knights of the
Golden Circle, was George W.L. Bickley. His intentional aims for
the secret society were to Americanize and ultimately annex Mexico,
to settle the slavery question in favor of the South, and to
promote his own fame and fortune.
Bickley at various ties had been a physician, author and editor --
and, as head of the KGC, he styled himself 'General', without a
shadow of authority, save that of his own will, he created
colonels, majors, and captains in the most absolute and Napoleonic
manner. Local lodges of the organization were called 'castles,'
and fees were naturally required of the members. These fees were
one dollar for the first degree of membership, five dollars for the
second, and ten for the third. Weekly dues in all degrees were
fixed by the colonels of the regiments in their respective
jurisdictions. In a short while Gen. Bickley began to realize
one of his main objectives -- a substantial income.
Ollinger Crenshaw, writing in the American Historical Review,
stated, "An eloquent orator and filled with the spirit of modern
'chivalry', Bickley engaged for months during 1860, a vigorous
stump speaking campaign in the Southern states, which he hoped
would enlist wide-spread support for his project. It is indeed
remarkable with what facility this plausible man ingratiated
himself with the Southern editors, who frequently accepted Gen.
Bickley at his own estimate. He also drew to his support, as
active organizers, a considerable number of men throughout the
South, who were, however, not politically prominent."
Sometime later Bickley extended his membership drive into the
border states, where he was not always greeted with enthusiasm.
Indeed the Unionist Louisville Journal, assailed Bickley's
"incendiary doctrines and hellish machinations," and later
characterized the KGC as the "heart the brain, the breath, the soul
of the secession party in Kentucky." In a lighter vein the same
paper lampooned "King Bickley, Monarch of the KGC," and humorously
observed, "Many a man puts his foot in a golden circle may get his
neck in a hempen one."
Eventually, the secret society spread across the Ohio River into
Indiana and the other states of the Old Northwest, where it won an
unsavory reputation during the course of the Civil War.
Gradually, Bickley lost control of the KGC, and for a brief period
in 1863, he turned up as a surgeon in Gen. Bragg's army, attached
to the 29th North Carolina Regiment.
For reasons not apparent, Bickley later applied for and received
a pass through Union lines with the understanding that he would
proceed directly to his home in Cincinnati. Instead he journeyed
to New Albany Indiana, to link up with a KGC castle. This
deviation in his promise caused him to be imprisoned as a spy on
August 18, 1863, and he was not released until the fall of 1865.
Deeply discredited everywhere and odious because of his KGC
activities, Bickley died on August 10, 1867. The Cincinnati Daily
Commercial barely mentioned his demise.
What of the widespread secret society which Bickley had founded?
It continued to live on in several forms. Toward the end of the
Civil War, many of its members transferred their allegiance to
another organization, the Order of American Knights, which in turn
evolved into the Sons of Liberty -- both of the latter dying from
acute inertia at the end of the war. However, a hard-core group
of die-hard Confederates preserved what remained of the Knights
of the Golden Circle when the shooting stopped. During the great
conflict, the society raised funds for the Confederate cause by
both legal and illegal means -- considering Yankee banks,
businesses and stagecoaches to be fair game for robbery.
These men rationalized that their cause was only temporarily lost.
As a consequence, they were determined to continue raising funds,
by any and all means. This Inner Circle claimed such stalwarts as
Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, Jesse James, Gen. Bud
Dalton, Prof. B.E. Bedeczek, Gen. J.O. Shelby and others. Reports
have it that following Lee's surrender, the KGC amassed millions of
dollars in gold, silver, and currency, awaiting the call to again
bear arms -- a call which never came. As a result, these caches
which reportedly remained unfound and untouched. Supposedly, many
of these caches were booby trapped and could still be lethal for
Sometime after the war the secret KGC established headquarters
in an old building on Fatherland Street in Nashville Tennessee.
Reportedly, the old building stood where the "Grand Ole Opry" got
its start. About 1884 the headquarters were moved to Colorado
Springs. Verifying the old Confederates' tales of clandestine
treasure hoards becomes very difficult when one realizes the KGC
officially closed its books and disbanded in 1916. In addition,
through deaths and failing memories of the elderly Knights caused
the locations of many caches to be lost in the maze of history, for
the relied upon memory rather than written records for identifying
Speaking of Nashville, a rich KGC trove was supposedly hidden under
an "ordinary looking mountain" somewhere off the old Nashville
Pike. Allegedly, $600 million was stored there in a vault, in
1870. Later, more gold was said to have been added to this hoard.
We have also heard tales of a KGC treasure having been secreted
about 11 miles from Nashville. These two reports, however, may
pertain to the same cache.
L. Frank Hudson, an expert researcher from St. Petersburg Florida,
is the source of KGC treasure tale originating in Texas. Sometime
in 1863 a shipment of gold coins in wooden kegs left Galveston
aboard a Confederate vessel. The gold came from the western mines
operated by the KGC. At some point, before shipment, it was minted
into coins, struck by dies captured or stolen from the Federal
government. In addition, each coin bore "C.S.A." stamped on its
When the Confederate ship left Galveston, all went well until it
was opposite the mouth of the Mississippi River. At that point a
Union gunboat gave chase, and hung astern the Confederate all the
way into Florida waters. Here the gunboat's prey attempted to
evade capture by entering the Suwannee River. The gunboat hung on
tenaciously, so at the second bend in the river, the rebels began
throwing the coin kegs overboard to thwart their capture. The
Union vessel was still gaining, causing the Rebels to ground their
craft on the left bank of the river and flee into the woods to
Since that day, there have been rumors of some kegs having been
found. In fact, two lucky finders were able to find enough coins
to establish a fine restaurant in Maderia Beach as the story goes.
During the Civil War the Northern element of the KGC perpetrated
several acts of sabotage, particularly in Midwestern states. One
of these schemes of skullduggery was an elaborate plan to free and
arm thousands of Confederate prisoners being held at Camp Douglas,
near Chicago. A Harpers Weekly reporter of that day described the
prisoners thusly: "A more woebegone appearing set of men it would
be difficult to imagine. It may have been from exposure and low
diet, but they were all sallow-faced, sunken eyed and apparently
famishing. The uniforms of the Confederates prisoners are just no
uniforms at all, being wholly ununiform in color, cut, fashion, and
manufacture. The majority stood gazing about the place, perfectly
willing to be conversed with, and as willing to answer all
It was the assignment of the Confederate master spy, Captain Thomas
H. Hines, to coordinate this operation with the KGC. The Knights
had secretly gathered a large quantity of rifles, pistols and
ammunition to arm the prisoners. In addition, they had pledged
a considerable force of members for this raid. However, the KGC
backed out at the last moment, wisely considering the plan too
Although much was written about the Knights during the war, very
little has been printed about their post-war activities. Reporter
Del Schrader has written some newspaper articles about the secret
organization, plus a book titled, Jesse James Was One of His Names.
The book is about a character who at one time called himself Col.
J. Frank Dalton. However on May 19, 1948, this elderly gentleman
announced to the world that he was none other than the notorious
outlaw, Jesse Woodson James, denying that he was killed in 1882 as
the history books relate. He also claimed to have headed the
underground KGC following the Civil War and to have knowledge of
the locations of its various hidden troves. Once of his claims was
not uncommon, though, for over the decades several phony characters
have appeared to announce that they were Jesse James.
On April 22, 1973, the Los Angeles Herald Examiner published
a report by Del Schrader under the headline "$100 billion in
Treasure, the search for Rebel Gold." The story covered his
interviews with several sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons of
long-dead members of the KGC.
Schrader, now deceased, said he was shown several maps of KGC
caches. However, one of the decendents stated, "They won't do
anybody much good. The maps are accurate as far as they go, but
you'd need the two or three transparent overlays, which each fill
in a landmark, for the specifics. In most cases, a vital point
of reference is carved on a nearby rock."
Another old-timer offered, "Quantrill and Jesse James (both
notorious guerillas), along with 10 other members of the Inner
Circle, vowed they would beg, borrow, or steal gold so that Civil
War II, if it ever came, could be fought on a cash and carry
basis... many former Confederate officers headed west, profited
and tithed up to 50% of their annual incomes."
The original Knights of the Golden Circle formally disbanded the
organization and closed its books in 1916, but their descendants
still maintain the vows of secrecy and silence taken by the old
Confederate veterans. This new generation, however, has vouched
that the old veterans stashed away money and other treasure in
many states in the Union, and even in some Canadian provinces.
They claim too, that most of these caches are booby trapped.
One of these alleged caches is said to be located near Cat Den
Butte in western Texas. Supposedly holding some $30 million in
gold, plus a quantity of silver. The treasure vault lies deep in
the side of a hill near a river, according to one authority.
A series of transparent overlays are required to obtain detailed
information leading to the vault. One clue, "Look for a
slate-covered tombstone in the southeast corner of the old Mexican
cemetery," was offered by an informant. He added, "It bears coded
If the locations of these caches are known to the sons and
grandsons of members of the KGC's Inner Circle, why haven't they
been opened? "The old conspirators swore themselves and their
descendants to secrecy," according to Schrader. "It was almost
a religious thing with them. Anyone who revealed the secrets of
the Circle would have ended up dead."
Another thing, the caches were not to be disturbed until the last
Confederate passed to his reward. Of course that day has long
gone, so now the heirs are left with the problems of what to do
about their great secrets. Some have proposed using the treasure
for educational purposes, but they are divided as to how they
should proceed in that direction. On the other hand, they also
fear, if the caches are revealed, the Federal government may claim
all of it. What a quandry!
The heirs may be partially relieved of some of this dilemma for
several knowledgeable professional hunters have been quietly
searching for these troves in recent years. For instance, a group
of Eau Claire Wisconsin, researchers have discovered coded markings
in sandstone in the Park Falls area, coupled with similar markings
near Mellen. After 15 years of research these people are convinced
these signs, along with others in western and southern states, are
clues to KGC troves.
Reported Sites of the Secret Caches
Arizona- $175 Million
Arkansas- Unknown amount at Wild Cat Bluff, near Centerpoint
California- Sacramento $41 Million; San Gabriel Canyon, $1.6
Million; El Monte $250,000; Nevada City $16 Million similar amounts
in the area of Grass Valley and Placerville; Porterville $3.3
Million. Other caches are rumored in, or near San Diego, San Jose,
San Pedro, and San Franscisco.
Carolinas- $500 Million
Colorado- Underwater treasure of the Curious Mule, site unknown,
also,the Vanishing Wagon Treasure near Fairplay Park Colorado.
Georgia- $413 Million, which includes Confederate caches near
Savannah, Sparta, Allentown, Bolton & Kingsland - all possible
Nevada and Utah- $300 Million
New England- $333 Million
New Mexico- $630 Million in various caches. Plus an unknown amount
buried by Confederates east of Tolar, near Santa Fe Railroad.
Oregon- $333 Million
Tennessee- A vault in mountain off the Old Nashville Pike about
11 miles from Nashville.
Texas- Three Rivers treasure of $30 Million in gold in central part
of the state. Also, a steel safe under water about a mile east of
Brazos River bridge in Waco. Cat Den Butte cache in west Texas.
Washington- $175 Million.