Civil War Letters of Captain John A. Ritter, M.D.
49th Indiana Volunteers
The following account was written by the grandson of Capt. John A. Ritter, William O. Ritter, sometime in the 1950's....
Excerpts: "It is in the early years of the civil war, that the following history was made. An underground secret organization composed of southern sympathizers, known as the Knights of the Golden Circle, flourished through out Indiana. Dr. William A. Bowles, of French Lick, was the President."
His arrest: "Upon arrival, they quickly dismounted and surrounded Mr. Bowles' home. Captain Ritter gave an alarm at the door which was answered by one of his wives. (It was claimed that he had two wives.) Captain Ritter explained his mission, Mrs. Bowles protested saying Mr. Bowles was not at home, but on search they found him hidden in a closet, dressed in woman's apparel."
Secrecy: "The Knights of the Golden Circle held their secret meetings in old abandoned buildings, deep thickets, and some times in caves. It is said that the French Lick Lodge kept their records and rituals on a shelf in the hollow of a big sycamore tree, near where the Southern Railroad crosses French Lick Creek."
More secrecy?: "After the arrest of Dr. Bowles and his conviction, the influence of the Knights of the Golden Circle began to wane and soon was disbanded."
The Knights of the Golden Circle Research and Historical Archives