Friday, October 21, 2011

Dan Bernstein on "Rebel Gold"

by Michael Howe
Here's a quote on "Rebel Gold" from Dan Burstein, editor of the national bestseller Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind The Da Vinci Code.

"Rebel Gold" is a great adventure story and a fascinating treasure-hunt tale, but it is much more than that. It is an improbable, fantastic, and yet ultimately eye-opening trek through unknown, unseen, and unremembered episodes of American history. Jesse James, Confederate gold, the Knights of the Golden Circle, Freemasons, Albert Pike, the Ku Klux Klan, mysterious maps, codes, and symbols, echoes of the Knights Templar: It would make a great case for Dan Brown's Robert Langdon character -- except Warren Getler and Bob Brewer got there first -- and in non-fiction!

The Knights of the Golden Circle Research and Historical Archives

Berks was home to Confederacy advocates


Q: Was there a group in Berks County that sympathized with the Confederacy during the Civil War?

Apparently there was.

The Knights of the Golden Circle, dubbed Copperheads by their critics, apparently had a strong following in western Berks County.

A clandestine organization with oaths and secret handshakes, it was bitterly opposed to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.

The Knights and related groups, including the Order of the Sons of Liberty, argued that the Civil War was not being fought to save the Union but to free blacks and enslave Southern whites.

More favorable accounts said the group merely wanted peace and restoration of slavery to the Union, as it had been before the war.

Whatever the truth, historians say the Knights joined with groups that resisted the draft of 1862, encouraged Union soldiers to desert and circulated scurrilous pamphlets characterizing Lincoln as a traitor and murderer.

In Berks, the organization is the subject of a controversial book by the Rev. Francis Trout Hoover: "Enemies in the Rear: Or, a Golden Circle Squared. The Story of Southeastern Pennsylvania in the Time of Our Civil War."

Trout's 600-page fictionalized account was published in 1895. Original copies are rare, but paperback reprints are available online.

Earl W. Ibach, Womelsdorf historian, said Hoover gave his characters fictional names but that many people in western Berks knew their real-life counterparts.

"Their families bought up the books and destroyed them," Ibach said.

Indeed, Ibach said that his great-great-grandfather, Gabriel Filbert, held meetings of the Knights in a barn on his Marion Township farm.

"Wernersville had the most members," Ibach said. "Heidelberg Township had some, too."

Hoover, who grew up in western Berks, set the tone for the book in its preface.

He wrote that the Golden Circle was based on "a mixture, in about equal parts, of ignorance, hypocrisy and treason."

In one scene, Hoover creates a fictionalized account of a meeting where locals are sworn in as members of the Golden Circle.

"You do solemnly swear in the presence of Almighty God to never reveal the secrets of the Sons of Liberty, also known as the Knights of the Golden Circle, of which you herewith become a member," Hoover wrote.

All agree, and recite an oath in which they promise, among other things, to resist the draft, protect deserters, return runaway slaves to their owners and help abduct Abraham Lincoln, "the so-called President of the United States."

Hoover mixes fact and fiction.

In the book, an operative extols the deeds of former U.S. Rep. Clement Vallandigham of Ohio, leader of the Copperheads.

In reality, Vallandigham was court-martialed and sentenced to prison for siding with the enemy, but Lincoln commuted his sentence and banished him to an area behind Confederate lines.

In another passage, Hoover has a brigade of ax-handle-wielding Knights marching on Reading on April 7, 1863, where their leader, Philip Huber, was being held in prison.

Indeed, an item in the Philadelphia Press on April 3, 1863, said Huber and three others were arrested in Reading and charged with being connected with a treasonable organization. They had been taken to a Philadelphia jail, the item said, adding that "considerable excitement existed in Reading in regard to the affair."

Ask Ron is a weekly feature providing answers to quirky curiosities of the Berks County area. Is there something that you're curious about? Pose the question to Ron Devlin at 610-371-5030 or

Monday, October 10, 2011

Finding Buried Treasure In The United States

Looks like our subject interests made the top two of five.
Finding Buried Treasure In The United States
It may shock you, but there is an estimated FOUR BILLION dollars in buried treasure throughout the United States that has never been found.  This is treasure that has never been found because the people who buried it are no longer alive.  Here is a list of five of the largest, undiscovered treasure hoards in America.

Jesse James was the notorious American outlaw known for robbing banks and trains with the faction known as the James-Younger gang.  For 18 years (1864-1882), James forged a name for himself as an icon of the Wild West.  After James' death, rumors sprang up that it wasn't really him who had been killed and then there was a million dollars in gold bars that were left unaccounted for.  The money, according to legend, is buried somewhere in Missouri or Oklahoma.  It was taken from the robberies and buried somewhere, but Jesse James was killed before he could retrieve it.  Does it exist?  No one has ever found it.

After the Civil War ended, Confederate President Jefferson Davis had millions of dollars in gold - enough to rebuild another army - hidden away in throughout the South.  The plan was to make shipments by train to Richmond, Virginia - the capital of the Confederacy.  However, along the way, much of this treasure was stolen.  It has never been found.  Rumor had it that Jefferson Davis stole it for himself.  Another group, known as the Knights of the Golden Circle, were supposed to be guardians of the lost silver and gold.  Most likely, the treasure was buried somewhere in Danville, Virginia.  Treasure hunters have been looking for it for years, but without luck.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


We have written before of bravery in battle and the uncanny "luck" of known Freemasons and alledged Knights of the Golden Circle to escape death. From the bullet riddled vestments of George Washington to two 'fatal' wounds of Nathan Bedford Forrest (and lets not forget the Medical Examiners record of the scars of Frank Dalton. Let us add to that this the legend of Freemason and Confederate Lt. Geo. Dixon's gold coin.


THE LEGEND: For over a century, an oral tradition-a legend-was passed down involving Lt. George Dixon, who commanded the Hunley on its final assignment, which turned out to be one of the most important missions in naval history. According to the legend, Dixon was in love with a beautiful young woman from Mobile, Alabama, named Queenie Bennett.

To keep her sweetheart safe from harm, Queenie gave George Dixon a gold coin, as a good luck charm. Again, according to the legend, George kept the coin with him always, in his pocket, rubbing it with his thumb while he dreamed of the day when he and Queenie would be reunited.

During the Battle of Shiloh, George was shot point blank. A bullet ripped into the pocket of his trousers and struck the center of the gold coin. The impact was said to have left the gold piece bent, with the bullet embedded in it. Queenie's good luck gift had saved his life.

Many such legends were created during the war. Was this one true? For 137 years, no one knew whether the story was true or merely a romantic tale from long ago.

During the excavation of the H.L. Hunley, the gold coin was discovered next to the remains of Lt. George Dixon. It was deeply indented from the impact of a bullet and traces of lead were discovered on the coin. The coin, a $20 dollar gold piece, was minted in 1860. One side bears an image of Lady Liberty. The other side, which has a federal shield-and-eagle symbol, had been sanded and inscribed by hand. It clearly bears four lines of cursive script with the following words:
 April 6, 1862 
 My life Preserver 
G. E. D.

The Knights of the Golden Circle Research and Historical Archives