Wednesday, December 5, 2012

History Up-Close: The Mysterious Knights of the Golden Circle

Caveat Lector!
History Up-Close: The Mysterious Knights of the Golden Circle
Words like powerful, secret, subversive, spy, and underground always grab my attention, but more so when their used in relation to 
American history
. These kinds of words serve as emotional touchstones, promising hidden – but dark and foreboding – tales of action and adventure.
Stories of secrets and spies are great fun, and high adventure –from John le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, to Ian Fleming’s exotic and improbable James Bond. My first novel – Last Stand At Bitter Creek – is about a Union Army spy whose mission is compromised, and finds himself in the crosshairs of a relentless, rogue cavalry commander with secrets of his own to protect.


My imagination kicked into high gear when I recently came across a story about the little-known Knights of the Golden Circle. The group, a “very large, powerful, secret and subversive southern organization,” allegedly came close to changing the course of American history with plans to restart the Civil War. But, mystery and skepticism surrounds the history of the KGC.
Some say the KGC got its start in 1854 with the purpose of financing the “second rising of the South.”Others point out that the Knights established depositories for major treasure and goods in every state, Canada, Mexico, and various places in Central and South America. In this book, The Mysterious and Secret Order of the Knights of the Golden Circle, Roy William Roush, contends the group left huge caches of gold throughout the country, still awaiting discovery.


In another book he wrote, Jesse James and Lost Treasures of the Knights of the Golden Circle, Roush suggests the James gang held membership in the KGC. The book, which sells for $24.90. however, came under stinging criticism by Leaves of Gas, the official blog for the family of Frank and Jesse James. Reviewer Nancy Samuelson said twenty-of the 81-page book are “either filled with full-page photos or illustrations or left entirely blank.”
Samuelson’s review  says there’s no evidence that Roush has “any acquaintance with any serious history” of the KGC or Jesse James. She contends the book is laced with “drivel” about other issues involving the outlaw, and warns that readers should take a pass on the “utter nonsense” included in the book regarding his alleged involvement in the KGC.


According to the Texas State Historical Association, the secretive organization wanted to create “a golden circle of slave states” that would span the southern US, West Indies, Mexico, and parts of Central America. The term Golden Circle was a geographical reference for this empire that would stretch about 2,400 miles in diameter, with its based of power in Havana, Cuba.
The Civil War, however, destroyed the KGC’s cause and its purpose, according to the association. Furthermore, no evidence exists that the KGC survived the war “in any meaningful way” and, essentially, dissolved.