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.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Ohio and the Knights of the Golden Circle: The Evolution of a Civil War Myth

by Frank  L.  Klement

Caveat Lector, and why? Because Klement had long challenged the very existance of the KGC and later only to challenge its effectiveness. Historians now have concluded that his investigation of a secret organization was flawed due to the secrecy he failed to expose.

The Knights of the Golden Circle Research and Historical Archives

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

~ The Escape Of John Wilkes Booth ~

The gentleman most definitely escaped that night from Ford's Theater for good after a well placed shot into the head of a tyrant and murderer... Abraham Lincoln. Another cover up by the Federal Government...they never caught him! Evidence of that being the case is presented here now with more to follow soon.

1st Virginia regiment with booth

This photograph is said to have been taken at the execution of john brown. others say it was taken in 1861. whatever the case may be, booth is pictured here. he is the gentleman on the left brandishing a dagger...

~ John Wilkes Booth's Derringer ~
Philadelphia Derringer or "Booth Derringer"

Morphological Characteristics
Feature Measurement in Inches...
Overall length 5.87
Overall height 2.79
Breech plug length 0.53
Barrel length 1.62
Rifling length 1.55
Muzzle to end of breech plug 2.16
Lock-plate center 1.90
Front outside of barrel 1.01
Middle outside of barrel 0.95
Outside of hammer 1.06
Inside trigger guard 1.04
Butt width 1.37

Members of John Wilkes Booth's family recently came forward, claiming a sensational story has been passed down in their family -- a story that has been kept secret from outsiders for years.

The secret? John Wilkes Booth, President Abraham Lincoln's assassin, did not die at a farm near Port Royal, Va., as the history books say. Instead, he escaped justice and lived for decades before committing suicide in 1903.

Family members want to prove their story by comparing DNA from bone samples taken by U.S. Army doctors in April 1865 from the body of the man purported to be Booth and compare them to bone samples of Booth's brother Edwin. The supposed Booth bone samples currently reside at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C. Edwin Booth is buried in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass.

The mystery was recently the subject of an episode on The History Channel's "Decoded" series.

Booth's Flight and Death?

According to the history books, Booth was tracked down 12 days after Lincoln's assassination at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. He was shot and killed in a tobacco barn on April 26, 1865.

Against the explicit orders of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, the assassin was shot by Sgt. Boston Corbett with his Colt revolver through the barn's boards. Wounded and paralyzed, Booth was dragged from the barn to the farmhouse porch. He died three hours later. The barn and the farmhouse no longer stand.

Although Sgt. Corbett claimed he shot Booth because he thought the assassin was preparing to use his weapons, he later simply said because "Providence directed me."

The government's version of the events has been questioned by historians in documentaries, books, and movies for decades.

"If the man who killed Abraham Lincoln got away and a giant hoax was perpetrated on the American people, then we should know about it," historian Nate Orlowek told The Philadelphia Inquirer

Descendants Want Answers

Today, descendants of Edwin Booth, who died in 1893, have agreed to exhume his body in an effort to put the family drama to rest.

"I just feel we have a right to know who's buried there,'' said Lois Trebisacci, 60, who told The Boston Globe she is Edwin Booth's great-great-great granddaughter.

"I'm absolutely in favor of exhuming Edwin," said Joanne Hulme, 60, the historian in the Booth family. "Let's have the truth and put this thing to rest."

Family members want to recover a bone sample from Edwin for DNA analysis. They say a reliable bone sample from the supposed body of Booth recovered in the barn could also be obtained. If the DNA is a match, that would end the controversy by proving that John Booth was killed in the barn.

But if it doesn't match, the American history record as it is currently known would change. John Wilkes Booth would make the news again, almost 150 years after Lincoln's murder, with the discovery that someone else was killed in the barn, and the body passed off as Booth's.

One Theory Follows Family History

Some armchair historians and conspiracy theorists contend the real Booth was never in the barn that day and escaped to live in the Southwest.

According to their theory, while Booth was living in Texas in 1877, he confessed to Lincoln's assassination to a friend, attorney Finis Bates upon becoming gravely ill. At that time, Bates claimed Booth had assumed the pseudonym "John St. Helen."

But St. Helen eventually recovered. Bates later asked him about his strange confession, but St. Helen seemed to not recall saying anything and denied he was Booth. The man later left Texas for whereabouts unknown.

On Jan. 13, 1903, in Enid, Okla., a man by the name of David E. George committed suicide. In his last dying statement, the man confessed to his landlord that he was in fact John Wilkes Booth.

Upon hearing the news of the confession, Bates traveled to Enid to view the body, which he recognized as the man he had known as "St. Helen."

Bates had the body mummified. The body appeared in carnival sideshows across the country for years as Lincoln's assassin, with the last reported sighting in 1976.

Bates published The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth in 1907, which contains an account of St. Helen's confession.

At least one member of the Booth family thinks all of the new publicity and attention would certainly make Lincoln's assassin smile.

"John Wilkes Booth is probably loving this," Trebisacci said. "Just being an actor, I'm sure he loves the controversy."

Sources: Philadelphia Inquirer, The Boston Globe, AOL

                                                                                  Finis L. Bates ~ Author

General Albert Pike ~ C.S.A.

General Pike identified Booth around 1884 - the encounter below.

Albert Pike was an attorney, Confederate officer, writer, and Freemason. Pike is the only Confederate military officer or figure to be honored with an outdoor statue in Washington, D.C. Born: December 29th, 1809 in Boston Massachusetts.  Died: April 2nd, 1891 in Washington D.C.

After The Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas Pike was faced with charges that his troops had scalped soldiers in the field. Major General Thomas C. Hindman also charged Pike with mishandling of money and material, ordering his arrest. Both these charges were later found to be considerably lacking in evidence; nevertheless Pike, facing arrest, escaped into the hills of Arkansas, sending his resignation from the Confederate Army on July 12th, 1862. He was at length arrested on November 3rd under charges of insubordination and treason, and held briefly in Warren Texas but his resignation was accepted on November 11th and he was allowed to return to Arkansas.

I find it interesting that General Pike is honored with a statue in Washington D.C. He was born in Boston, a Confederate of questionable character, a Freemason and was on legal business from Washington D.C. when he sited Booth. There's something here that just smacks of not being quite right regarding his associations with all of the aforementioned.


The administration, led by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, ordered that a single photograph be taken of Booth’s corpse, says Bob Zeller, president of the Center for Civil War Photography. On April 27, 1865, many experts agree, famed Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner and his assistant Timothy O’Sullivan took the picture.

It hasn’t been seen since, and its whereabouts are unknown.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Alexander Gardner

Alexander Gardner’s work as a Civil War photographer has often been attributed to his better known contemporary, Mathew Brady. It is only in recent years that the true extent of Gardner’s work has been recognized, and he has been given the credit he deserves.

Gardner was born in Paisley, Scotland in 1821, later moving with his family to Glasgow. In 1850, he and his brother James traveled to the United States to establish a cooperative community in Iowa. Returning to Scotland to raise more money, Gardner purchased the Glasgow Sentinel, quickly turning it into the second largest newspaper in the city.
On his return to the United States in 1851, Gardner paid a visit to the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, New York, where he saw the photographs of Mathew Brady for the first time. Shortly afterward, Gardner began reviewing exhibitions of photographs in the Glasgow Sentinel, as well as experimenting with photography on his own.

In 1856, Gardner decided to immigrate to America, eventually settling in New York. He soon found employment with Mathew Brady as a photographer. At first, Gardner specialized in making large photographic prints, called Imperial photographs, but as Brady’s eyesight began to fail, Gardner took on more and more responsibilities. In 1858, Brady put him in charge of the entire gallery.

With the start of the Civil War in 1861, the demand for portrait photography increased, as soldiers on their way to the front posed for images to leave behind for their loved ones. Gardner became one of the top photographers in this field.

After witnessing the battle at Manassas, Virginia, Brady decided that he wanted to make a record of the war using photographs. Brady dispatched over 20 photographers, including Gardner, throughout the country to record the images of the conflict. Each man was equipped with his own travelling darkroom so that he could process the photographs on site.

In November of 1861, Gardner was granted the rank of honorary Captain on the staff of General George McClellan. This put him in an excellent position to photograph the aftermath of America’s bloodiest day, the Battle of Antietam. On September 19, 1862, two days after the battle, Gardner became the first of Brady’s photographers to take images of the dead on the field. Over 70 of his photographs were put on display at Brady’s New York gallery. In reviewing the exhibit, the New York Times stated that Brady was able to “bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our door-yards and along streets, he has done something very like it…” Unfortunately, Gardner’s name was not mentioned in the review.

Gardner went on to cover more of the war’s terrible battles, including Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and the siege of Petersburg. He also took what is considered to be the last photograph of President Abraham Lincoln, just 5 days before his assassination. Gardner would go on to photograph the conspirators who were convicted of killing Lincoln, as well as their execution.

After the war, Brady established a gallery for Gardner in Washington, DC. In 1867, Gardner was appointed the official photographer of the Union Pacific Railroad, documenting the building of the railroad in Kansas as well as numerous Native American tribes that he encountered.

In 1871, Gardner gave up photography to start an insurance company. He lived in Washington until his death in 1882. Regarding his work he said, “It is designed to speak for itself. As mementos of the fearful struggle through which the country has just passed, it is confidently hoped that it will possess an enduring interest.

Courtesy of Civil War Trust

The DNA of John Wilkes Booth: Nothing to Lose and Much to Learn about a Tragic Love Story
John Wilkes Booth The National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C., and the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, possess three vertebrae specimens that, according to the government, come from the body of the man who killed President Abraham Lincoln.  The vertebrae were taken from John Wilkes Booth during the official autopsy performed on April 27, 1865.  Booth had been killed a day earlier, April 26, 1865, after being shot by Union sergeant Boston Corbett at Garrett’s farm in Virginia. However, there is an ongoing effort today by Booth's descendents, using the services of DNA specialists, to prove John Wilkes Booth did not die at Garrett's farm on April 26, 1865, but actually lived for an additional forty years, dying in his early sixties. Booth's descendents have long believed John Wilkes Booth escaped the Union's attempts to capture him.

Joanne Hulme, a distant Booth relative, 
wrote on March 2011, "At no time did any of John Wilkes Booth's family identify the body at Garrett's farm; not on the Montague, not at Weaver's Funeral Home, and not at the barn. The goverment could have brought the Booth family forth, but chose not to. Joseph Booth, John's brother, said numerous times that neither he nor Edwin Booth ever identified the body." Over 95% of all Booth descendents today believe the so-called 'body in the barn' was not that of forefather John Wilkes Booth.
The body buried at the Arsenol Lincoln's Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ordered the body in the barn to be immediately and secretly buried in the Old Penitentiary on the grounds of the Washington Arsenal, land now a part of Ft. McNair. A grave was dug beneath the prison floor on the evening of April 27, 1865, and the remains, wrapped in an army blanket and placed in a gun box, were lowered into a hole and covered by a stone slab. One photograph of the body had been taken during the Booth autopsy and it was given to Stanton, but the photograph immediately disappeared. Unlike Booth's diary which was also given to Stanton and disappeared but then reaapeared two years later, the autopsy photograph, which could have identified the body as Booth's, never reappeared.  Nearly four years later in February of 1869, President Andrew Johnson ordered the body exhumed and given to the family. Ironically, in Baptist Alley behind Ford's Theater, the very alley in which Booth had made his escape after assassinating the President four years earlier, the casket was opened and the decomposed body, now a skeleton, was for the first time shown to a representative of the Booth family.

The skeleton was then taken to Baltimore and re-buried in February 1869 in the Booth family plot at Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland. Booth's granddaughter Izola Forrester wrote in her 1937 book This One Mad Act that it was common knowledge in the Booth family that John Wilkes Booth did not die in the barn at Garrett's farm. Blanche DeBar Booth, John's niece, swore in an affidavit late in her life that her uncle John tried to contact her after the turn of the century, and that  both Edwin Booth (John's brother) and Mary Ann Holme's Booth (John's mother) had personally met with John Wilkes Booth after his alleged death in April 1865.
Circuit Court for Baltimore, Maryland In October of 1994 a petition was filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore, Maryland to "exhume the alleged remains of John Wilkes Booth from Green Mount Cemetery (in Baltimore)."  Two descendents of Booth, a great niece named Lois White Rathbun and a second cousin named Virginia Eleanor Kline, filed the petition. The Booth family was assisted by historian Nathaniel Orlowek, historiographer and professor Arthur Ben Chitty from University of the South, and Washington D.C. super lawyer Mark S. Zaid. The cause for the petition was the belief that John Wilkes Booth was  not shot and killed on April 26, 1865 at Garrett's farm, but escaped Virginia and eventually lived in Tennessee and Texas under the alias "John St. Helen" and then eventually moved to Oklahoma under the alias "David E. George" where Booth  eventually died in Enid, Oklahoma on January 13, 1903 (see Statement of Case: Appellate Brief). Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan ruled against the Booth family and declared the body buried at Green Mount could not be exhumed. After losing on appeal, the Booths turned their attention in 2010 on an effort to exhume the body of John's brother, Edwin Booth, buried in Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge MA. Once Edwin's body is exhumed, DNA will be compared to the vertebrae taken from the body in the barn.

If the DNA of Edwin Booth matches the vertebrae the government claims to be from John Wilkes Booth, then the "Booth Legend" will be laid to rest. If not, the interest in the man named John St. Helen/David E. George will explode. Either way, there remains an incredible and mostly unexplored story of love, tragedy and mystery--the story of David E. George.

The Suicide of David Elihu George David E. George David Elihu George committed suicide in Room #4 of the Grand Avenue Hotel in Enid, Oklahoma on Tuesday morning, January 13, 1903 by drinking strychnine poison. Mr. George was in his early sixties at the time of his death, and little was known about him when he died. David George had come to Enid just a few weeks earlier, in December 1902, and lived in the Grand Hotel paying for a week's rent at a time. He went about town verbally advertising himself for hire as a house painter. Mr. George was in his early sixties, was known to drink heavily at night in the bars on the town square, was occasionally seen by the proprietors of the hotel sitting in the lobby reading vaudeville and/or theatrical journals. He also possessed an affinity for quoting Shakespeare. Very little else was known about this stranger--until after he died.

The Enid Wave published in its January 13, 1903 afternoon edition a one paragraph article about the David E. George suicide. A local pastor, Rev. E.C. Harper, brought the nickel paper home and read the headline to his wife Jessica. The couple had moved to Enid just a year earlier from El Reno, Oklahoma. While her husband was a pastor in El Reno in 1900, Mrs. Harper had attended to a "David George" on his sick bed. The deathly ill man had confessed to Jessica Harper that he was "John Wilkes Booth," wishing to clear his conscience of "killing the greatest man who ever lived." Mr. George, would eventually recover from his serious illness of 1900, and continued to work in El Reno, never mentioning again his alleged real identity. Mrs. Harper and others in El Reno, including Rev. E.C. Harper, dismissed the George's 1900 'Booth confession' as either the delusions of a sick man or the deception of an insane man. The Grand Hotel, Enid, Oklahoma today Upon reading the Enid newspaper account of  David E. George's suicide that Tuesday evening, January 13, 1903, the Harpers wondered if this "David E. George" who died earlier that morning at the Grand Hotel could be the same David George they had known in El Reno. Mr. Harper went down to the town square and entered the Penniman Furniture Store, which doubled as a funeral parlor, and viewed the George body. With no known relatives in Enid, the body was under the care of embalmer W.H. Ryan.  Rev. Harper saw the George's body and realized it was the same man that he and his wife had known in El Reno. The minister suggested to W.H. Ryan that government authorities should be notified because "this man confessed to my wife that he was John Wilkes Booth." It was the next day, January 14, 1903, that the Enid newspapers had a field day with the testimony of Rev. and Mrs. Harper. Enid officials did handwriting analysis of David George's and John Wilkes Booth's handwriting and noted uncanny similarities. The body of George was carefully examined and several distinguishing and unique features in common with Booth were noted. The death of David E. George and his "Booth confession" to Mrs. Harper spread throughout the country via newspapers.
Finis Bates Enter Memphis, Tennessee attorney Finis Bates. Mr. Bates read in the Memphis newspaper the story about David George's suicide and wondered if this man who confessed to being Booth could be the same man Bates knew as "John St. Helen" years earlier in Texas. Thirty years before, in the early 1870's,  Finis Bates was a young lawyer in Granbury, Texas. He had represented a man named John St. Helen in a tax and licquor license case. In late 1872 Bate's client, John St. Helen, became ill. St. Helen called for his attorney to come see him. Just like David E. George would later confide to Mrs. E.C. Harper in 1900 that he was in fact John Wilkes Booth, so too John St. Helen confessed to Finis Bates that he was John Wilkes Booth. However, unlike Mrs. Harper, the curious young lawyer who heard the confession took St. Helen at his word and probed his client about the Lincoln assassination. Bates transcribed St. Helen's answers to his questions and would later discover that John St. Helen knew facts and information about the case that the government had not yet released to the public in 1872. Shortly after confessing he was Booth and giving to his attorney specific details of the Lincoln assassination, John St. Helen disappeared. Finis Bates would eventually move to Memphis, Tennessee where he became what was then called Attorney General (assistant D.A.). Bates worked for over twenty-five years seeking further information about John St. Helen and/or anybody who claimed to have seen John Wilkes Booth after 1865. In 1900 Finis Bates filed paperwork with the federal government, giving them information from the notes he transcribed during John St. Helen's 1872 "confession." Bates requested that the government's John Wilkes Booth reward money be given to him (Bates) on the premise that the government had made a mistake and killed the wrong man in the barn at Garrett's farm. Bates argued to the government that he (Bates) knew the current identity of Booth (John St. Helen) and that he could help the government capture him. The government sent a form letter back to Bates saying Booth had already been captured and killed.
After reading of the death of David E. George and his confession to being Booth, Finis Bates would make his way to Enid, Oklahoma by train in the spring of 1903 to see if George could in fact be the man he knew as John St. Helen. Finis Bates entered Penniman's Funeral Home and, according to Mr. W.H. Ryan, turned white as a sheet when he saw David E. George's body and exclaimed, "My old friend! My old friend John St. Helen!"
Finis Bates believed so much that David E. George/John St. Helen was in fact John Wilkes Booth that he went on to stake his professional reputation on proving it. He was not alone. The first President of the Oklahoma Historical Society, W.P. Campbell, believed David E. George/John St. Helen was John Wilkes Booth. The two books these two men wrote defending their views are available on-line. The titles of the two narrative books are self explanatory: John Wilkes Booth: Escape and Wanderings until Final Ending of the Trail at Enid, Oklahoma, January 12 (sic), 1903, by W.P. Campbell, and The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth: Or, the First True Account of Lincoln's Assassination, Containing a Complete Confession by Booth (published 1907) by Finis Bates. These two books are lampooned by many, but Bates' book became a bestseller (70,000 copies) within just a few months of its publication in 1907. Both these men wrote emphatically that John Wilkes Booth died in Enid, Oklahoma on January 13, 1903. The impending DNA tests by the Booth family will either destroy their century old Booth escape premise or the DNA tests will cause many historians who have mocked Bates and Campbell to re-read their material with greater focus.What picques my curiosity is the life of John St. Helen/David E. George from 1865-1872 and how he came to first encounter attorney Finis Bates in Granbury, Texas. Where did John St. Helen/David E. George come from? Who was he? What about his family? If he is proven not to be Booth, how long did he carry out his Booth deception? It is incontrovertible David E. George and John St. Helen are the same man. One does not have to come close to believing David E. George is John Wilkes Booth to see that David E. George is John St. Helen. Where was John St. Helen prior to appearing in Texas in 1872? I believe the answers to these questions form the beginning of understanding a tragic love story, regardless of your view of "The Booth Legend."
The Mystery of the Love Story Begins In early February 1903, not quite four weeks after David E. George died in Enid, the mayor of El Reno (Booth's former place of residence for at least three years immediately prior to Enid), received a letter from Mrs. Charles Levine of New York City. The Enid Eagle, Enid's morning paper, reported on this letter in its February 19, 1903 edition. Mrs. Levine wrote that she was the daughter of John Wilkes Booth, and if indeed, David E. George was Mr. Booth, she was entitled to his estate, an estate that the papers were then reporting to be quite sizable (later discovered to be untrue). Most modern historians, including C. Wyatt Evans, dismiss Mrs. Levine's letter as an attempt by a greedy easterner to either glean money or gain fame by inserting herself into the David E. George drama playing out in Enid, Oklahoma. C. Wyatt Evans lumps Mrs. Charles Levine into a very broad category of other crazy "interlopers" who tried to profit from the George death, and only devotes one paragraph to Mrs. Levine in his otherwise excellent book The Legend of John Wilkes Booth: Myth, Memory and a Mummy. Evans places his information about Mrs. Levine in the same paragraph as his description of quack "palm reader"  who also sought to profit from the George story by reading the dead man's hand. I believe, respectfully, that C. Wyatt Evans is wrong about Mrs. Levine's motives for "inserting herself" into the George drama in Enid.
Marriage License of John W. Booth to Louisa J. Payne February 1872 Mrs. Charles Levine was born Laura Ida Elizabeth Booth in Payne's Cove, Tennessee, near Chattannooga  in 1873. She was the daughter of Louisa Holmes Payne and John Wilkes Booth (see marriage certificate to the left).  Louisa J. Payne was a Confederate Civil War widow. Her first husband, Confederate soldier C.Z. Payne, died in 1865 toward the end of the war.  Louisa was left to care for her young son McCager (or "Cage"). Louisa worked as a seamstress for the recently opened University of the South in Sewannee, Tennessee. In 1871 Louisa met a man named Jack Booth who claimed he was a "distant cousin" to John Wilkes Booth. Louisa fell in love, and she married Jack in February 1872. However, after the wedding, Jack told Louisa that he had a past, and his name was not really Jack. When she pressed him for the truth, Jack told her he was actually John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of the Republican President. Louisa, a devout Christian and southern Democrat, could forgive her husband for his war actions and personal deceptions to her,  but she insisted that he sign their marriage certificate with his God-given name. And so, on February 24, 1872, a new certificate was signed in the presence of Rev. C.C. Rose, listing the marriage of John Wilkes Booth and Louisa Payne. The late historiagrapher for University of the South, Dr. Arthur Ben Chitty, did extensive research into Louisa Payne and her marriage to the man claiming to be John Wilkes Booth. Dr. Chitty eventually discovered the marriage certificate itself. Dr. Chitty archived at The University of the South several audio tape interviews of men who personally knew McCager Payne, who in 1872 became John Wilkes Booth's step-son. Dr. Chitty discovered that McCager had intimate knowledge while a youth that his stepfather was actually John Wilkes Booth.
As a newly married couple Louisa and John Wilkes Booth moved to Memphis, Tennessee because, as Louisa would later say, "my husband had been told he would be paid a large sum of money owed him for his offical work on behalf of the Confederacy." While in Memphis, Louisa overheard some men on the street discussing her husband and pointing out where the "skunk" was now living. Louisa informed John that men knew who he was and his life was in danger. John told Louisa that it would be better if they separated for a season. He would go to Texas and she should go back to Tennessee until things cooled off. John promised Louisa that he would return to Tennessee after things settled down.

Louisa went back east to Payne's Cove Tennessee and the man claiming to be John Wilkes Booth headed south. Unbeknown to the couple at the time, Louisa was pregnant with John's child.  Louisa Payne would give birth to Laura Ida Elizabeth Booth, named after one of John Wilkes Booth's sisters, while living alone in Tennessee in early 1873. Her second husband, the man she first knew as "Jack Booth," but later laimed to be "John Wilkes Booth" went to Granbury, Texas -- and would change his name to John St. Helen. Historian Steven Miller suggests that John St. Helen, the man who confessed to being "John Wilkes Booth" to attorney Finis Bates, is a different man from the person who married Louisa Payne. My research on a book about the Lincoln assassination and the bizarre connections to Enid, Oklahoma suggests they are the same man. This man--Jack Booth/John St. Helen, David E. George, is either a deluded and deceptive man who pretended to be John Wilkes Booth for over four decades, or as many in the family of John Wilkes Booth now believe, this man was actually John Wilkes Booth himself.

DNA testing in 2011 could help solve the mystery.
Back in Tennesee during 1873 Louisa Booth received financial help from the family of her deceased first husband (C.Z. "Zeb" Payne). She went  to work caring for her son McCager and her newborn infant girl. Louisa kept hope that her husband would return to her from Texas, but she never heard from him. In 1879, seven years after marrying the man who claimed to be John Wilkes Booth, beautiful 36 year old Louisa Payne was raking and burning leaves in her front yard when her dress accidentally caught fire. Louisa ran to the creek in an attempt to extinquish the flames, but the burns on her body would prove to be fatal for her. Before she died, Louisa called her six-year-old daughter Laura Ida Booth and  her fourteen-year-old son McCager Payne to her bedside. The mother informed her children that Ida's father was John Wilkes Booth. McCager would later tell friends at the mill where he worked late in his life that he already knew John Wilkes Booth was his stepdad because of conversations he had overheard between his mom and stepdad when he was a boy. Caught listening in one time by his step-dad, McCager was threatened that if the boy told anyone that his step-dad was John Wilkes Booth, "I will kill you."

After the death of her mother young Laura Ida Booth would go to live with friends and family. Laura Ida Booth eventually became an actress herself and married a fellow actor named Charles Levine in New York City. When Mrs. Charles Levine heard of David E. George's death in Enid, Oklahoma in early 1903, and that David E. George had claimed to be "John Wilkes Booth" before he died, Mrs. Levine sent her letter to the the mayor of El Reno claiming George's estate "if indeed he is John Wilkes Booth."

Mrs. Charles Levine was serious in her query about Booth's estate, believing herself to be his daughter. Her letter should also be taken seriously by historians. Again, one of two options is possible regarding the man who appears as Jack Booth/John St. Helen/David E. George/ and who fathered Laura Ida Booth: (1). Either this man is a devious and/or deluded individual who kept up a false front for four decades about being John Wilkes Booth, or (2). This man is actually John Wilkes Booth.
To take the latter position opens oneself up to ridicule from mainstream historians. I remain personally unpersuaded. What is certain, however, is this: The DNA testing of the vertebrae from 'the body in barn' will either be a match to John Wilkes Booth and lay to rest the "Booth Legend" or the DNA testing will NOT provide a match and the escape theories for Lincoln's assassin will explode. Either way, historians ought to give Laura Ida Elizabeth Booth (Mrs. Charles Levine) and the letter she wrote to the mayor of El Reno in February 1903 far more serious attention than they are currently being given.