Knights of the Golden Circle, Treasure and John Wilkes Booth

Book Cover for a Knights of the Golden Circle

Book Cover for a Knights of the Golden Circle book written by a supposed member

The Knights of the Golden Circle, also known as the Order of the Sons of Liberty, were (are?) a secret society of southern sympathizers. They named themselves for their plan to create a “Golden Circle” of slave-keeping territory and then contrarily named themselves for a group of men who were committed to the cause of freedom. The Knights of the Golden Circle did little to change history, unlike their namesakes, but they did leave behind a mysterious legacy of famous members and buried treasure.

This secret society was born in 1854, when George Washington Lafayette Bickley decided to gather men to an extended version of the southern cause. He wanted to launch military attacks on parts of Central America, Cuba and other outlying areas. The areas he and the rest of the Knights of the Golden Circle planned to attack formed something of a geographical circle, hence the name. The closest they came to carrying out these plans was a small, unsuccessful attack on Mexico. However, rumor has it that they gathered all the weapons and funds they needed. Perhaps it was decent leadership and manpower they were lacking.

Some say that the Knights of the Golden Circle hid all of the money and weapons they would need to wage war. There are rumors that members were exorbitantly rich. Other rumors say that the gains were ill gotten. Either way, no one knows for sure if this treasure ever existed, if it was taken away by members, found later, or it is still out there waiting to be found. The latter is an interesting prospect, given that, even without the money and precious metals reported to be part of the treasure, a cache of Civil War weapons would be a collector’s dream.

Tied into the Knights of the Golden Circle treasure mystery is that of the most famous outlaw in United States history – Jesse James. There is a rumor that Jesse James was a member of the secret society. Furthermore, the James Gang’s plunder may have contributed to the treasure. He is not the only infamous person or group of persons connected to the Knights of the Golden Circle.

John Wilkes Booth was the man who killed President Abraham Lincoln. Booth was an avid supporter of the southern cause. Some people believe that Booth was connected to the Knights of the Golden Circle and that the secret society planned the murder. There is also speculation that the Ku Klux Klan began as an offshoot of the Knights of the Golden Circle. There is little evidence to support this, but the idea is not as far-fetched as many theories relating to secret societies are. The KKK is a pro-slavery, secretive organization; just like the Knights of the Golden Circle, though it is doubtful that the KKK has amassed any kind of buried treasure. They are only secretive about individual identities, not real or perceived accomplishments.

The Knights of the Golden Circle disappeared after the Civil War, or so it seems. It is still possible that there is Civil War treasure out there to be found or that has already been found. The reality is that any treasure left behind by this society may be unrecognizable for what it is. Many people and businesses hid their valuables during the Civil War and were unable to retrieve it from their hiding places, for various reasons. A cache of secret society treasure could very well look like a dead civilian’s resources.

The Knights of the Golden Circle, retrieved 5/4/11.
DKOT, Knights of the Golden Circle, retrieved 5/4/11.

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Shelly Barclay writes on a variety of topics from animal facts to mysteries in history. Her main focus is military and political history. She is a writer for the Boston History Examiner, Military History Examiner and the Boston American Revolution History Examiner. She also writes for a local historical society newsletter.

Historic Mysteries