In an effort to prove to the treasure hunting community that the Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC) (33) were not the super secret organization that many are claiming today, I’ll be bringing you newspaper articles from the 1850’s and 1860’s.
This first article comes from the Cedar Valley Times and was printed in August of 1861. Due to my typing skills, I’ll post it in several sections. I think you will find it interesting due to the fact it exposes many of the KGC secret signs and symbols. Enjoy!
We are not prepared to state how long the Order of the Knights of the Golden Circle has been in existence. It never assumed in public estimation much importance until after the springing up of the great question of Union or disunion in our land. It is believed to have materially changed its character since then, and certainly has played a prominent part in the political affairs of the nation. It’s members bear the same relation to other dis unionist that regular soldiers do to the militia. The association is upheld and applauded as patriotic and noble by the whole disunion press everywhere. Every imp elation against it is resisted by the disunion press as a blow at the disunion cause.
The success with which the Knights of the Golden Circle have kept the secrets of their order has been a matter of wonder to many. The Chief of the Order has pretended to publish all the written portion of the ritual or rituals, but we knew perfectly well that he was attempting a fraud upon the community. Hundreds of members of the Order have sworn a dreadful oaths that they would kill anyone of their fellows who should dare to reveal, and any editor or printer who should be guilty of publishing their mysteries. Probably the knowledge of these oaths has kept many persons silent who felt that they were under a solemn obligation to their fellow man to speak what they know. For ourselves, we care not for their threats. A public man is miserably unfit for his station if he hesitates to do his duty and trust the consequences to God and to his fellow man.
We have before us all the secret documents of the Order of the Knights of the Golden Circle. That they are authentic, we give our solemn assurance as an editor and a man.We proceed to publish such portions as will give a correct and full idea of the character and purposes and plans of the Order.
There are three degrees of the Order: the First Military, the Second Financial, the Third Governmental.
The Ritual of the First Degree contains little of special importance. We will here premise that the reading of the Rituals is entirely unintelligible except by the aid of keys, and a great many numerical figures being substituted for words. We are in possession of the keys, and in what we publish of the Rituals we shall give it just as we find it, putting into parenthesis the meanings of the figures. The following two paragraphs are from the Obligation taken in the First Degree, the words of the first being spoken by the Treasurer, and those of the second by an officer called the Captain:
Captain – Gentlemen, we must now tell you that the first field of our operations is 2 (Mexico); but we hold it to our duty to offer our services to any Southern State to repel a Northern army. We hope that such a contingency may not occur. But whether the Union is reconstituted or not, the Southern States must foster any scheme having for its object the Americanization and Southernization of 2 (Mexico), so that in either case our success will be certain.
In this section of the article we find the KGC’s plan for Mexico and their secret signs, grips, and passwords.
Captain- Under the laws of 2 (Mexico) every emigrant receives 640 acres of land. Under a treaty closed with3 (Manuel Doblado, Governor ofGuanajunto) on the 11th of February, 1860, we are invited to colonize in 2 (Mexico) to enable the best people there to establish a permanent government. We agree to introduce a force of 16,000 men, armed, equipped, and provided, and to take the field under command of 3 (ManeulDoblado, Governor of Guanajunto), who agree to furnish an equal number of men to be officered by K.G.C.’s. To cover the original expense of arming our forces, there is mortgaged to our trustees the right to collect one-half the annual revenues of 4 (Guanajunto) until we are paid the sum of $840,000. As a bonus there is also ceded to us 355,000 acres of land. The pay of the army is the same as the regular army of 2 (Mexico) which is about one-eight more than that of the United States. To secure this there ismortgaged to us all the public property of 4 (Guanajunto) amounting to taxable value to $23,000,000. 3 (Manuel Doblado, Governor ofGuanajunto) is now there making arrangements for our reception. We shall cross over as soon as possible; after our own national troubles are settled.
We presume that Mexico will feel herself under obligation to us for this exposition of the designs entertained towards her by the Knights of the Golden Circle and their Mexican accomplice the Governor of Guanajunto. We will now add the following from the ritual of the First Degree:
Captain- I will now give you the signs, grips, passwords, and token of the First Degree of the K.G.C.. This degree has a name, which I may now give you – it is the “I” (Knight of the Iron Hand). The first great sign of the Order is thus made, 7 (Hands open, palms touching and resting on top of the head; fingers pointing upwards). The answer to this is 8 (open hands touching shoulder where epaulets are worn, elbows close to the side). These are battle-field signs and are not to be used in ordinary circumstances . The common sign of recognition is 9(right fore-finger drawn across upper lip under nose, as if rubbing). The Answer 10 (with fore-finger and thumb of left hand take hold of left ear). To gain admission to a Working Castle, or room of any KGC, give 11 (one distinct rap) at the door. The Sentinel on duty will then raise the wicket and demand the countersign, which is 12 (SOLDIERS, always lettered except at castle door). You will then pass the centre of the room and give the true sign of the K.G.C. ; it is 13 (left hand on the heart, right hand raised). This will be recognized by a bow from the Captain. When once take your seat. The sign of assent is 14(both hands up), of dissent is15 (one hand up), the grip is 16 (press with thumb one inch above second knuckle), the token 17 (Golden Circle encasing black hands closed on scroll; the whole to be the size of a dime). Every member may wear the sign of his degree.
And now, reader, you know as much about the signs, grips, tokens, etc., of the Knights of the Golden Circle as they themselves do. We may remark here that the initiation fee for the First Degree is one dollar, for the Second five dollars, and for the Third ten.
At this point we are only 90% through the first of four columns in this article. As you can read it gives a very detailed look into the workings of this super secret society. The rest of the article will give us a look at the Second and Third Degrees. I’ll try and post part of this article each day until we are done with it. I have many more I will post over time. I highly recommend going to newspaperarchive.com and paying for the membership. You will find numerous articles about the KGC from the era when they were active. Reading these will give you a perspective that I don’t think you will get from those selling books and videos today.
From the Second Financial Degree, we need give but little. The following is the closing part of the initiation:
Captain – The headquarters for this Organization are at 23 (Monterey); where most of the stores and munitions are deposited. The Financial Headquarters are at – : Col. N.J. Scott is at present Financial Chairman.
Captain. – I shall give you the unwritten parts of this work, and I trust you will be careful in its use. If a general war ensues we shall dispense with the First Degree and rely on this and the Third.
Name – 16 (True Faith.) sign 25 (fore-finger and thumb of right hand joined, while with the rest of the hands open the right eye is touching with middle finger.) answer 26 (same with left hand and left eye) password 27 (Monterey) night word or distress – 32 (St. Mary) response – 31 and say 5 (grasp by wrist and say Rio Grande) emblem – 28 ( gold circle encasing Greek cross in centre of which is a star). This is the 29 (key) to our 30 (secret alphabet) use of 33 (K.G.C.) 56 (Goerge Bickley) guard sign 1/2 28 ( gold circle encasing Greek cross in centre of which is a star) silence 25 (fore-finger and thumb of right hands joined, while with the rest of the hands open the right eye is touching with the middle finger) on lips, danger – same with left.
In a circular, headed “Volunteers Wanted,” and dated Headquarters, American Legion K.G.C., Clarksville Tenn., June 29, 1861, PresidentBickley said:
Desiring to organize a Volunteer Corps of Kentuckians, I hereby issue the following proclamation : I will accept every company that shall be tendered to me at Clarksville, Tenn., on or before the 25th day of July, 1861. This force will act as an independent Corps on the borders, and will receive the following pay:
If necessary, this force, which ins already accepted, will be used in any locality where the enemy may be found. All companies will report to me at this place on or before the 25th day of July next, at which time I shall form a Camp of Instruction, to be under a competent and experienced corps of instructors.
Owing to the existing war, it is not always possible to get letters fromcorrespondents by mail, and under these circumstances it is perhaps best to place all letters of value in the hands of an Express Company. It is exceedingly desirable and important to organize the State of Kentucky before the August elections, and to accomplish this every precinct in each county of the State should have one or more Castles. All Second Degree fees are to be forwarded to me at Clarksville, Tenn., or Russelville Ky., on the first Monday of each month.
The next part of the article will feature the Ritual of the Third Degree. It would seem that the KGC didn’t like Roman Catholics or foreign born persons. This part is the Political Degree of the KGC named the Knights of the Columbian Star, and with this we are just starting on the second column of the article. This gives you an idea of just how much information about the KGC was known.
And now it remains for us to give the Ritual of the Third Degree, which as being the most important we shall publish almost entire. We have not the time or space for commenting on it now. Every citizen can judge of it for himself. The Roman Catholic and the foreign born population will see how they are proscribed by this mysterious Order, this central and guiding power of the secession and disunion party. All will see that the Order declare for a Monarchy, a Limited Monarchy as they call it, until all their purposes in regard to Mexico shall have been accomplished, and we need not suggest how brief will be the period within which, if they get their Limited Monarchy, they will make it an Absolute Monarchy.
Third or Political degree of the 33 (K.G.C.) – Named 57 (Knight of theColumbian Star).
Instructions- Officers of the Council shall be a Governor and a Secretary. Every 57 (Knight of the Columbian Star) is qualified to act in either capacity.
Qualifications for Membership.
Candidate must be familiar with the work of the two former Degrees. Must have been born in 58 (A slave State) or if a 56 (A free State) must be a citizen, 60 ( A Protestant), and 61 ( A slaveholder). A candidate who was born in 58 ( A slave State) need not be 61 (A slaveholder) provided he can give 62 (Evidences of character as a Southern man).
Object – To form a Council for the 33 (K.G.C.) and to organize 63 ( Government) for 2 (Mexico). No 57 (Knight of Columbian Stars) shall admit, except to a brother 57, that he has this Degree, for reasons that will hereafter appear. Any two 57’s can confer the Degree on others, the oldest 57 acting as Governor.
Approaching Candidates: Of course all 33 (K.G.C.) know each other. There being two 57 in hailing distance of the Court House of said county – that is 64 (within the county). They will confer together as to the worthiness of any 33, whom they may think a proper person to be made a 57, and having agreed, one or both of them will go to the person, each knowing the other person is a 33, and tell him there is a gentleman 64 (within the county) who has the power to confer the Third Degree, and propose to him that all three shall, or more is if so the case is, go and apply for it – telling him (or them) at the same time, that the fee will be 65 (ten dollars). If he assents propose a time and place, and all be punctual. Let it not be exactly the place where the Degree is to be conferred, but near. The 57 (Knights of theColumbian Star) act as if they also sought the Degree. Also, tell the candidate that as he or you may be rejected, it will be expected that he will not mention the matter to anyone as the result is known.
When in the room the Governor will take the Bible, and will cause all to lay their hands thereon, when each will repeat after the Governor the following:
We three(or other number as the case may be) citizens of 58 (slave State) do hereby and herein, in the presence of each other and the Great Jehovah, solemnly pledge our faith and honor to conceal and never reveal to any mortal being, save such as we know to be 57 (Knights of the ColumbianStar) any circumstances or thing that may here transpire during the next hour, and to keep the knowledge of the next hour forever secret from all but 57. In the name of God. Amen
[All take seats]
Secretary. What are you that you are thus leading off in this work, with which you seem so familiar?
Governor. I am what you are, a 57; you being the Secretary and I the Governor of this Council, and I hereby promise to continuously do my duty at all times while I hold fellowship with 33. But Sir, will you explain why it was necessary to proceed as we have?
Secretary. We thus proceed because the laws of this Order demand it – and because the Order will lose its efficiency as soon as it ceases to be absolutely secret. It is not permitted that we shall be know to any person living except to those who are 57. You will find nothing in the Order of which to be ashamed. Not even the 33 must know who has this Degree. This is perhaps the only real secret Order in the world. It must be kept secret!
Governor. [To Candidate] I have a few questions to ask you, which I trust you will answer without reserve, for I pledge you my word as a man and as a 57, and as Governor of this Council that I am in earnest in this work, and would not have sought you out, unless I had thought this whole work would meet your unqualified approbation.
1. Give me the signs, password, and grip of a 1 (Knight of the Iron Hand).
2. Give me the signs, password, and grip of 18 (True Faith).
3. To what 66 (Castle) do you belong?
4. Where were you born?
5. Where was your father and mother born?
6.Are you a 60 (A Protestant) or a 67 (Roman Catholic)?
7. Where do you live?
8. Do you belong to any other secret society?
9. Married or single?
10. Are you a 61 (slave holder)?
11. Will you stand firm in your obligation of the 33 (K.G.C.)?
12. Do you believe in the religion of Jesus Christ?
13. Are you willing to help in spreading it?
Secretary: Judging from what you have seen of the 33 project, and by what you know of us, are you now willing to be united with us in a society from which you can never resign but which in no way compromise you, since the only work and responsibilities we put on you are these:
1. Secrecy as to who the 57 are.
2. To attend every call of Council mad by the Governor General of this State.
3. To do for every brother what every brother has sworn to do for you.
4. To inform the nearest working brother, known to you, of dander to a 33 or 57.
5. To exercise a cautious prudence in counteracting false impressions of the 33, and to report to 56 (George Bickley) or his successors any improper or dangerous actions you may know of.
6. To respond to the call of any brother in your county.
7. And to never speak of the work and character of this Degree of the 33. to anyone except 57 only as you express sentiments taught by the Order.
We shall not force you to work unless you desire to do so – but on the call of five brothers you must respond, if in your power so to do. Once as a 57 (Knight of the Columbian Star) so you will live and die, though no mortal man may know it but 57.
Governor: Are you willing to proceed?
(Candidate answers, Yes).
Secretary: Every knee shall bend to God, and every tongue shall confess His name.
Governor: We shall kneel for prayer.
Governor: Mr. Secretary collect the fees of this (or these) candidate, and we will proceed in the work of initiation.
I believe it was said, for three to keep a secret two have to be dead, and it would seem so it would go with this secret Order. We are now halfway through the article. This next section reveals the obligations delivered by the Governor.
Obligation Delivered by Governor
Before God and these witnesses, I do vow that I will never reveal the signs, grips, passwords, tokens or significants of the 57 (Knights of the Columbian Star) to any man, woman, or child, except to a 57 in good and lawful standing, and then only as hereafter directed and for the lawful purposes of this Order. And I pledge to commit myself fully and freely to each of the following obligations, and in perfect good faith.
1st. I vow and promise to conceal the names of the 57, the oblects and character thereof, and never to speak of the same as though I was a member, except to those who can give me our sacred word in such a way as to satisfy me they are 57.
2nd. No matter what information or secrets may be given to me by a 57 and because I am one, I will hold to the same sacredly in my own knowledge and never re-communicate it even to a 57 (Knights of the Columbian Star) unless authorized so to do by the brother whose secret it is. I will never speak evil of a brother 57 either before his face or behind his back. I will never dishonor the wife or daughter of a 57, knowing them to be such, but I will shield and protect the character of all 57 whom I may know to be such – their wives, daughters, and families.
3rd. I will oppose to the utmost of my abilities, and never consent, but vote against the admission of a confirmed drunkard, professional gambler, rowdy convicted felon, 68 (abolitionist), negro, Indian, minor, idiot, or 69 (foriegnor), to membership in this department of 33. But I will get as many good and eligible 70 (Southern-born men) to join this degree I as I can.