THE SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
VOL. XLIV JANUARY, 1941 No. 3
THE KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE:
A FILIBUSTERING FANTASY
C. A. BRIDGES
The last decade of the old South, the 1850's, was the heyday
of manifest destiny. Northward, westward, and southward
American expansionists marched in their dreams, and stern
reality found many a dreamer still marching, especially toward
the South. Of all the southward expansion projects, one of
the most ambitious and audacious was that of a secret filibus-
tering order known as the Knights of the Golden Circle. Com-
paratively little that is absolutely authentic is known about this
group of filibusters. The literature and other evidence that is
now in existence is scanty, and much of it is of doubtful value.
Even after excluding the wild statements made for and against
the Knights, and after making allowances for partisanship, the
story of this organization and its activities makes one of the
most interesting and amazing chapters in the history of the era.
It was a long-range, far-reaching program that undoubtedly
appealed to many Southern dreamers. It was a dream of power
and prestige, of achievement and glory, of expansion and empire
that struck the bull's-eye of Southern hopes.
The association known as the Knights of the Golden Circle
was originally organized July 4, 1854, at Lexington, Kentucky,
with five members. Its chief member, organizer, and source
of inspiration was George W. Bickley. He was a native of Boone
County, Indiana, but he was then making his home at Cincin-
nati.' The organization grew slowly and never acquired a very
large membership, although by 1860 there were local clubs
'Knights of the Golden Circle, Address to the Citizens of the Southern
States, 17. This pamphlet will be referred to hereafter as the Raleigh
Address. William Dudley Foulke, Life of Oliver P. Morton, I, 376;
anonymous, Authentic Exposition of the K. G. C., 8.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 44, July 1940 - April, 1941. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146052/. Accessed April 18, 2014.