Expose of the Knights of the Golden Circle - Member Knight




Chapter IV.
The Presidential Contest of 1860

The Contest of 1860—the Breckinridge movement, and the insincerity of its opposition to lincoln the K.G.C. at the North and the South—Misrepresentations by Northern Knights—Some of their Boasting Letters—Aid expected from the North in case of Secession—New Emblem of the Order—Plans to steal Arms and Money from the U.S. matured in Castle in 1859—Lincoln and Hamlin scarecrow at the South—Stories of the Campaign, and their almost general belief—Treatment of Northerners at the South.

The two Baltimore Conventions having finished their work, adjourned, and went forth organizing state tickets, and presenting the claims of their respective candidates to the people of the country. Now, be it remembered, there were many warm supporters of Mr. Buchanan's administration, and political enemies of Senator Douglas, who, seeing the disorganized condition of the Democratic party, and the certain prospect of defeat in consequence, were willing to make almost any personal sacrifice in order to bring about a better state of affairs. These proposed to allow Breckinridge to take the South and Douglas the North, in the hope that thereby the election of Lincoln would be prevented, and the choice thrown into Congress. These men were honest in their intentions, whatever we may say of their political views. They labored earnestly to prevent the organization of a Breckinridge ticket in any Northern State; but they were not members of the K.G.C., and, consequently, unacquainted with the real intent and meaning of the Breckinridge movement. Their reasoning, their efforts, their appeals, were not heeded, and almost before we were aware of it, there was a Secession ticket (that is the proper name) in nearly every state north of the Ohio River, with such men as the Hon. J.D.B__ and D.S.D__ to stump for it, and such papers as the New York Day Book to talk for it.

There were many men in the North who were not bona-fide members of the K.G.C., who still advocated the claim of the Secession ticket almost purely out of the hatred and envy they bore Mr. Douglas; others again were duped and lured into it. A certain Mr. B__, of Indiana, a Mr. V__, of Ohio, the editor of the Day Book, and a Mr. C__, of Massachusetts, were said to be about the only reliable members the Order claimed among the prominent Northern politicians. Of course there were several of the "small fry" in many places. It was frequently wondered why any set of men could be so foolish as to advocate the Breckinridge ticket in the North, and often the questions were asked, "Why do you do it?"—"What will you make by it?" The reply generally was, "We hope to make nothing; we act from principle." With some, these answers were, doubtless, honest, inasmuch as they were ignorant of the operations and intentions of the Knights in the South, who were, as I have just shown, at the bottom of the whole movement.

As has already been seen, the members of the K.G.C. hoped, by the organization of the Secession ticket in the North, to more effectually divide the Democratic party. But there was with them another and far greater object to be attained by it, viz.: the ascertainment of the precise number of Northern men with decided Southern principles. This was a desideratum of no little importance, since it was honestly believed and fully expected that, in the pending revolution of 1861, every man in the North who had voted for Breckinridge might be set down on the lists as a soldier for the Southern army. All over the North agents were employed to attend the elections, ascertain the exact number of Breckinridge voters, and forward the same to any regularly organized castle in the South. This latter movement was somewhat interrupted in New York and some other Eastern states by the Union coalition entered into by all the parties opposed to the election of Mr. Lincoln. But, notwithstanding this, a pretty accurate calculation was made of the probable sympathetic aid that might be expected from every state north of Mason and Dixon's line. About two months before the presidential election, there was an extensive correspondence going on between Northern and Southern Knights, in which the former were representing the secession strength of their section as being very great. In this connection I have thought fit to present, in substance, a few letters which I have had the opportunity of seeing. If I had been safe in so doing, I would have copied them verbatim.

Here is one written from Madison, Indiana:

Madison, Sept., 1860. Corresponding Sec. Jefferson Castle, No. 23, K.G.C.

Dear Sir:—You may tell the friends of Southern Rights that our district can turn out at least one thousand men who will fight Northern aggression to the death. Be of good cheer, and work faithfully. Yours for the right, T.

The following is the substance of an epistle written from Evansville, Indiana:

Evansville, Sept., 1860. Corresponding Sec Jefferson Castle, K.G.C.

Dear Sir:—Tell the friends that our county, alone, will be found good for one regiment of brave men, who will shed their last drop of blood before they will submit to Abolition rule. Put us down as A, number one. Very respectfully yours, etc., S.

Washington, Indiana, is heard from in the following manner:

Washington, Ind., Sept., 1860. Corresponding Sec Jefferson Castle, K.G.C.

Dear Sir:—Having been generally over the Hoosier State, I think I can tell pretty accurately how she stands. There are thirty thousand voters in this State who will never compromise with Black Republicanism, and I think I may safely say that there are at least ten thousand who will shoulder their muskets in defense of the rights of their Southern brethren. Your ob't servant, M.

The letter below is from the little town of Carlisle, Indiana:

Carlisle, Sept., 1860. Corresponding Sec. Jefferson Castle, K.G.C.

Dear Sir:—I have taken the pains to count noses in this district, especially in this county, and I can set you down, at the least calculation, two thousand fighting men, who will, at a moment's warning, in case of need, march to the standard of Southern Rights, and it is highly probable that the whole of Indiana south of the National Road will secede and unite its fortune with the South when Lincoln is elected. Ever yours, etc., W.

The foregoing letters I saw and read among the filed papers of Jefferson Castle, Kentucky, and these were from Indiana alone. From what I could gather from prominent members of the Order, I think I may safely estimate the promised sympathetic aid of the several Northwestern States as follows: Indiana, at least 10,000; Ohio, about 5,000; Illinois, 5,000; Pennsylvania, at least 15,000; New York, about 50,000; Iowa, 5,000; Michigan, 5,000. Total, 95,000. Beside the assistance expected from the above mentioned States, they looked for a good deal from others, both in the way of men and money. At no time previous to the bombardment of Fort Sumter was it presumed that the number of men to be counted on from the North would fall below 100,000, and with these, and the assistance of Northern capitalists, Northern engineers, manufacturers, etc., together with the heavy drafts to be made on the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Arsenals, it was confidently apprehended as nothing more than a breakfast spell to "clean out the Abolitionists" capture the Capital at Washington, and kick Uncle Sam into nonentity.

About this time a new emblem was added to the Order. It was a simple triangular white card, somewhat resembling the Knights' spear, in the three corners of which were written the figures 7, 3, and 5. In the center of this card was printed the capital letter R, and immediately below this was written the number 61. Let the reader presume this card to be placed before him with the long, acute angle upward, as the upper part of a spear in situ; let him imagine the figure 7 in the left hand corner, the figure 3 in the upper corner, and the figure 5 in the right hand corner. Now he should place the capital letter R in the center of the card, and 61 immediately under it, and read as follows, beginning with the capital R, and running round the several angles of the card, from left to right: R.—Revolution. Y-3-5=15, of fifteen states in '61, (1861) or Revolution of fifteen states in sixty-one. These cards were thrown about the streets and corners of many of the Northern border cities nearly two months before the election of Mr. Lincoln.

I have already intimated that secret arrangements had been made to secure a considerable portion of Uncle Sam's money at this period. This is true. Floyd and Cobb had taken all the necessary preliminary steps for the accomplishment of this object nearly two years previous to the time of which I am now writing. Plans for securing the arms of U.S. Arsenals, and possessing all the Southern fortresses, had been thoroughly matured about one year previous, historical evidence of which is presented in succeeding pages of this work.

In addition to the foregoing, by far the larger portion of the regular army had been distributed among various outposts in Texas and Utah, where it was quite out of reach. The Navy had been, with the exception of an insignificant home squadron, sent to the most distant foreign points by that poor, pitiful, nigger truckling Yankee, Isaac Toucey, in order that it might not be readily recalled. Further, it was arranged to send nearly every navy officer of known loyalty abroad, while a large majority of those to be selected for the home squadron were Knights of the genuine stamp.

To Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri, where it was known that the K.G.C. were vastly in the minority, no arms were to be distributed, or at least as few as possible, whereas in the Cotton States, where the Order was pretty strong, and where its members generally managed, by hook or crook, to be at the head of all public affairs, large numbers were sent. In order to more thoroughly prepare the people of the Gulf States for the anticipated revolution, it was resolved upon to use every means to make them believe that if Mr. Lincoln was elected, the almost immediate abolition of slavery in all the Slave States would follow; and that he (Lincoln) was, in point of civilization, but a few removes from a Fiji Islander.

The newspapers under the control of the Knights were constantly employed in giving the most distorted and unjust delineations of the characters of the Republican nominees. Northern editors who wrote disparagingly or abusively of Lincoln and the Republican party were largely quoted from, and in small country sheets which rarely ever reached a Northern or border town, such quotations were miserably garbled, and presented to the people vastly more unjust than they were originally. In many of the Gulf States the common people were fully of the opinion that Mr. Hamlin was a mulatto, from the newspaper descriptions they had read of him. Mr. Lincoln was generally believed to be a totally illiterate numskull, as barbarous toward the Southern slaveholders as a Hottentot, and as dear a lover of "niggers" as a German is of lager beer. It was even currently reported, at one time, that his wife was a quadroon.

Meantime, such a course was to be pursued toward Northern men caught in the South, of the slightest Republican tendency, as would stir up the indignation of the Northern people. Men were to be tarred and feathered, ridden on rails, ducked in muddy water, and even hung, or shot, where any sufficient excuse could be had. In short, every species of taunt and insult were to be used in order to arouse and irritate the North, so that Mr. Lincoln's election might be all the more certain. The effects of ruffianism in Kansas had proven to them that the more they abused the North, the more intense would be its opposition to that institution which really does seem to engender, either directly or indirectly, more grossness and brutality than almost any other known to the civilized world.

Just here I might relate a few incidents which occurred a short time before the Presidential election, which fully illustrate the truth of what I have just been stating. In Nashville, Tenn., about the middle of September, 1860, there were found, wrapped around some books, a few copies of the N.Y. Tribune, in the trunk of a gentleman from Boston, who had been teaching music in Nashville nearly two years. The mere finding of these papers in his possession was construed by Knights into "distributing incendiary documents." His conviction having been fully established by this mere fact, he was conveyed to a duck puddle and thoroughly soaked in its muddy contents; he was then gently tarred and feathered, ridden on a rail all around town, followed by a gang of the "chivalry," and finally driven out of town by the locomotive "property" which it was thought his two year old Tribunes were likely to injure.

Another instance. An "Egyptian," from Illinois, who had been on a visit to some of his friends in Tennessee, in September, 1860, and who had been born and raised in that state, was going home per railroad through Kentucky. The train was pretty well filled with Knights on their way to Louisville, to assist in organizing a new castle in that place. Perceiving, from his appearance, that he was a Northerner, they proceeded to cross-examine the "Egyptian" respecting his politics. Seeing, from the complexion of things that the surrounding atmosphere was highly "chivalrous," and not being as successful a hypocrite as the "Subscriber," he endeavored to pursue the noncommittal course. But that would not do; they only persisted the more urgently with their quizzings. Finally, he told them, very frankly, that if he must come out, he expected to vote for "Old Abe," if he lived till the coming election. This acknowledgment was the signal for hisses, groanings, jeerings, etc., and finally one of the crowd attempted to pull his nose, when he pulled off his coat, drew himself up a la Heenan, and swore most lustily that if they undertook anything of that kind, he would "thrash the whole d__d car load." Fortunately, the conductor, and one or two other genuine Kentucky gentlemen, induced the K.G.C.'s to desist their more than heathenish conduct. But still they could not give the job up entirely; and when the train stopped at the next station, they induced the women and children from the adjoining cars to come in and look at what they called the "Lincoln animal." I did not learn whether they charged an admission fee at the door, but understood that many of the "young 'uns" considered it a very rare exhibition.

And still another case: Judge ___, of Greencastle, Ind., was visiting some relatives in the western part of Kentucky, in the latter part of September, 1860, and being on a train one day which contained a goodly number of the "chivalry," was questioned by them very closely as to his politics. He told them he was a Lincoln man, when several of them began to curse him, and threaten to put him off the train. The Judge, however, showed them his mettle, gave them to understand that he, too, was a Kentuckian by nativity, and that before they insulted him they had to do some hard fighting. They concluded to let him alone.

Many instances more of a similar and even worse character could be adduced to the point, but these are sufficient to give the reader some idea of the Knights' tactics towards Northern men in the fall of 1860. During the whole of Lincoln's campaign, the newspapers were full of accounts of almost insufferable abuses received by Northern men, every one of which was justly attributable to the Knights. It is but justice to the South, however, to state that there were, at this time, many Southern gentlemen, even of the strong pro-slavery stamp, who utterly discountenanced these outrages.

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