The Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC) was a secret society in the American south that supported the extension of slavery into the territories and the acquisition of new lands at the expense of Mexico, Central American and Caribbean nations. The objective of the KGC was to annex a golden circle of territories in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean for inclusion in the United States as slave states. Alternately, its members proposed a separate confederation of slave states, with US states to align with others in the Caribbean circle.
The South’s secession and the outbreak of the Civil War prompted a shift in the group’s plans for Mexico toward support for the new Confederate government. On February 15, 1861, Ben McCulloch, Texas Ranger, began marching toward the Federal arsenal at San Antonio, Texas, with a cavalry force of about 550 men, many of whom were Knights of the Golden Circle. As volunteers continued to join McCulloch, U.S. general David E. Twiggs chose the better party of valor and surrendered Federal supplies in Texas to this force.
General Henry Hopkins Sibley led a Confederate brigade, in late 1861, to conquer New Mexico. Lieutenant Colonel John R. Baylor went ahead of the full brigade in August 1861, declared Arizona a separate territory and appointed himself governor. Sibley’s plan was to capture supplies from all the Union forts as he went west, receive more supplies from Confederate sympathizers in Magoffinsville (El Paso) and finally capture Forts Craig and Union (the principle supply depot for the Southwest). From there he would continue, assisted by a rising of the native people of New Mexico, to conquer Colorado where Confederate sympathizers would join his cause. He would then turn west and take Mormon Utah and Nevada, assisted by a rising of the Mormons who had been at war with the United States, and go on to seize California again assisted by Confederate sympathizers. The result would be a Confederacy that stretched from ocean to ocean, a continental power, with its own supply of specie (gold and silver). He fought the Union at Bloody Valverde and won, but then was defeated, in March 1862, near Santa Fe at Glorieta Pass. Although Sibley’s expectation of the sympathy of Native New Mexicans and Mormons are doubtful, the plan could well have worked. If Texas had had the trained militia it claimed and he hadn’t had to raise and train a brigade, if this hadn’t prevented surprise, if supplies had been where they were promised, it could have worked and very nearly did.
Along with Sibley went Captain Sherod Hunter whose reinforced company invaded Arizona striking close to Yuma. Along with Hunter went a Confederate official who was supposed to negotiate with the Mexicans, possibly for possession of Sonora. These ambitions sound remarkably like those of the KGC.
Albert Pike (December 29, 1809–April 2, 1891) was an attorney, Confederate officer, and Freemason. A highly educated man, it was he who wrote Morals and Dogma a statement of the meaning of Scottish Rite Masonic Ritual that ties its elements to all the religions of the world. These rituals are full of references to King Solomon’s Temple and to the cryptic vaults and secrets hidden beneath it. He fought as a troop commander in the Mexican-American war and as a brigadier general for the Confederacy. Before the war he had developed many contacts among American Indians and in the Civil War he along with Ben McCulloch recruited three mounted regiments of Native Americans who fought as the Battle of Pea Ridge. As in the Mexican war, he quarreled with his superiors and found himself the subject of a number of accusations.