Knights of the Golden Circle
Secret Empire, Southern Secession, Civil War
320 pages /
6.00 x 9.00 inches /
Based on years of exhaustive and meticulous research, David C. Keehn’s study provides the first comprehensive analysis of the Knights of the Golden Circle, a secret southern society that initially sought to establish a slave-holding empire in the “Golden Circle” region of Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Keehn reveals the origins, rituals, structure, and complex history of this mysterious group, including its later involvement in the secession movement. Members supported southern governors in precipitating disunion, filled the ranks of the nascent Confederate Army, and organized rearguard actions during the Civil War.
David C. Keehn is an attorney from Allentown, Pennsylvania, with a history degree from Gettysburg College and a juris doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.
Praise for Knights of the Golden Circle
“This history of the KGC is a fascinating look into one of the myriad secret organizations that emerged during the nineteenth century. . . . Keehn pulls together a wealth of disparate and scattered information to construct a compelling, thought-provoking narrative. . . . It is clear that the Knights of the Golden Circle played a massively important role in the period 1859–61, and we have Keehn to thank for bringing their secretive actions to light.”—Civil War History
“Keehn’s excellent research demonstrates that membership in the Knights created connections between individuals that may not have met otherwise. . . . Keehn illustrates that the KGC was, at least, a far-reaching fraternal organization.”—East Texas Historical Journal
“Secret criminals are elusive animals and typically fail to leave extensive archival paper trails. Keehn should be commended for finding so much evidence about the KGC’s activities, in the process revealing how formidable the organization was in the South.”—Ohio Valley History
“The book is well-written and well-organized. Keehn’s work provides a valuable in-depth treatment of the history of the order, and he does a good job of contextualizing the group within the complex political history of the late antebellum period.”—American Historical Review
“Keehn’s study is an ambitious and well-researched work that seeks to demonstrate how a clandestine association of like-minded individuals turned the southern version of manifest destiny into an influential political force. His work is all the more interesting because secret societies are, well, secret. Thus, they are not the most reliable repositories of written sources upon which historians generally rely. . . . A valuable contribution to the field of Civil War Studies.”—Journal of Southern Religion
“In the first book-length treatment of ‘the shadowy Knights,’ the author has bravely undertaken to separate fact from fiction about these dark figures on the margins of southern history. . . . [A] solidly researched and lucidly written book.”—Southwestern Historical Quarterly
“David C. Keehn’s new study pieces together a coherent story from limited evidence, helping separate some myths from reality and bringing the Knights into sharper focus. The author has done a tremendous service in piecing together the organization’s story to this point, and it is a work that should stimulate further study.”—Journal of Southern History
Links for Knights of the Golden Circle
Interview with Author David C. Keehn (Civil War Medicine)
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