Knights of the Golden Circle

Throughout the winter of 1860-61, the establishment of a Pacific Republic was talked about in a threatening manner. And when the Southern States seceded and the Civil War had actually begun, and it became evident that California could not by any possibility be carried over to join the seceded states, an extra effort was made to have California assume an attitude of neutrality between the North and South, although this meant, of course, resistance to Lincoln’s administration, and virtual secession. The inside workings of the conspiracy to form a Pacific. Republic, however, were not divulged. It is known that the “Knights of the Golden Circle,” one of the secret pro-slavery organizations, helped carry on the idea. And enough came to be known of this movement at Washington to cause the President to recall Brigadier-General A. S. Johnston (a Southern man with pronounced sympathy for the Pacific), and to dispatch General Sumner to relieve him ( April 25, 1861).

(General Johnston, it is now conceded, was incapable of betraying a trust—his integrity being so great he was not approached on the subject of a Pacific Republic. However, it was politic that he be removed from the very important position he held and a pronounced Unionist given the command. Johnston, after being relleved of his command, proceeded overland by way of Los Angeles to join the Confederate forces. He accepted a General’s command in the Confederate army, and was killed at Shiloh.) . . .

Disloyalty was not extirpated, however, as the futility of the attempt to establish a Pacific Republic became manifest, but merely took another and more dangerous form: namely, the open manifestation of sympathy with the Southern States and their cause, and the formation of secret societies, pledged to aid them in their struggle. Two famous secret organizations were formed in California by the secessionists : “The Knights of the Golden Circle,” and “The Knights of the Columbian Star.