Part of the USA Today Network

Dillsburg man was important cog in the Knights of the Golden Circle; or was he?

Lowell (Mass.) Daily Citizen and News, April 23, 1863 (

During the months prior to the Gettysburg Campaign in June-July 1863, south-central Pennsylvania was filled with spies, rumors of spies, secret agents, Southern sympathizers, and con men, who preyed on the fears of the populace to sell the farmers golden tickets and secret signs that allegedly would protect their farms from Confederate raiders in the event of an invasion of the North. These shysters claimed to have been authorized agents of the Knights of the Golden Circle, but it’s not likely they had any connection to the real operatives.
Some of the spy stories proved true (a few men were captured and taken to prison at Fort Delaware or in Harrisburg; one was executed after being seized in Gettysburg a week before the battle). Others were dramatized (a one-armed door-to-door Bible salesman, for example, was later reported to have been guiding one of Jubal Early’s columns through York County) or exaggerated (a drunken man in a York bar boasted of being a Confederate soldier from Alabama personally sent to Pennsylvania by Bobby Lee; after he sobered up he turned out to be just another local wino looking for attention).
Now, was the Dillsburg man (whose identity I am still chasing) actually the York County agent for the K.G.C., or was he another lonely soul looking for some last minute “five minutes of fame.” Or, was he confessing his traitorous activities in a soul cleansing final moment?
Keep in mind that much of the purported activity and membership of the Knights of the Golden Circle is still wrapped in innuendo and myth; a definitive account of their dealings in south-central Pennsylvania is on my agenda of “to do” book ideas.