The Knights of the Golden Circle: Part 3
Another picturesque York County farm that was visited by the Confederates during the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign. This particular farm is on Taxville Road near Baker Road in West Manchester Township. The Knights of the Golden Circle operated in this region, but were most active in Codorus and North Codorus townships to the south and in Dover township to the north.
* The Knights of the Golden Circle
* 1863 Washington newspaper recounts outrages Rebels inflicted on York Countians
I have been fascinated by the June 1863 shenanigans of several New York con artists here in York County, Pennsylvania. These men traveled to York, set up headquarters there (presumably in a local hotel), and then canvassed the county to sell worthless certificates / tickets from the Knights of the Golden Circle, a secret pro-Confederate organization with alleged ties to the Copperhead or peace movement. The buyer would pay a buck for the golden paper, and would in turn be instructed in secret hand signals similar in concept to the Masons or other secret societies of the day. Of more interest to the farmers and residents, the tickets came with the promise that the Confederates would leave their property and horses alone should war come to southern Pennsylvania. The same con game was played on residents of Franklin and Adams County, and both Jubal Early and J.E.B. Stuart commented on the unusual hand gestures in their post-Gettysburg reports.
In March and April of 1863, reports circulated in Berks County that the Rebels would be invading Pennsylvania at harvest time (mid-summer) and that the payment of $1 would protect the livestock and crops (the same con as was perpetrated in southern PA). I have also read of similar accounts elsewhere.
Here is a Harrisburg reporter’s view on the situation (forgive the butchered Pennsylvania Dutch: I do not speak the language and it was hard to make out the words of the microfilmed old newspaper).
The Copperheads Humbugging Their Deluded Followers–The Signs and Certificates no Guarantee against the Ravages of their “Southern Brethren”–Light in Codorus–An Anecdote
Notwithstanding the denial of the copperhead papers, it seems there actually exists such a secret organization as that called “The Knights of the Golden Circle.” Though we believe the main object of this new order is to bind men to support, by solemn obligation, none but men of their own political party for office, and to raise money for electioneering purposes; yet there is no longer any doubt that the victims of this organisation were made to believe that, by speaking against the Government, and expressing sympathy with the southern rebels–but especially, by making certain signs, in case of an invasion into the loyal States, they would be spared, in person and property, by these southern “gentlemen,” who were after the abolitionists only. How badly these deluded beings have been humbugged by the unprincipled office seekers may now be readily learned by a tour through the sections of our beloved Commonwealth, which have been visited by Lee’s dirty, lousy, robbing horde, and by listening to the whining complaints of those who would to save themselves from being plundered, fain have aided these rebellious villains in their ungodly purpose to destroy the “best government on earth.”
In proof of what we have written, we will merely add one anecdote–perfectly reliable–of a certain victim of the ring in Codorus Township, York County, which, though a little ludicrous amid the poor fellow’s distress, fully confirms the points above stated, in regard to the “Knights.” (The township, by the way, though exceedingly copperheadish, seems to have been most terribly visited by Stuart’ s marauding band.) That the gusto of the story may not be marred, we will give it in the same Pennsylvania German brogue in which it was related, but in Roman characters.
One of our good Knights of Codorus, having been called upon by his “Southern brethren” for the use of all his horses for Jeff [Davis]’s service, besides sundry other accommodations, thus bitterly complained to a friend of the Union, in a half whining tone: “Oh I sie hen mir all my Geil g’numme, un em — seine all, un em, — seine, un em — seine, un. Oh! es ist zu arig wie sie g’haust hen in Codorus!!”
“Ei,” replied the Union man, “het ihr ihne dann net g’sagt dass ihr Democrate seyd?”
“Ei, yo, beshure hen mer; un mer hen ihne ah g’sagt dass mer zum ‘Gold’ne Ring’ g’here; un hen ah noch unser babiere g’wisse, un’s hot wahrhaftig nix gebalt!”
Un noh hen sie noch g’sagt mer solle unser babiere nemme un solle unser ‘dahler’ widder holle!”
All the comments we deem necessary on such manifestations of knowledge is, if light has broken in upon the minds of these Codorus victims by this instructive raid, happy are the people thereof, in consequence of the courted visit (by many copperheads at least) of their “Southern brethren.”
“Oh, they’ve taken all my horses, and all of ——‘s, and all of —-‘s, and it’s too bad how they have carried on in Codorus!”
“Indeed,” replied the Union man, “and didn’t you tell them, then, that you were Democrats?”
“Why, to be sure we did; and we told them, too that we belonged to the ‘Golden Ring,’ and besides that we showed them our papers, and it was all positively no use! And they told us we should take our papers back and get our dollar again!!”
Harrisburg Evening Telegraph, July 13, 1863