KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
Secession and the outbreak of the CIVIL WAR caused a shift in its aims from filibustering in Mexico to support of the new Southern government.
Appealing to the Confederate supporters in the North, especially in areas that were suffering economic problems, the order soon spread to Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri. Its membership in these states, where it became strongest, was largely composed of Peace Democrats, who felt that the Civil War was a mistake and that the increasing power of the Federal government was leading toward tyranny. They did not, however, at this time engage in any treasonable activity.
In late 1863 the Knights of the Golden Circle was reorganized as the Order of American Knights and again, early in 1864, as the Order of the Sons of Liberty, with Clement L. Vallandigham, as its supreme commander. Only a minority of its membership was radical enough in some places to discourage enlistments, resist the draft, and shield deserters.
Many peace meetings were held. A few extreme agitators, some of them encouraged by Southern money, talked of a revolt in the Old Northwest, which, if brought about, would end the war. Southern newspapers wishfully reported stories of widespread disaffection. John Hunt Morgan's raid (1863) into Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio was undertaken in the expectation that the disaffected element would rally to his support.
Gov. Oliver P. Morton of Indiana and Gen. Henry B. Carrington effectively curbed the Sons of Liberty in that state in the fall of 1864. With Union victories late in 1864, the order's arguments for a negotiated peace lost appeal. It soon disbanded.