As a boy growing up in rural Arkansas, Bob Brewer often heard from his uncle and his great-uncle about a particular tree in the woods, the "Bible Tree," filled with strange carvings. Years later he would learn that this tree was carved with symbols associated with the Knights of the Golden Circle, a Civil Warera secret society that had buried gold coins and other treasure in various remote locations across the South and Southwest in hopes of someday funding a second War Between the States. These secret caches were guarded by sentinels, men whose responsibility it was to watch and protect these sites. To his astonishment, Bob discovered that both his uncle and his great-uncle had been twentieth-century sentinels, and that he had grown up near an important KGC treasure site.
In Shadow of the Sentinel, Bob Brewer and investigative journalist Warren Getler tell the fascinating story of the Knights of the Golden Circle and the hidden caches the KGC established across the country. Brewer reveals how, with agonizing effort, he eventually deciphered the fiendishly complicated KGC codes and ciphers, which drew heavily on images associated with Freemasonry. (Many of the key KGC postCivil War leaders were Scottish Rite Masons, who used the cover of that secret fraternity to conduct their activities.) Using his knowledge of KGC symbolism to crack coded maps, Brewer has located several KGC caches and has recovered gold coins, guns, and other treasure from some of them.
Shadow of the Sentinel is the most comprehensive account yet of the activities of the KGC after the Civil War and, indeed, into the 1900s. Getler and Brewer suggest that the clandestine network of KGC operatives was far wider than previously thought, and that it included Jesse James, the former Confederate guerrilla whose stage and bank robberies helped to fill KGC treasure chests.
This is a rousing and provocative adventure that weaves together one man's personal quest with an intriguing, little-known chapter in America's hidden history.
Conspiracy connoisseurs tired of contemplating whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone will feast on this tale of the 19th-century doings of the Knights of the Golden Circle. According to treasure hunter Brewer (aided by Bloomberg News editor-at-large Getler), who attempts to unravel their secrets in hopes of finding millions of dollars of hidden gold, the KGC was a sinister group of influential Southerners intent on engineering the secession of Southern states. They supposedly conspired to split the 1860 Democratic convention so that a weak candidate would emerge, guaranteeing Lincoln's election and support for secession a deep game indeed. Losing the Civil War sent them underground, where, the authors say, political theorist and KGC member Jesse James, whose death they faked, led them to amass a fortune primarily through the pedestrian crimes of bank and stagecoach robbery and, more creatively, by collecting a multimillion-dollar award from Mexican Emperor Maximilian as repayment for aiding Maximilian's tottering regime. They hid their treasure, preserving knowledge of its whereabouts through a series of devilishly complex symbols known only to initiates for the day the South would rise again. Brewer believes some of his relatives were "sentinels" charged with protecting the KGC's hidden treasure. As fanciful as the group's history sounds (and the authors admit it is heavily based on circumstantial evidence), Brewer is convincing that the code existed and that he deciphered some of it, and his treasure hunting meets with modest success. In the end, this is a curiosity that will strain many readers' credibility, but leave a lingering "Maybe." Photos, maps.