J6, The Knights of the Golden Circle and What We Face In The Coming Years.

By Jordan Gerdes

4 min readJul 2, 2021

January 6th, 2021 was a day that many in this country seem to want to forget. In response to his loss in the 2020 election, Donald Trump drummed up a number of lies about how the election had been stolen, the conspirators behind it, and how he had really won anyway. Groups like QAnon pushed and advanced the narrative from hidden corners of the internet to mainstream republicans. There are countless articles and excellent pieces written about this day, but the facts remain the same. A group consisting of Republicans, extremists, conspiracy theory groups, and white nationalist militias invaded the Capitol building in hopes of stalling the electoral count, and executing “traitorous” political figures, including the Vice President. They wanted to invalidate the electoral count, and reinstall Donald Trump as President. It was a conspiracy as many of the actors were seen planning this in the days leading up. It was an attempted fascist coup and Donald Trump lit the flame that sparked the fire.

J6, as it’s come to be referred to, is not what I want to talk about today. I want to show another chapter of history that we don’t talk about enough, if at all.

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln and John Breckinridge ran for the office of the President of the United States. Lincoln’s Republican ticket won in a massive count, as Breckinridge’s Southern Democrats didn’t want anything to do with the election. The Southern states saw the writing on the wall that if Lincoln was elected, abolition was on the horizon. And they had other plans to stop it.

Six years prior, a secret group had formed in Cincinnati under George W.L. Bickley. This group was known as the Knights of The Golden Circle. Their goal was to create a new nation, consisting of the states south of the Mason Dixon line, 25 “slave states” in Mexico, Central America, the northern area of Southern America, as well as Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and most other Caribbean islands. The new country would be called The Golden Circle and it was all predicated on the sole idea that slavery would be legal.

By 1860, the Knights of the Golden Circle had members in all the southern states, a number of northern states, and even members inside the previous administration of President Buchanan. In addition to VA Senator James Mason, Secretary of War (John Floyd), Secretary of Treasury (Howell Cobb) and Vice President John Breckinridge were all members of the Order. As Buchanan’s presidency winded down, Floyd moved troops and munitions around the South, in order to attempt to seize military forts and Naval yards.

Their plan was simple. First, Lincoln was not allowed to reach the Capitol. They were to kidnap him in Baltimore. Then on the day of the electoral certification, they would take over the District of Columbia, and install John Breckinridge as the President of the United States. Stop me if this sounds familiar.

The plan was found out, and Lincoln was inaugurated. What happened to the conspirators? That’s a great question. Floyd resigned as Secretary of War, as a result of his breach in trust with Buchanan, in plotting to overthrow a democratic election. His munition movement into the south helped bolster the Confederacy when war broke out. Ulysses S Grant wrote, “Floyd, the Secretary of War, scattered the army so that much of it could be captured when hostilities should commence, and distributed the cannon and small arms from Northern arsenals throughout the South so as to be on hand when treason wanted them.”— Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

Floyd faced a congressional hearing, and ultimately criminal charges as the District of Columbia court indicted him on charges of conspiracy and fraud. Which were then thrown out in the end, due to a legal precedent that didn’t allow prosecution for an individual that has testified before Congress on the same subject matter.

Floyd went on to become a major player in the Civil War and the Confederate Army. The Knights of the Golden Circle also went on to have a hand in a number of Confederate events, from moving money and financing military, to conspiring to raid the Pacific Northwest and capturing gold shipments on the Eastern seaboard, both of which also failed before they began.

So what? Well we immediately saw comparison between J6 and the Beerhall Putsch in Germany, and the Reichstag Fire, which helped Hitler enact war powers and consolidate power. But it turns out, insurrectionary events run within the blood of this nation’s history, from the KGC plot, to the Business Plot, to the Constitutional Convention, which was a coup itself, as the founders had no legal authority to enact a new constitution. And time and time again, we see the conspirators and the guilty parties let off the hook, and allowed to continue living normally. In the history of insurrections, there is always a failed attempt, a dry run, before the attempt that actually succeeds. We need to be vigilant in how we handle this, and the pressure we need to keep on elected officials to ensure this doesn’t and cannot happen again. Everything is at stake now.