Ku Klux Klan – Unknown, 1/19/1907

Ku Klux Klan – Unknown, 1/19/1907

Few of those who have heard the appellation “the Wizard of the Saddle,” applied to General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the
prince of Confederate cavalrymen are aware of its origin. It is commonly supposed that the wonderful dash and daring of
the great Memphian, which led naturally to the almost uninterrupted success of his exploits at arms, and which inspired
the unquestioning devotion of his men, was primarily responsible for it. But such is not the case. The truth is that it came
from his connection with the Ku Klux Klan, of which organization it is asserted definitely, that the big hearted, big brained
and mighty thewed Confederate was commander in chief. The title which the Ku Klux Klan applied to its head official was
simply “the Grand Wizard.” What was the Ku Klux Klan? No authentic history of the organization has ever been written.
Much has been hinted at. More has been suspected. But of definite and authenticated information there has been a sorry
dearth. And there was a good and sufficient reason for the fact. It was one of the articles of the oath to which every member
of the Ku Klux Klan subcribed before being received into the rank of the membership of that myterious body, that he should
never admit being a member al the order, or that he possessed any positive and definite information concerning it or the
works which it wrought. And it has not been until the passage of years has thinned the ghostly ranks of the weird brotherhood
and until, seen in the perspective of the past, the reasons which underlay the obligation to secrecy were recognized as
dwindling and passing away, nay not until a new reason arose with the flight of years cogently commanding speech in
order that by the few remaining survivors of the order the memory.of one of the most worthy of secret organizations might
be cleared of the unjust aspersions of its calumniators, that there have been found among its members those who are
willing, speaking in quasi confidential terms to those who love and respect the memory of their departed comrades,
to voice at length the inner history of this uncanny brotherhood. And these speak only with quietly smiling faces of
the things they have “heard.” Not one of them will say to you:-“I belonged to the I order. I saw these things done. I
know whereof I speak.”

Nor does one of them consent to have his name given, even it this oblique connection with the matter. A mystery the Ku
Klux Klan was born; a mystery it lived and died, and a mystery shall forever haunt its grave. This is the dictum of its votaries.
They have nothing to fear from disclosures of its secrets,either from the federal authorities or from the social world. In fact, throughout the Southland today the leaders in professional and business life, the chief personages in social life, the best
men in the churches and in every walk of life are among the members of this weird organization, which appeared, acted
out its little career and disappeared as inexplicably as it came. This much, nevertheless, is assureth-the Ku Klux Klan
came into being in the year 1866, for a definite purpose. It passed out of actual organization in the year of 1869, dying
as soon as its purpose had been achieved. That purpose was the restraining mistaken and misdirected enthusiasm of
the negroes at a time when, shortly after the close of the cival war, the white men of•the South were practically disenfranchised.
At that time the organization known as the Freedmen’s Bureau located a representative in every county seat throughout
the reconstructed States. This representative was almost always a discharged federal soldier. His ostensible purpose,
was to see that the freed negroes had the contrastual and other rights guaranteed them under the fifteenth amendment and
the laws passed by Congress for their benefit subsequent to its adoption. One of the means by which the representatives
of the Freedmen’s Bureau sought to accomplish their avowed purposes was-the organization of the negroes-into a secret
order known as the Loyal League. The organization-had its ritual and regalia held its secret and its open meetings, fostered
the idea of independence of his former master in the mind of the negro and was leading to irregularities which called for
suppression with astrong and certain hand. Necessity is the mother of invention. Out of necessity of the times the
Ku Klux Klan was born.

The superstition of the negro was then, as now, one of his pronounced characteristics, and it was decided by those who
had the matter in hand to play upon this rather than resort to arms, or show of force, to subdue the dangerous tendencies
which were being fostered by the Loyal League. The Ku Klux Klan was one of the most perfectly organized bodies that
ever assembled. It was lawless in no sense of the word. Not only was every lawless form proscribed, but its members
were prohibited from the performance of any act of irregularity and required to conform strictly to the orders of their superiors
in office. One of the first articles in the obligation which was taken enjoined obedience to the constitution and laws of
the United States and to the State in which the member lived. The methods of procedure employed by the Ku Klux Klan
were very simple. They were organized under the control of the Grand Wizard, whose authority extended over the entire
“empire” as it was called. Immediately subordinate to the Grand Wizard were the Grand Dragons, of the various “realms,”
as the State organizations were denominated. Under these were the Grand Titans, each of whom ruled over a “province,”
corresponding to a congressional district. The next lower official in the Klan was the Grand Giant, whose authority extended
over a single county, while the Grand Cyclops ruled over a “den” comprising a single local organization. There might be
one den, or there might be a hundred of them, according to conditions, with in the jurisdiction of a Grand Giant. The Klan
held its meetings in secret. It had its code of signals, written and verbal,. It had its rules and regulations, and these were
reduced to most jealously guarded little “blue books,” of which probably less than half a dozen copies are now in existence,
and these so clearly close kept that none but their proper guardians may even now look upon their pages. The manner
of appealing to the supersititious fears of the negro was unique. On some dimly moonlit night the members of ti a “den,” comprising possibly a hundred mounted men, would ride swiftly down the pike and call at the home of some negro
whose a budding impetusity it was deemed wise to curb.

He was hoarsely summoned to the roadside, where he would behold a ghostly train sitting in funereal silence upon white caparisoned steeds, each wearing a weirdly devised uniform of white trimmed with black each visored and hooded until
only the indistinct outlines of a grisly contenance, which might have come from the mouldering trenches of a battlefield
as easily as from elsewhere, were visible. The negro was sharply and briefly commanded to bring a bucket of water. When
he complied the leader of the mysterious troop raised it to his head and apparently drained its contents at a single draught.
In reality he merely emptied it into a rubber bag concealed inside his flowing uniform. Then, handing back the bucket, he
remarked in a hollow voice that this was the first water he had tasted since he fell at the battle of Shiloh. That sufficed for
the negro. The troop rode on its way and was heard of no more for weeks. No negro was interfered with or any way intimidated who kept his proper place and whose words and deeds contained no menace to white supremacy. That was one of the phases
of the Klan’s work. Another, no less important, was the protection of innocent men against whom the machinery of the laws
was put in motion by unscrupulous carpet-baggers or thei friends. A single truthful instance will serve to illustrate. Soon after
the organization of the Ku Klux Klan there appeared in the town of Holly Springs, Miss., a horse trader from East Tennessee.
This man going about his business, happened to recognize a young man from his town section of the country who had, during
the exciting times of the war killed a guerilla in the mountain country. This guerilla was obtensibly a federal trooper. In reality
he was one of that numerous band of harpies which hovered about the edge of the war to make prey of the defenseless on
both sides. The horse trader caused the arrest of the young man on the charge of murder. The arrested man refused to be
taken from the State without requisition papers. The trader left to procure them. That night the Ku Klux Klan got busy. Before morning the accused man was on his way westward mounted on the best horse in the country. He was provided with relays
and with refreshment until he was landed safely upon the west bank of the Mississippi River, with $100 expense money in
his pocket and advised never to return to Mississipppi.

The Klan had saved his life. Had he been returned to East Tennessee in the agitation then existing they would have hung
him first and made inquiry forty years later. In 1869 the Loyal League went into innocuous desuetude. It had literally been “haunted” out of existence. And with its passing the Ku Klux Klan band disbanded, never to reorganize. But there were plenty
of unscrupulous characters floating about who recognized the opportunity to hide the commission of crimes behind the cloak
of the defunct organization, and who conceived that its mystery would. suffice to place an effectual bar to the legal investigation
of their evil deeds. In this they were for a time not disappointed. But their criminality became so flagrant and so old that the
matter was taken in hand by the federal authorities, and secret service men thronged the South for months seeking to discover
the responsible head of the reputed Ku Klux Klan and to bring the members of the organization to account. For months
they hunted down the members of this bastard organization, which had assumed the title and paraphernalia of the Ku
Kulx Klan. Occasionally they stumbled by accident a member of the genuine organization, but always wihout being able
to force a revelation of any of the secrets pertaining to the real Klan. Enough was brought to light concerning the
illegitimate successor of the Ku Klux Klan, however, to bring about the disorganization of that body and to cause
thinking men on the outside to surmise that this was, indeed, as the event has proven, a different organization
from that which first assumed the name Ku Klux.

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