George W. Bickley, 1823-1867
A Doctor, Professor, Author, Adventurer, Secessionist, Pro-Slavery Activist, and Leader of the Knights of the Golden Circle
George W. Bickley was born in Virginia in 1823. He was a bright child who was always yearning for the thrill of the exploration
of the unknown, mysterious, the daunting. He was astute and devoted to his studies, namly literature and science. After leaving home, shortly after his father’s passing, he began a study of medicine, little is known about ths intermittent period. Hereafter
he journeyed from Virginia to Florida in the early 1840’s, where he served in the Florida, Seminole Indian conflict. Shortly after
his service in the war he took a trip to London, England in hopes of securing his medicinal doctorate, studying at the University
of London under English Physician John Elliotson. He Graduated in 1842 and returned to America in the mid 1840’s. By 1850
Bickley was a practicing physician in Jeffersonville, Virginia, which was to where he founded a historical society and began
writing his first book, titled: “History of the Settlement and Indian War of Tazewell County, Virginia.” which was published in Cincinnati, Ohio was Bickley’s next destination, he chose to move after he was offered to serve as a Professor at the Eclectic Medical Institute, while serving as a Professor he began writing, and eventually published, his second book in 1853,
titled: “Adalaska; Or, The Strange and Mysterious Family of the Cave of Genreva.” In this period he also began publishing
the Western American Review, a conservative magazine; it was most popular in New York, he also married a local, upper
class woman around the same time. During this period of his life, while living in Ohio, Bickley personally witnessed the
abolitionist propagandizing and scheming that took place in his locality, as a result of these instances of anti-Southern and
anti-slavery expression he took to researching and, after much study, to be a staunch supporter and defender of the institution
of slavery. He felt compelled to withdraw from his lifelong passion in medicine, he pursued forming a new expansionist club,
which culminated in the founding of the Knights of the Golden Circle on July 4th, 1854. There is a possibility that Bickley took
inspiration with regards to the name from the Southern Rights Clubs which were active in the 1830’s.
The KGC was dedicated to the militant expansion of Southern slavery into South America, namely looking to expand into Mexico, Central America, and Cuba. To rally support for this new fraternity Bickley, and his associates, journeyed southward to Texas, Virginia, and Louisiana. After a number of exploratory inquiries as to the possibility of military campaigns into Mexico these plans were postponed due to the outbreak of the Civil War, where the KGC, and Bickley, reoriented their goals to Southern secession. Within this time period he revisited and rekindled his aptitude for adventurous conquest, in war he was brave and defiant. Bickley served as a Confederate surgeon in the middle of the great conflict, during this period of service he was detained without trial by invading Union forces and held until the end of the war. During his absence of leadership the KGC also aided the Confederacy in centralized and regionalized incarnations, they elected noted Ohio politician Clement Vallandigham as their leader. After being released from detainment in 1865 Bickley, without success, ordered a hault of all the operations from all the divisions of the KGC,
in issuing this order he hoped to reform the organization in 1870, the planned purposes for this unrealized incarnation of the Knights is not known as Bickley died prematurely at the age of 44 in 1867 his place residence being in Boston, Massachusetts.
In death Bickley left a great legacy of leadership and idealism, coupled with a tendency for risk and unfaultering dedication to his principles. George Bickley had a will to greatness rivaled by a very exclusive club of luminaries in the annals of history.