Now here’s something that’s a bit unusual: “Rebel Gold” by Warren Getler and Bob Brewer (originally titled “Shadows of the Sentinel”) is a book about codes and buried treasure with basically no actual codes and pretty much zero treasure. Yet at the same time, there’s so much (alleged) secret American history and related odd stuff bubbling from nearly every page that I found it hard to mind very much.
At its core, the book is no more than a loose record of Bob Brewer’s treasure-huntin’ exploits in them thar woods, an’ yuh’d have to say he sure ain’t foun’ hisself a whole lot of gold. Yet the real gold he seems to have uncovered is the mostly-secret history of what are essentially the book’s real heroes (or antiheroes, depending on how you look at it) – the Knights of the Golden Circle (AKA the “KGC”).
The way I read it, the KGC was merely one of several haphazardly-run pro-slavery activist wings of the Confederacy in the American Civil War. The Wikipedia KGC page asserts that it somehow morphed into the “Order of American Knights” and then again in 1864 when it became “the Order of the Sons of Liberty”, but these could just as easily have been parallel wings, sharing a handful of key people.
What emerges from Brewer’s book is a rather deeper & broader conspiracy, with the KGC ending up with a number of concealed gold-stuffed stockpiles which its loyal descendants (including some in Brewer’s own family) apparently continue to guard even now. These modern-day sentinels stay loyal to the cause just in case the people of the South are ever to rise again and need financial supportin’ for their insurrection (and what with the price of gold bein’ at such a crazily high level, whose to say it wouldn’t be a help).
Overall, my favourite part of the book is Chapter 7, “Jesse James, KGC field commander“, which builds up a beautiful alternate history for Jesse James as a KGC operative, whose stealin’ was an innately political act – and that there were simultaneously two Jesse James (Jesse Robert James and his first cousin Jesse Woodson James), both of whom also had a brother called Frank, and all four of whom were part of the KGC. (Are you following all this? See me after class if it’s not crystal clear.)
And really, what goes for chapter 7 holds for the whole book, in that I can’t possibly evaluate the whole, ummm, veridicality of this mess (“Jesse James Was One Of His Names”, really?), but I do know that I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. In my opinion, it’s definitely a must-read for lovers of tangled conspiratorial Americana. Just don’t expect to use it to guide yuh metal detectorin’, hoss!