Birth Of The KKK "The Ghost Riders" May 1866
The world to which the ex-Confederate veterans returned after the war was greatly changed from the one they had
known in 1860. Many Southern towns and cities were little more than clusters of blackened chimneys, and large
areas of the South were utterly desolate. Besides the physical and economic ruin, a great upheaval of the social
structure was taking place.
The Radical Republican Congress had placed the South under military rule. Carpetbaggers and Scalawags sat in
the state houses, raising taxes and looting the state treasuries, while their minions did as they wished under
government rule. And ex-slaves, now armed with the right to vote, were struggling to claim supposed unclaimed
lands that were owned by southern troops off to battle. This was a very violent and dark time in our history.
White Southerners had lost all control over their own affairs. As ex-Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest put
it, in losing the war they had "lost all but [their] honor", and now they felt even that was being stripped from them.
Southerners tried to regain some measure of control by forming secret organizations to restore order to their
disrupted society through the intimidation and terrorism of blacks and unionists. These secret societies had such
names as the Pale Faces, the Sons of Midnight, and the Knights of the White Camellia.
In May 1866, a group of ex-Confederate veterans in Pulaski, Tenn., formed another such group, giving it the
name Ku Klux Klan. They were Calvin E Jones, John B. Kennedy, Frank O. McCord, John C. Lester, Richard R.
Reed, and James R.Crowe, thus beginning the "invisible empire of the South" that would grow to be the largest
and best known of the groups that opposed the Reconstruction government and attempts by the Government
agency of the Freedman's Bureau to receive their so-called rights.
Spokesmen for the Klan first asked former Confederate General Robert E. Lee, if he would head the organization.
Lee declined citing his age and his health. Lee suggested they ask the younger very noble, General Nathan Bedford
In May 1867, Forrest became the first Grand Wizard of the Empire(aka. The White Wizard in the saddle) and
thereby leader of the KKK. The Klan was run as a quasi-military organization and grew quickly with the addition
of more former Rebel soldiers. Wearing white robes and hoods, these "ghosts of dead Rebel soldiers" paid
midnight visits to frightened blacks and carpetbaggers. If warnings failed to get the desired results, the KKK never
hesitated to resort to more violent methods.
Forrest, after 2 years realized where the organization was heading and declared the Klan disbanded. Maybe this
was his way to make the invisible Empire even more invisible. Regardless of the reasons he had, the Klan
represented the resistance of the white Southerner, therefore making dissolution near impossible.
This was the first era of the Ku Klux Klan and the only era the Klan was fully justified in
America. H.C.C.'s Florida Governor, Clay Johnson