This article will focus on three early U.S. terror organizations. They range widely by time, and goals. The three this article will focus on are the Knights of the Golden Circle (1863-1865?), the KKK (still in existance), and the Weather Underground (1960s-1970s). Like I have already established these groups have had little in common with each other and vary widely by goals. The Knights of the Golden Circle were formed during the height of the Civil War, to assist southern independence. The KKK was formed in the aftermath of the Civil War, to promote white supremacy and suppress free slaves. The Weather Underground was an organization formed in the 1960s. This organization's goals were to overthrow the U.S. and replace it with a marxist orientated government.
John Wilkes Booth and his fellow conspirators were members of the Knights of the Golden Circle. The most notable terrorist operation the Knights of the Golden Circle were involved with was the assasination of President Abraham Lincoln. Booth and his conspirators believed that if they could decapitate the head of the Federal Government, they could save the southern cause. They proved incorrect, and after the assasination of Lincoln they were hunted down in one of the biggest man-hunts in U.S. history and executed.
The Knights of the Golden Circle was formed prior to the Civil War, but gained recognition in the South, during the war. After the war some of notable members would go on to form bank robbing gangs, such as Jesse James. But the organization itself was short lived and was disbanded in 1864.
The Ku Klux Klan was, perhaps, the biggest terrorist and most widespread terrorist organization in U.S. history. The KKK was formed after the Civil War, by Nathan Bedford Forrest. During reconstruction the organization participated in lynchings and re-taking the south from the Republicans. They were more or less a gurellia group that continued the war in the south after the Confederacy was formally disbanded. After U.S. Grant became president of the U.S. he launched a major campaign against the KKK and forced them into submission. They would resurface again in the 1920s with a new mission.
In the 1920s, the KKK resurfaced this time not as a continuation of the Southern government in the Civil War, but as a widespread domestic terrorist cancer in the South. The organization participated in domestic terrorism, bombings, political blackmail, and anti-immigration activities. The KKK of the 1920s and 1930s was really a reaction to immigration and increasing African-American rights. Eventually the organization would fade into obscurity becase of low participation and involvement in the 1940s and onward, in part because of World War Two. Many Americans did not want to support a domestic terrorist organization that based its ideology on white supremacy after they saw what racial supremacy did in Europe.
The Weather Underground is a much different organization than the KKK and the Knights of the Golden Circle. This organization was founded by students of the 1960s who were engrossed in Marxist ideology and were violently opposed to the Vietnam War. During the early 1970s the Weathermen bombed several U.S. government buildings, most notably the Pentagon and the Capitol Building. There were little deaths involved with these bombings because most bombings were preceded by a warning. However, many label the organization a terrorist organization, I agree with this label. The organization desired the complete overtrhow of the U.S. government and the establishment of a marxist oriented group. Some of the goals of the group were to re-educate all conservative Americans in re-education camps. They believed that there would be millions of necessary deaths in these camps, but in the end the U.S. would be born again in marxist ideology. There goals were similar to Mao's cultural revolution in China, where upwards of 80 million people died.
To facilitate these goals the group would orchastrate a massive bombing campaign. And some of there bombing attacks succeded. Like I said the group bombed the Capital building and the Pentagon. They also attacked many FED reserve banks and commercial banks. Bill Ayers was the founder of the group, but he escaped prosecution, and teaches at the University of Chiago today.
These three organizations have ingaged in domestic and civil terrorism in the United States over the past century and a half. In today's world and the current War on Terror, many often forget that terrorist activities have occured in the U.S. Not all terrorist live in the Middle East. Many have lived in the United States. In 1996 a christian terrorist killed 500 people in the Oklahoma City bombing. In the past the Knights of the Golden Circle assasinated President Abraham Lincoln, the KKK suppressed people and culture (similar to the Taliban in Afghanistan) and participated in political blackmail and lynching. Even, as late as the 1970s the Weather Underground orchastrated mass bombings that inflicted damage in the U.S. capitol.