Knights of the White Camelia
The Knights of the White Camelia was an American political terrorist organization that operated in the southern United States in the 19th century, similar to and associated with the Ku Klux Klan, supporting white supremacy and opposing freedmen's rights.
|Knights of the White Camelia|
Participant in the Reconstruction Era
Alcibiades DeBlanc, the group's founder. He was a Democrat and a former Confederate soldier, like many white supremacists of the late 19th century. After Democrats regained control of the Louisianan state government in the late 1870s, he was appointed to the Louisianan supreme court by the state's Democratic governor.
|Active||1867 – c. 1870|
|Originated as||Confederate Army veterans|
|Allies||U.S. Democratic Party, Ku Klux Klan|
|Opponents||U.S. Government, U.S. Republican Party, carpetbaggers, scalawags, African-Americans|
The Knights of the White Camelia was founded by Confederate army veteran Confederate Colonel Alcibiades DeBlanc on May 22, 1867 in Franklin, Louisiana. Author Christopher Long stated, "Its members were pledged to support the supremacy of the white race, to oppose the amalgamation of the races, to resist the social and political encroachment of the so-called carpetbaggers, and to restore white control of the government".  Historian Nicholas Lemann calls the Knights the leading terrorist organization in Louisiana. Their tactics, (which included "harassment, floggings, and sometimes murder") "produced a reign of terror among the state's black population during the summer and fall of 1868."
Chapters existed primarily in the southern part of the Deep South. Historian George C. Rable noted that, "Although the Republicans saw evidence of a massive conspiracy in these outrages, in Louisiana as elsewhere, white terrorists were not organized beyond the local level." Unlike the Ku Klux Klan, which drew much of its membership from lower-class southerners (primarily Confederate veterans), the White Camelia consisted mainly of upper class southerners, including physicians, landowners, newspaper editors, doctors, and officers. They were also usually Confederate veterans, the upper part of antebellum society. It began to decline, despite a convention in 1869. The more aggressive people joined the White League or similar paramilitary organizations that organized in the mid-1870s. By 1870, the original Knights of the White Camelia had mostly ceased to exist. Among its members was Louisiana Judge Taylor Beattie, who led the Thibodaux massacre of 1887.
Earlier, David Theophilus Stafford of Alexandria, prior to his election as sheriff of Rapides Parish, was a member of the Knights. He joined the Citizens League and was at Canal Street during the Battle of Liberty Place.
In 1939, Time reported that the West Virginian anti-Semite George E. Deatherage was describing himself as the "national commander of the Knights of the White Camellia". In the 1990s, a Ku Klux Klan group based in eastern Texas adopted the name. According to the book Soldiers of God, the new age White Camelia has a strong influence in Vidor, Texas. Ever since the return of the White Camelia name, so-called "White Camelia" (sometimes spelled Kamelia) Klan groups have also emerged in Louisiana and Florida.
- Christopher Long, "KNIGHTS OF THE WHITE CAMELLIA", Handbook of Texas Online, accessed 17 February 2017
- Similarly, author Beth Rowland in an article titled "Home Grown Terrorists " at http://www.historynet.com/home-grown-terrorists.htm wrote, ""WHILE THE ACTIVITIES of the KGC [Knights of the Golden Circle] might have fanned post-war flames, two other Southern secret societies employed outright terror and violence to stoke the fire. Both the Ku Klux Klan and the Knights of the White Camellia resolved to reverse the changes imposed on the South and return Southern society to its prewar order, especially when it came to white supremacy."
- Nicholas Lemann, "Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War", 2006, p. 25.
- James G. Dauphine, "The Knights of the White Camelia and the Election of 1868: Louisiana's White Terrorists; A Benighting Legacy", Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Spring, 1989), pp. 173-190.
- George C. Rable, "But There Was No Peace: The Role of Violence in the Politics of Reconstruction", 2007 edition, p. 75.
- Christopher Long, "KNIGHTS OF THE WHITE CAMELLIA", Handbook of Texas Online, accessed 28 June 2010
- "David Theophilus Stafford". Louisiana Historical Association. Retrieved August 25, 2014.