Genre Jumper 

Claims of a treasure-hiding Confederate organization make for a great read in 'Shadow of the Sentinel.'

The Civil War. Jesse James and the Old West. Buried treasure and the Lost Dutchman Mine. A massive conspiracy involving powerful government officials.

Shadow of the Sentinel is difficult to place in a genre. Fiction was one of my original thoughts, because much of what the book tells is hard to swallow. But as I read it, I decided much might actually be true; there was at least enough evidence to convince a major publisher like Simon and Schuster.

Warren Getler, who has credentials as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, tells us Bob Brewer's story. I didn't want to buy it, but after 100 pages or so, they got me. Much of the evidence is circumstantial, and one reviewer notes that "it inveigles more than it convinces." But, as old Lazarus Long said, "Deductive logic is tautological--there is no way to get a new truth out of it. É Inductive logic is much more difficult, but can produce new truths."

The story centers around the real role of a Confederate front group known as the Knights of the Golden Circle, and Mr. Brewer's discoveries about the group's actions before and after the Civil War. The KGC gets passing reference in most histories, but Getler claims its role was much wider than has been previously thought. And here's the theory--and insight--he bagged me with, at least in respect to the group's relevance.

Ever wonder why the South seceded in the first place when it would've been almost constitutionally impossible to abolish slavery? Getler gives a motive beyond going bonkers over Lincoln: He claims the KGC's long-term plans consisted of a lot more Manifest Destiny, extending the slave-owning power into takeovers of Cuba and other big hunks of the Caribbean and Latin America. Remaining in the Union would make that goal impossible, while an independent Confederacy could conquer away.

By late 1863, the reality for the Confederacy was that it was going to lose. The KGC's response was to organize for the next time the South would rise again. The theory is that its members buried caches of gold and other stuff all over the place (including Arizona) and posted loyal sentinels to guard them.

That this shadowy organization existed is unquestionable. How far it went is unknown, and it was officially abolished in 1908--but the caches existed. How do we know? Because Bob Brewer broke the code the members used to identify where they were and actually found some of them.

Brewer is a retired lifer Navy man and Vietnam vet who grew up in rural Arkansas. He recalls his uncle, great-uncle and others spending considerable time in the woods and making reference to certain signs and objects. The conclusion he reached later in life was that they were part of a group of KGC sentinels.

Brewer explains how he painstakingly broke their complex codes; this should keep the treasure hunter types enthralled.

The KGC was composed of many members of the Masonic Order, which was particularly strong in the South. Whether it was a spin-off group or a copycat structure is debatable, but the symbols were carried over, and Brewer's discovery of them literally all over the country in strange rural sites (including the Superstition Mountains) enhances his case, while the caches he found using his theories about a complex master template/grid system encompassing much of America lends it considerable credibility.

Much is devoted to Brewer's own story--things he's found, people he's been screwed over by and other personal trials. The part that most interests us is his forays regarding the Lost Dutchman Mine. The compact thesis: There is no Lost Dutchman Mine, that the Dutchman was a KGC sentinel, and that the mine is actually a humongous cache. There's evidence that Jesse James--himself a KGC operative--helped plant it. It would require heavy equipment to go after it, along with the permission of a whole bunch of federal agencies. And one more detail--somebody else with helicopters knows it's there. Modern sentinels or others who also broke the code?

The sites aren't that far from here, even though the country is rough. There are enough maps included for you to decide on some of Brewer's credibility. Check it out--starting with Adamsville.

Beyond Brewer's credible story are Getler's conjectures--that the KGC was the Masons, who are really the medieval Knights Templar--and other grand conspiracies. Maybe; after all, he does prove that the KGC is underrated by most historians.

It all makes Shadow of the Sentinel a great, multi-genre, fun read.

More by Emil Franzi

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