Author Topic: Wide Awakes...(dirt on republicans)  (Read 47 times)

J Bananas

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Wide Awakes...(dirt on republicans)
« on: October 26, 2005, 11:13:29 PM »
The Wide Awakes were a paramilitary organization loosely affiliated with the Republican Party during the 1860 election and American Civil War.

The Wide Awakes are believed to have been formed 1850s, and were loosely associated with the Know Nothing movement. They emerged as a prominent participant in the 1860 election as a self-styled Republican police force. The organization was known for virulent anti-Catholicism, secretive rituals, and a military-style organization complete with "officers" and units. They adopted several practices that are characteristic of secret societies of the day, among them the Knights of the Golden Circle which often recruited members by presenting itself as an organization to counter the Wide Awakes. Other Wide Awakes contributed to the Free-soil movement in Kansas.[1]

The organization consisted primarily of young men who supported the radical wing of the GOP ticket (See Radical Republicans). The Wide Awakes were commonly accused of arson, voter intimidation, and violence in southern and border states during the Summer and Fall of 1860. That same year, Senator Louis T. Wigfall called for an investigation of the organization after its members were alleged to have been behind a wave of arson and vandalism in his home state of Texas. Historians lack consensus about the extent of these allegations in the heated 1860 political climate, but newspapers including the Austin State Gazette and Houston Daily Telegraph all implicated the Wide Awakes and other affiliated organizations for the violence in North Texas that year. Wigfall also criticized New York Senator William Seward for his support of the organization following his attendance of a Wide Awakes torch rally in New York City on November 2, 1860.


Rituals of the Wide Awakes

Uniform and Tactics - The standard Wide Awake uniform consisted of a full robe or cape, a black glazed hat, and a torch six feet in length with a large pivoting whale-oil container mounted to its extended end by which the flame was contained. Its activities were conducted primarily in the evening and consisted of several nighttime torch-lit marches through cities in the northeast and border states. The Wide Awakes adopted the image of a large eyeball as their standard banner.

Chapter Organization - Little is known about the national organization of the Wide Awakes, if indeed any formal governing body existed at all. The clubs seem to have been organized by city into local chapters. Surviving minutes of the Waupun, Wisconsin Wide Awakes chapter restrict membership to males age 18 and older. The member had to "furnish himself with the style of uniform adopted by this Club." The chapter had a military-style officer system consisting of a Captain and 1st through 4th Lieutenants. The club's bylaws emphasized military order and obedience of superior officers -

    The Captain shall have command of the Club at all times; in his absence the Lieutenants shall have command in the order of their rank. Every member of this club shall attend all the meetings whether regular or special; and when on duty or in attendance at the meetings, shall obey the officers in command, and shall at all times perform such duties as shall be required of him by the officers in command. (The Waupun Times, August 1, 1860)

Typical Wide Awakes chapters also adopted an unofficial mission statement. The following example comes from the Chicago Chapter (Franklin, Pennsylvania Repository and Transcript)

        1st. To act as a political police.
        2nd. To do escort duty to all prominent Republican speakers who visit our place to address our citizens.
        3rd. To attend all public meetings in a body and see that order is kept and that the speaker and meeting is not disturbed.
        4th. To attend the polls and see that justice is done to every legal voter.
        5th. To conduct themselves in such a manner as to induce all Republicans to join them.
        6th. To be a body joined together in large numbers to work for the good of the Republican Ticket.

Opponents of the Republican Party and especially Southerners identified these stated purposes and the organization's torchlight tactics as forms of political intimidation and voter fraud. They openly criticized the group on the floor of Congress in late 1860.


Wide Awakes and St. Louis

In early 1861 the Wide Awakes chapter of St. Louis became involved in paramilitary operations at the outbreak of the Civil War. Aided by Francis Preston Blair, Jr. and army Captain Nathaniel Lyon, the St. Louis Wide Awakes smuggled armaments into the city and trained secretly in a warehouse. The purpose was to prepare them for full arming out of the St. Louis Arsenal, which both Union and Confederate officials desired to hold. Lyon employed his political connections through Blair to obtain an appointment as commanding officer over the arsenal and, having received his promotion, promptly moved the St. Louis Wide Awakes into the arsenal under cover of night.

Lyon's Wide Awakes, newly mustered into the Federal army, were used on May 10, 1861 to arrest a division of the Missouri State Militia near St. Louis. This event sparked the beginning of violence in Missouri and led directly to the St. Louis Massacre later that day.




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Javier

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Re: Wide Awakes...(dirt on republicans)
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2005, 11:19:55 PM »
Reminds me of Gangs of N.Y.