Saturday, August 14, 2010

Wide Awake in 1860; Yankee Republican Militia Powers Lincoln to Presidency

Greg wearing Chris Umhoefer's Wide Awake Club
Nephew Chris Umhoefer is a shirt designer, and a Lincoln aficionado. He designed a campaign shirt for Lincoln's 1860 compaign based on the Wide Awakes, youthful supporters of Lincoln. The T-shirt is fictional, of course, but it is pretty cool.

See Library of Congress Site
It made me think of a simpler time when politics were better.  But that is silly.

Politics before the Civil War was far more stormy than today.

 The Wide Awakes wore military styled uniforms (of different kinds in different cities,) and carried six foot long lighted torches late at night. Wide Awakes were generally young men, and yes, they loved Lincoln.  See the uniform below.

Southerners regarded the Wide Awakes a militia of the Republican Party.  I have not seen any stories about armed Wide Awake groups, although the engraving above shows some scuffling with police.

This sheet music cover shows a Wide Awake in uniform.
A membership certificate from Connecticut.

The Wide Awakes were named by Lincoln after a rally in Hartford, Connecticut. He said humorously, "The boys are wide awake, suppose we call them the 'Wide Awakes'."  A few days later a Republican marching club formed with that name.

It is strange to consider how far the policies of the Republican party have changed in the last century and half. Republicans led the nation to war primarily to free the slaves, but now only 2% of Republicans are African-Americans. 7% of African-Americans are Republicans.