"Wide Awakes" Guard the Land

Wideawakeengraving

On the 26th of January, 1861, the following resolution was referred to a “Select Committee of Five” of the U.S. Congress:

“Resolved, That the select committee of five be instructed to inquire whether any secret organization hostile to the government of the United States exists in the District of Columbia; and if so, whether any official or employe of the city of Washington, or any employes or officers of the federal government in the executive or judicial departments, are members thereof.” [1]

However, “To prove the existence of a secret organization having for its object the resistance to and overthrow of the government would, in the very nature of the case, be a difficult task if such an organization really existed,” admitted the Select Committee of Five. [1]

“Certain organizations in this District and in Maryland, that prior to the election seem to have been only political clubs, have since assumed the character of military organizations, are now engaged in drilling, and expect to provide themselves with arms, some from the State authorities, and others from private subscriptions.” [1]

These were citizen militias, which reappeared in the 1990s.

On January 29, 1861, James G. Berhet, Mayor of the City of Washington, was sworn and examined.

QUESTION: The towns and country are full of rumors about a secret organization called the “K. G. C.,” or the “Knights of the Golden Circle,” or something of that kind; have you any information of, or do you believe that any such organization ever existed here?

MAYOR BERHET: That was an old concern that started in connexion with Cuba, or something of that kind. I have never heard of any such organization here.

Mayor Berhet however has confused the Order of the Lone Star with the Knights of the Golden Circle. It was the Order of the Lone Star, not the KGC, which was “started in connexion with Cuba.”

Secret fomentations to overthrow the Cuban government had happened in the Millard Fillmore times. Narciso Lopez, a Venezuelan adventurer, assembled veterans of the Mexican War at New Orleans. (The New Orleans area later hosted Cuban exile paramilitaries, which in turn intersected with David Ferrie and Lee Harvey Oswald, in the early 1960s.) Lopez and his group of mercenaries landed at Playtas, within marching distance of Havana, Cuba. This Playtas covert scheme, like Bay of Pigs, did not go as planned. President Millard Fillmore was pressured to have the United States intervene militarily. But our Millard refused to yield to war pressure, and laid the blame for the Playtas fiasco on “foreigners, deluded youths, and greedy American speculators.” [2]

The Order of the Lone Star (OLS) had as its object the “Americanization” of “some of our weaker neighbors beyond the Southern limits of our domain.” William Walker, notorious in the annals of Nicaragua, obtained from the OLS his most ardent recruits. (A strange movie, “Walker,” (1987) deals with the subject of William Walker and U.S. Nicaraguan adventures.) [2]

QUESTION: You do not apprehend any trouble from broils in drinking saloons, and such as that?

MAYOR BERHET: That would [un]likely occur in such a city as this at such a time. It occurred when Mr. Buchanan was inaugurated. I suppose 15 or 20 pistol shots were harmlessly fired at the National Hotel, even among men of the same political party.

Mayor Behret is being coy, offering a “limited hangout.” In March 1857 the President-elect James Buchanan had had troubles as he journeyed through Baltimore on the way to his inauguration in Washington. Roughs in Baltimore had hooted, hissed and thrown stones at President-elect Buchanan. Some of these Baltimore thugs followed Buchanan to Washington and near the National Hotel they shot off pistols and alarmed the neighborhood. [3] And at this same National Hotel, in 1857, Buchanan suffered twice from the so-called “National Hotel Disease.”

QUESTION: Have you taken any measures to ascertain whether there existed any organization under Governor [Henry] Wise’s own command; and if so, how extensive it was?

MAYOR BEHRET: I have inquired, and looked into the newspapers; but I never attached any consequence myself to any idea of any foray upon Washington. I regarded that as a mere political movement at the time; as a sort of set-off to the Wide-awakes.

The “Wide Awakes”? We have the secret groups the Knights of the Golden Circle, the Order of the Lone Star, the National Volunteers, the Know-Nothings — and now this! Who says there is no such thing as conspiracies!?

It turns out the “Wide Awakes” were yet another citizen militia of those times. “Wide Awakes” can be traced to New York City and the “Know Nothings”, of which political party Millard Fillmore was the presidential candidate in 1856. The “Wide Awakes” were well drilled and served as political police in escorting party speakers and in preserving order at public meetings. The Wide Awakes adopted the image of a large eyeball as their standard banner. (The Pinkerton Detective agency later had a large eyeball and the slogan, “We never sleep.”) The South viewed the Wide Awakes as the North’s private army, and thus they determined on creating their own. [4] (Or was it the other way around? Were the Wide Awakes caused in reaction to the KGC?)

And what now? What about the rising numbers of “Civil War re-enacters?” Are the “Wide Awakes” again drilling, prepared once more to guard the land?

(The above first appeared at my Melchizedek Communique web site on June 5, 2011.)

——- Notes ——-
[1] Reports of the Select Committee of Five (36th Congress, 2d Session). Available for free download as pdf/ebook. Do Google search.
[2] What Would Millard Do?, by Brian Francis Redman. Published by Lulu.com. Also available as a Kindle e-book.
[3] Kline, Michael J. The Baltimore Plot. Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, LLC, 2008
[4] “Wide Awakes”, Wikipedia, June 3, 2011

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About ersjdamoo

Editor of Conspiracy Nation, later renamed Melchizedek Communique. Close associate of the late Sherman H. Skolnick. Jack of all trades, master of none. Sagittarius, with Sagittarius rising. I'm not a bum, I'm a philosopher.
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