The Mysterious History of the Wide Awakes
The Wide Awakes marched through cities and towns across America in 1860. Who were they and why did they march?
I first heard of the Wide Awakes in 2021. In researching, I can't find a consensus on why this group started and what it's goals were. They seem to be frustrated at both sides of the developing Civil War while also supporting (candidate) Lincoln.
No rosters of their members exists. Men will be mentioned as members in local newspaper articles, but its usually just the leaders. I'm very interested to know if these Wide Awakes were some of the first men who signed up for the Union Army in 1861 when the call went out. This is one of those questions that genealogists are better trained to answer than historians!
Here's their story in one minute with a list of sources I used in developing this video.
Sources (All Accessed 1 March 2023)
- Grinspan, John, “’Young Men for War’: The Wide Awakes and Lincoln’s 1860 Presidential Campaign,” Journal of American History, (http://archive.oah.org/special-issues/lincoln/contents/grinspan.html), Vol. 96 (Sept. 2009), p. 357-378.
- “The Wide Awake Club of White Have, &c, to the Wide Awakes through the County of Luzerne sendeth Greeting,” Pittston Gazette (Pittston, PA), Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/image/51926714/), 13 Sep 1860, p.3, col.1.
- Thompson, B.F., “Minor Topics: The Wide Awakes of 1860,” The Magazine of History with Notes and Queries(https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uiug.30112028226352), Vol.X (Jul–Dec, 1909), p.293–296.
- Smithsonian National Museum of American History, online artifact collection, search “Wide Awake” (https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections).
Images (Library of Congress)
- “Grand procession of Wide-Awakes at New York on the evening of October 3, 1860,” (https://lccn.loc.gov/99614201).
- “Wide Awake Club ribbon and handwritten note,” (http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.rbc/lprbscsm.scsm0563).
- “Wide Awake 1860,” (http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.rbc/rbpe.01000900).
- “George Beza Woodward, Wide Awake campaigner for Abraham Lincoln, in oil cloth cape and hat with whale oil torch,” (https://lccn.loc.gov/2021650516).
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