Produced by Lee Dawei, Andy Schmitt
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
THE GREAT NORTH-WESTERN CONSPIRACY IN ALL ITS STARTLING DETAILS.
_The Plot to plunder and burn Chicago–Release of all Rebel prisoners–Seizure of arsenals–Raids from Canada–Plot to burn New York–Piracy on the Lakes–Parts for the Sons of Liberty–Trial of Chicago conspirators–Inside views of the Temples of the Sons of Liberty–Names of prominent members._
ILLUSTRATED WITH PORTRAITS OF LEADING CHARACTERS, ETC., ETC.
By I. WINSLOW AYER, M.D.
[Illustration: I. WINSLOW AYER, M.D.]
The trial before the Military Commission in Cincinnati, just concluded, was in many respects one of the most remarkable events of the war. The investigation has elicited testimony of the most startling character, showing conclusively to the minds of all reasonable men who have given to it careful, earnest attention that there was a most formidable, deep and well arranged conspiracy, which, but for timely discovery and judicious action, would have resulted most disastrously, not only to the particular cities and towns specified and doomed to destruction, but to the whole country. None can contemplate the danger through which we have passed without a shudder and without a recognition of the hand of a merciful Providence who has guided our beloved country in its darkest hours and who has crowned our struggles for liberty and union with glorious victory.
To have proclaimed to the public, even a few short months ago, that a scheme had been concocted in Richmond, of so vast and formidable a character, so insidious in its operations, so complete in its details that it had found favor and support in all the great cities and towns in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, Iowa, and sections of other States that scarcely a village was exempt from its corruption, that it numbered in its ranks more traitors in the aggregate than the number of brave men in the combined armies of the gallant Grant and Sherman, and that all who had thus united recognised but one common cause–the destruction of our country, the defeat and humiliation of our people, and the triumph of the Rebellion–the author of such a proclamation would have been written down a madman or a fool, by most persons in the community; and yet the developments before the military tribunal have established the fact, to the eternal infamy of all who were leagued in the conspiracy.
As the trial opened, and the charges if the indictment were made public, all sympathisers with the conspiracy affected to disbelieve its existence, and raised their eyes and hands to Heaven, in pious horror, and prayed that _justice_ might be meted out to the accused, who were, they claimed, the best of citizens, the most devout Christians, the most zealous patriots, the most earnest advocates of law and order, and that their accusers might be shunned of all good men forever. To this prayer the accused will scarce utter the response, Amen! Even some good, careful, honest Union men, astonished at the startling revelations, refused, for a time, to believe that there was any truth in the allegations against the prisoners; by degrees, however, as corroborative evidence accumulated, the truth was forced upon their minds, and there are now few persons of ordinary intelligence and candor, who have not been able to discover that “there was something in it, after all,” and that we have been Providentially saved a most terrible disaster.
But the investigation has been lengthy, and the reports in the newspapers have been brief and irregular, and few, comparatively, there are who have heard or read all of even the more important testimony, or appreciate fully the vast magnitude of the conspiracy; and there are many who having read only the indictment, have conceived the idea that if the charges therein alleged are true, the crime was confined to a few desperate and wicked men in Chicago alone, and that, therefore, it possessed but a local interest. Such a conclusion is wholly groundless. The history of this conspiracy is of the most vital interest for the people of every State in the Union, for had the conspirators not been foiled at a most opportune moment, their plans would have been successful in every particular, and once in operation they could not have been frustrated by any force we could have arrayed against them; and who shall say that had the savage hordes of Jeff. Davis then been turned loose upon an unarmed community, to carry desolation and ruin as they should sweep over our fair States, that to-day the Southern rebels would be, as they now are, in their last extremity–that victory would now be perched upon our banners wherever our noble pioneers of freedom advance, and that our brave boys of the Potomac would now be reposing from, their labors in the halls of the rebel capitol! Those who, upon investigation, fail to recognise the magnitude, the sagacity, the completeness of this Northwestern Conspiracy, and realise its immense importance to the rebel chieftains at the South, corroborated as the evidence before the Commission has been by incidents of almost daily occurrence for many months, have not learned to read correctly the history of the Great Southern Rebellion. If an idea ever entered the heads of malcontents at the North to establish a Northwestern Confederacy, it was speedily chased away by the more promising schemes of the arch traitor late of Richmond. It is to collect facts already elicited, and to give further information, and with a hope of aiding the cause of the Union so sacred and dear to us all, that the writer has yielded to the oft-repeated requests of his friends to present a connected and concise history of the Northwestern Conspiracy.
SECRET SERVICE TO SECURE SUCCESS OF SOUTHERN ARMS–STATE SOVEREIGNTY–THE GENERAL PURPOSES OF SECRET POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS–RECOLLECTIONS THAT CAN NEVER DIE–VOICES FROM OUR BRAVE SOLDIERS AT THE FRONT, BESPEAKING OUR PROTECTION FOR THEIR WIVES, CHILDREN, PARENTS AND HOMES FROM NORTHERN COPPERHEADS–CHARACTER OF THE LEADERS OF THE DIFFERENT SECRET ORDERS.
The signal potency of secret organizations at the South prior to the secession of States, and indeed the only really effective machinery by which an attempt at disunion by the people could have been made to appear possible, early in the great struggle engaged the earnest attention of the Southern leaders. Knowing as they did that had the question of secession been primarily an open one, for free discussion, that the masses of the people would have rejected the proposition with deserved scorn and indignation, and hung the ambitious adventurers who dared propose the sacrilege. They realized the importance of establishing the order in the North. The leaders saw with delight the working of secret organizations, where men were sworn to secrecy, and drawn onward step by step, till they reached the very brink of the fearful precipice. Thus did the people fasten upon themselves and each other the shackles of slavery, which they have since so unwillingly worn. The doctrine of State sovereignty proclaimed by John C. Calhoun, and which, together with its apostles, Jackson well knew how to receive, had been instilled into the minds of the people of the States, which since their admission into the Union had been at war with destiny, and in the hope of securing perpetuity of their peculiar institutions, they attempted the dissolution of the Union. Truly gratifying it must have been to the extremists in those States to have watched the gathering clouds, and to listen to the low murmuring thunder which presaged the coming storm, and well they knew how fearful would be its fury, but blinded to the inevitable result, they were confident of ultimate success, when they should have so far disseminated the Calhoun poison at the North, as to have made oath-bound slaves in such numbers as would paralyze the efforts of Union men, and render it necessary to recall our armies from the field to suppress insurrection at home, and to change the theatre of the war to Northern soil. None knew the importance of introducing the machinery of secret political organizations better than Davis himself, for he had not forgotten the Charleston Convention, the working of the secret orders then, and subsequent events had of course confirmed him in the opinion that a divided North would not be a formidable adversary, and that he was warranted in the firm belief that his wish to be “let alone” would be realised. With these views, shrewd and sagacious men established themselves early in Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and other States, and put the machinery in motion. The order sprung up in various sections of the country, and treason flourished well, as poisonous plants often show the greatest vitality. This plan was a success. Men high in rank and station–men from every profession and walk in life, embraced the principles of the order, and soon it could boast of legislators, judges of the higher courts, clergymen, doctors, lawyers, merchants and men from every avocation. Judge Bullitt, from the Supreme bench in Kentucky, Judge Morris of the Circuit Court of Illinois, Judd and Robinson, lawyers and candidates for the highest State offices, Col. Walker, agent of the State of Indiana, editors of the daily press, and men high in official station, and in the confidence of the people, ex-Governors of States and disaffected politicians, all seized upon this new element of power and with various motives, the chief of which was self agrandisement at any cost, even at the cost of our National existence– entered with zeal upon the work of disseminating the doctrines, and extending the organization throughout the North and West.
The leaders gratified by success, courted the support of the organizations they fostered till the candidates for the highest offices in the State and Nation felt certain of obtaining election, were they but in favor with the secret orders they aided in establishing. While the leaders were men of cunning, many of them of intellect and education, the rank and file was made up of different material. It not being necessary by the tenets of the order that they should _think_ at all, brains were at a discount–muscle only was required–beings who would fall into line at the word of command and follow on to an undertaking, however desperate and criminal, without asking or thinking, or caring for the purpose to be attained; beings who could be put in harness and led or driven wherever and whenever it might suit their masters. Men from the lowest walks of life were preferred. In the lower strata of the order, social distinction was waived by the leaders, and the lowest wretch in the order was placed on a level with judges, merchants and politicians, at least within the hall of meeting, thus offering inducements potent enough to make the lodge room a place of interest and pleasure, and thus the organization thrived.
It became known of course that secret organizations of a most dangerous class were in existence, and their fruits were easily recognized. Our brave boys in the army were often importuned by letters, to desert their posts and to betray their flag. Union men were subject to annoyances that became unendurable, soldiers wives and families were grossly insulted, soldiers visiting their homes upon furloughs were often assaulted or murdered, quarrels upon petty pretexts were incited, neighbors arrayed against each other, dwellings burned by incendiaries, unoffending union men murdered, military secrets of greatest importance betrayed, libels of the most gross and malicious character by such papers as the Chicago Times, and by such men as Wilbur F. Story, its editor, till at length a voice came to us from the army in the field, which was often echoed, begging Union citizens at home, by their love of the Union, by the love they bore their own families, to protect the absent soldiers’ wives, mothers, sisters and firesides from the Copperheads who remained at home; they would meet the enemy at the front, they would march fearlessly to the cannon’s belching throat, and meet death or mutilation upon the field of battle for their Country’s cause; not for themselves did they know fear or care for danger, but when the tidings came to them from home, when after toilsome marches, hunger and fatigue, or suffering from wounds received in desperate engagements, when resting a brief hour, and their eyes fell upon missives from home, from wives who bade them go and fight for freedom, and return not with shame upon their brows, when tender thoughts of home, of children and every “loved spot” that they had left behind, came crowding to their minds, who shall say that they were wanting in heroism if their faces became pale, their lips trembled and the tears dimmed their eyes, as they read of wrongs and insults endured from Copperheads at home, or of plots and acts by cowardly traitors to aid the common enemy; and when their entreaty comes to us to strike down the deadly foe at home and give protection to the helpless, let him blush with shame to call himself a man, let him never claim to be an American citizen, never claim protection of our Country’s flag, let him close his ears to the sound of rejoicing for final and complete victory, let him only hold companionship with cowards and with culprits, and hide himself from the light of day who will turn a deaf ear to the soldiers’ prayer. Copperheads who have withheld their sympathy and their efforts for our country in its days of darkness and of peril, should and will be known of men in all future time; their lives will be blighted, their names will be a reproach and a by-word, their children will blush for their parents, and the name of Benedict Arnold will no longer be the synonym of treason and betrayal–his name will be rescued from the infamy each passing year of the existence of our country has heaped upon it, and the Copperheads of the present day will receive the anathemas of all coming generations, till their very names shall be a curse too horrid for mortals to apply, and thenceforth be only echoed in the lowest depths of hell.
By Providential discovery of the existence of the Order of Sons of Liberty in Chicago, and the utmost vigilance, prudence, perseverance, patience, promptness and daring, the aims, designs and acts of this Order, of the American Knights and kindred organizations have been brought to light, its every evil purpose and plan laid before the Government, and the pet institution of Jeff. Davis has been turned inside out, so that “he who runs may read;” the curtain has been raised and the light of noonday has been let in, discovering to the public the horrid creation of traitors in our very midst–people who breathe the very air we do, who enjoy the same blessings and privileges, aye, and perhaps sit at the same tables. The friends and sympathizers of these traitors have sought to cast obloquy and distrust upon the statements of those who have successfully broken up the great conspiracy, and perjury has sought to blacken their reputations, but in vain. _Truth will prevail_.
The list of names of the members of the Sons of Liberty have been obtained and preserved, and will be valuable for reference hereafter.
As the reader passes down South Clark street, at the corner of Monroe, he will notice upon the right a large building of peculiar structure, and, now bearing the name “Invincible Club Hall.” It was here the temples of the Sons of Liberty, or, as they were then called, the “American Knights,” held their secret sessions, going stealthily up the stairs singly or in groups of two or three, to avoid observation, and when once inside the hall they were guarded by an outside sentinel, whose duty it was to apprise them of danger and to guard against its approach to the “temple”; but let not the fault-finding Sons blame their Tyler now for any neglect of duty; once under the ban of suspicion he has proved himself as staunch a rebel and traitor as Jeff. Davis himself, and is entitled to all the consideration of a “devilish good fellow.” But within a year, more or less, the “temple” of the _Illini_, as it was called, removed from Clark street to the large building upon the corner of Randolph and Dearborn streets, known as “McCormick’s Block.” Every Thursday evening prior to the eighth of November 1864, the windows of the hall in the fifth story gave evidence that the hall was occupied, but further than this evidence was not for the observer, however curious he might be, unless, perchance, he was a member of “the Order.” Clambering up the long nights of stairs that lead to the hall, on a Thursday evening, the party in quest of discovery would be not a little surprised at the class of men he would notice upon the march upward; he would involuntarily button up his pockets and keep as far distant from his fellow travelers as possible, for a more God-forsaken looking class of vagabonds never before entered a respectable building, and it is a matter of some doubt whether so many graceless scoundrels were ever before convened in one building in Chicago, not excepting the Armory when the police have been unusually active and vigilant. Occasionally a fine looking man would brush hastily by you, as if afraid to be discovered and recognised–not in the least conscience-stricken, perhaps, for his purposes and intentions. Should the gas-light show to you the comely features of the Grand Senior Obadiah Jackson, Jr. Esq., on his pilgrimage upward, you would scarcely be willing to believe that he was the presiding genius of the room in the upper regions, and bound to dispense light and wisdom to the motley crowd who would so soon be filling the hall with fumes of cheap tobacco and the poorest quality of whiskey, mingled with the fragrance of onions, borne by gentle zephyrs from yonder open vestibule. Yonder comes L.A. Doolittle, Esq., a lawyer of some distinction and a justice of the peace; he wears a look of wisdom, and you can read upon his face that he is certain that the “despot Lincoln,” and “Lincoln’s hirelings,” and “Lincoln’s bastiles” are all going under together beneath the wheels of the triumphal car drawn by the opposition party, with Vallandigham as the leader. But we will not try to find any great number of fine looking men in very close proximity to the hall. Arriving on the fifth floor, and proceeding to a door upon which you find the sign of the “American Protestant Association,” your friends casting furtive glances around and behind them, disappear by the door and are lost to view; one by one, like stars upon the approach of dawn, our constellation vanishes. You open the door, but your curiosity is not repaid; the seedy friends who preceded you but an instant are lost to sight–presto! the room is as vacant as a last year’s robin’s nest, and observation detects a hole of six inches in diameter in a door in one side of the room; you try the door, but it is fast, and you may leave if you wish, but the idea of a Copperhead crawling through a hole six inches in diameter will haunt your dreams that night.
FOREIGN POWERS THE ENEMIES OF REPUBLICAN GOVERNMENT–THEIR PART IN THE PROGRAMME OF THE REBELLION.
The event of the American revolution burst upon the world as the most startling era in the history of nations. Monarchical Europe had long envied the proud career and inevitable destiny of these States, which had been shaken as the brightest jewels from the British Crown. Monarchs, Emperors, Queens, lords, princes and diplomats, who wield the sceptre of dominion, could not conceal the joy afforded them by a scene, which executed, promised the speedy extinguishment of the leading national power on the globe, and the final demolition of the only altar of liberty upon which the fires of freedom had continued bright.
The event created the more joy, because it was attributable partly to the efforts so strenuously put forth for many preceding years by the combined enemies of American Independence, to poison the American mind and breed disunion in the ranks of a free, industrious and honest yeomanry, with a view to the ultimate dissolution of the bonds of the Union.
These enemies, however, for some time anterior to the development of the fruit of their labors, had begun to despair of the cause in which they had engaged, and it is possible that the scheme of American wreck and ruin upon their part had been permanently abandoned, hence their immediate demonstrations of joy at the triumph of their cause of sedition.
But seeds sown, however barren the soil, seldom fail of some growth, and subsequent to the presidential election of 1860, the great American rebellion became transparent to both friend and foe. To enumerate and examine in detail the different phases of the programme of artificial causes which precipitated defiance of the General Government, and gave origin to the chronic disorder of the people of different sections upon the subject of their government, would occupy more space than has been allotted this brief narrative, which is more especially intended to embrace a readable compilation of the later movements of the enemies of the Government to crown the Confederate cause with success, through the bloody implement of Conspiracy and Revolution in the Northern States.
Having alluded to the prominent part occupied by foreign hostile powers in the general scheme of Conspiracy against the Federal Government, a brief allusion to the part executed by the native born American will not be out of place.
The cheek tingles with the blush of shame, when alas, it _must_ be said that the pride of the American has been humbled by his too faithful adherence to the grand original compact of treason, even after the second most potent auxiliary to the plan had been tenderly touched with the wickedness of the scheme, and had withdrawn in dismay at the approach of the enactment of crime so revolting.
All things material and tangible have their bases and starting points, so too, had the Southern Rebellion its foundation stone laid deep and solid in the minds of the people by John C. Calhoun, the first great Supreme Commander of the germ from whence sprung the various elements of treason, which have entered into the composition of the powers seeking the destruction of the Federal Government. As for the doctrine of State Rights as expounded by Calhoun, it is carried beyond the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of ’98, to that point which renders it destructive of the end for which it is claimed to be enunciated.
It has been sought to carry the doctrine to that extremity beyond the exercise of its own reserved powers, which must inevitably bring it in collision with the legitimate operation of the powers delegated to the General Government.
With this extreme, hence fallacious, doctrine of State Rights thus firmly imbedded in the hearts and heads of a zealous people, rendering them, upon conscientious principles, the ready tools of ambitious leaders, filled with lust for power and place, it should not be a matter of so much surprise, that, after years of uninterrupted and persistent education and training of the generations in their order, that the year of 1860 found the continent trembling beneath the crack of musketry, the tread of horse, and the roar of cannon.
As among the more important means used by designing men in aid of the scheme of rebellion, and the ultimate establishment of a separate government in the South, the nucleus of which was to be the cotton states, secret organizations, assuming different names and traditions in different localities in the South were established, having for their special mission in the meantime the privacy of the plot, and the education of the people to that indispensable standard of treason which would eventually lead them to avow their principles at the point of the sword.
These organizations, in point of antiquity, are traced to a time not long anterior to the nullification of South Carolina in 1832, which was so promptly suppressed by General Jackson, then President of the United States. Some of them, however, claim even greater antiquity, and point with affected pride to the historical period of the American colonial revolution against the taxation and tyranny of England, as the date of their origin. Whatever may be the facts as to the precise date of the existence, respectively, of these disreputable cables, laid to undermine the greatness and glory of the National Union, cemented as it is by the blood of the sires and sages of the Revolution, is unimportant to the purpose of the author, while the great living fact that they have been the most deadly weapon in the hands of the enemy is corroborated by the eventful history of the union of these States.
Prior to the breaking out of the rebellion in 1861, these various organizations, being the van-guards in the general conspiracy against the integrity and perpetuity of the Federal Government, had not been introduced, to any great extent, in the non-slaveholding states, and in consequence thereof had little or no tangibility north of the compromise of 1820, familiarly known as Mason and Dixon’s line. South of this line, however, they had long been standing institutions in every city, town, hamlet, villa and populated district throughout all of the late so-called Confederate States of America; vying the Palmetto in rankness of growth, and rivaling the rattlesnake in deadness of poison, until at length, gorged with their own baneful offspring, and pale with the sickness of their own stomachs, the child of secession was born unto them as a curse and reproach to the Southern people and the generations to follow them forever.
On the 17th of April, 1861, the report of the gun fired upon Fort Sumter was heard by every member of these secret conclaves in the South, and was the signal for the opening of the outer gates of every temple of treason in the land.
From that inauspicious moment forward to the present, no mask has hid from the scorn of the Christian world treason’s hideous visage, but that blear-eyed monster, armed with every weapon of iniquity which devilish invention could devise, has alternately, with rage and despair, rushed to and fro across the continent, spilling the blood of innocence.
When, upon the occurrence of the Presidential election in 1860, it was found that the kernel planted by Calhoun had been fostered to maturity by secret organization, the blood and treasure of seven states was at once staked upon the fearful result, and the disruption of the Republic and the erection of a slave-driving despotism upon the ruins solemnly declared. In the outset, it was thought by leading political minds at the North, that but little sincerity could be attached to the assertion of independence by the Southern people. But as time elapsed and the contest grew more formidable and bloody, Northern men began by degrees to comprehend the magnitude of a chronic conspiracy which had cost the life-long labors of its ablest advocates to prepare. And though the hosts enlisted in the execution of this conspiracy for a time won the prestige of victors upon fields of blood, knowledge of their sincerity of purpose and the extent of their carefully collected resources at length came to every loyal man in the country, and vigorous measures, corresponding to the necessity, were at once devised, the effects of which are now seen in the capture of Richmond and the surrender of Lee.
Earlier than this date in the progress of the struggle, however, it became manifest that the wheel of fortune would eventually turn against the cause of the South in consequence of her comparative weakness to contend against a power so amply provided with the material of war as the government at Washington. Then it was that the project of enlarging the area of the rebellion, first fell upon the Southern mind as indispensable to their cause, now fast becoming desperate in the extreme. Hurried raids into border northern states gave to the prowess of southern arms but momentary _eclat_, and little or no enduring strength was added to the stability of the Richmond government, beyond the plunder obtained in the line of march. On the contrary, these raids, instead of being evidence of the power of the South to maintain the standard of independence, were looked upon by the military chieftains of the North, without apprehension further than the demoralization, consequent upon the particular neighborhoods and districts thus invaded. In fact each recurring raid gave additional grounds for the confident belief on the part of the North, that the downfall of the rebellion was but a question of time, much sooner to be solved than many people of both sections supposed. These symptoms of the distress of the cause meantime did not escape the sagacity of the leaders of the rebellion, and as an expedient remedy, the plan of secretly organizing traitors in the northern states was determined upon as early as 1862, by the political representatives and agents of the confederate states, the attempt, character and success of which project will be the subject of the next chapter.
ARENA OF THE REBELLION EXTENDED–SECRET ORGANIZATION–PLAN OF FORMATION–KNIGHTS OF GOLDEN CIRCLE–TRANSPORTS ON THE RIVERS BURNED–EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES–SUPREME COUNCIL IN NEW YORK–DEGREES OF THE ORDERS.
As above intimated, early in 1862 the Richmond Government foresaw the necessity of bringing to its aid the hitherto comparatively dormant resources of treason in the Northern States, and the enlargement of the arena of the Rebellion. Raids having ominously failed in their design to arouse the lethargic spirits of Northern sympathizers and advocates, to rush to the standard of the misguided South, it was immediately determined to prolong the war, at least, to the date of the next Presidential election, and then through the agencies of secret organization and equipment, seize upon the excitement of the people in a hotly contested election, to force a rebellion against the administration elect in the North, as had been done in the South in 1860.
The executive part of this object was at once given into the hands of such trustworthy men, both North and South, as were deemed suitable to the enterprise, and the work of secret political organization was vigorously begun in Northern Missouri and Kentucky, from thence it gradually spread, until it was firmly rooted in the political tenets of the minority party in the States of Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, New York, and portions of other adjoining States.
Much dissimilarity existed in the operative structure and formation of the various organizations, from time to time thus instituted. To give the public a full and complete description of these organizations, would be foreign to the writer’s time, space and purpose, but in order that some record of their character may be made, a general description of each in its order in point of time, with a reference to the features in which radical dissimilarities appear, would seem indispensible to the poor perfection sought to be obtained by the author of these sketches.
Upon the discovery by Southern leaders that their cause must fail unless “fire in the rear” was at once instigated in the North, the Order of the Knights of the Golden Circle, an old Southern institution, was infused with life, and began its pilgrimage Northward, one additional creed having been ingrafted upon it.
It will be remembered that this Order was originally composed of the wealthiest planters, merchants and professional men of the South, and had for its sole object the inculcation of treason against the United States. It was simply an institution to educate the Southern mind to the required standard of rebellion. But when the Order was introduced into the North, it was found feasible to give it a double capacity, first that of an educational capacity, and second that of an incendiary capacity, which comprised the destruction of government property, and the houses and property of leading loyal citizens of the North, known to be strong advocates of the suppression of the rebellion. But this organization in name and cardinal purpose was short-lived, its career having subserved but a meagre benefit to the South, in a practical point of view. The damage it did was principally confined to the burning of United States transports on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and the moulding of the crude opinions of its members, which served as a solid foundation for the establishment of the Order of American Knights, which immediately succeeded its dissolution.
Like all institutions of iniquity, the sun of the Order of Knights of the Golden Circle went down in blood, but was the signal for the advent of an Order better calculated to meet the ends of its design.
It had been seen upon experiment that the Golden Circle had been successful beyond the most sanguine expectations of its instigators, and as the necessity of Northern revolution to insure the certain success of the Confederacy daily became more apparent to the rebels, both North and South, the Order of the American Knights was inaugurated–the executioner of that fell purpose. Its sun arose to its meridian with the suddenness of a meteor, doomed to flash across the canopy and burst in scattering atoms.
The Order of American Knights was erected upon the dissolved fragments of the Order of the Knights of the Golden Circle, which Order, in name, was abandoned for the additional reason that the suspicions of the Government had begun to be aroused as to the character of its movements. At the time of the extinction of the Golden Circle, its members were at once inducted into the Order of American Knights, so that this Order obtained much primary advantage, in point of numerical strength, over its predecessor, for the Golden Circle had already insidiously crept into the very hearts of several Northern cities and states. The American Knights being composed in the outset wholly of men who from experience had discovered whatever defectiveness may have been chargeable upon the Golden Circle, it was sought in the new Order to remedy the evils of the old Order.
With this in view, looking over the former and later phases of the Golden Circle as it had existed in the North and South, respectively, it was agreed to give the new Order still another capacity, and what was called the military branch or department was added, the incendiary capacity of the old Order being merged into this new military department.
We have seen that there had been in the North an Order mainly of educational capacity, contemplating revolution so soon as the public mind could be put in readiness for such an event, but now for the first time we find an Order prepared in its organic structure, to speedily collect together the elements of revolution and set them in motion. Such a concern was the Order of American Knights. True, the rise of the Order created a momentary excitement in political circles, as yet unaccustomed to dealing with the stern problems of Northern revolution by resort to arms. But, by the admirable adjustment of the administrative powers of the Order, into degrees, sub-degrees and departments of degrees and sub-degrees, the leaders were enabled to give to each adventurer in quest of the hidden mysteries of the so-called impartial maxims of genuine Democracy–that Democracy which _boasts of having permeated through every fibre and artery of our political, commercial and social systems_, a comfortable and genial sphere in which he was left to operate upon his good behavior.
Upon this ingenious plan the vast body and mass of the Order simply held the relation of probationary membership, until they were rendered competent through the educational capacity of the society, to advance into full fellowship with its diabolical design. A glance at this organization will suffice to show the shrewdness of the transient and local agents of the Confederacy, in their formation of an Order, having for its mission the attainment of so many incidental objects, without in the meantime subjecting themselves to the dangers of collision in their machinery. Accordingly, the Order was composed of three general degrees, viz.: First, the Temple Degree, second, the Grand Council Degree, and third, the Supreme Council Degree.
The first or Temple Degree, resembled the county organization of a State, and held the same relation to the second or Grand Council Degree (which was the state organization of the Order,) that our county government holds to our State government, and it was always sought to establish this first or Temple Degree at each county seat in a State, as expeditiously as possible, that the second or Grand Council Degree could the sooner be fully represented, and begin its State management of the Order. In other chapters the writer has made a passing, though sufficient allusion to the internal workings of these Temples, and doubtless the initiated reader, in different sections, will recognize the facts we have already and are further about to state, notwithstanding the “_obligation_” the author is supposed to have subscribed to, not to reveal the existence of the Order and its secrets, under _penalty of “suffering a shameful death.”_
The process usually followed in instituting the Temple Degree, was to send missionaries with authority, into the districts proposed to be organized, who called together such of the “unterrified” leaders as were known to be “_sound_ on Jeff. Davis’ goose,” before whom the design and object of the Order was confidentially laid for their approval or rejection, by a majority vote. It is important to recollect that the record does not afford an instance where a majority of those assembled for this purpose, rejected the Order as inconsistent with their political views. On the contrary, it was everywhere received by the politicians, both great and small, as “_just the thing they had been looking for_.” These politicians were then left to “manage their own local affairs” concerning the Order, “subject only to the constitution” of _Jeff. Davis_. Generally, several meetings and some discussion enabled these empyrics to determine plans of strategy to screen themselves, by “_covering the tracks in the sand_,” a remark frequently heard from members.
[Illustration: THE MILITARY COMMISSION IN SESSION IN THE ROTUNDA OF THE COURT HOUSE IN CINCINNATI.
“All whom we arrested wore the same general wolfish aspect.”–From the testimony of Brig. Gen. B.J. Sweet.]
The plan in most cases adopted, was to familiarize a sufficient number of the _elect_, with a grossly immoral and treasonable pamphlet, called the “Ritual of the Order,” to enable them to officer the Temple, and “induct” any number of “candidates” _supposed_ to be “in waiting in the ante-room, into the sublime,” but in fact dark and dubious “mysteries of the Order.”
After one or more squads of these “candidates in” anxious and breathless “waiting” had been inducted, (meanwhile staring like stuck pigs at every object and officer which met their eyes,) in addition to the regular officers of the Temple already installed, it was considered that enough official and canvassing material had been acquired, and the more prominent politicians, not officers of the Temple, deemed it prudent to absent themselves from most of the weekly meetings. Again, it was an illusion of these leaders, to put forward the most irresponsible persons at their command, as the mouth-pieces and official representatives of the Order, to the end that if detected, the theory of _crazy, powerless fools_, could be wielded upon public sentiment by an undisturbed partisan press, to save the scheme from thorough investigation and development by the authorities.
In evidence of the fact of these illusions, L.A. Doolittle lectures the Temple in Chicago on the “purposes and plans of the Order,” (but who by the way, was not so “insane on the subject” as the men who put him forward have sought to show him to be,) and prominent politicians, not before known to be members of the fraternity, appear prior to semi-annual elections as candidates for representatives in the Grand Council.
It was duly announced, also, that an extra session of the Supreme Council had been convened in the city of New York, charged with the special business of revising the ritual, changing the signs, passwords, grips, and giving to the Order a new name. Pursuant to announcement, Charles W. Patten made his appearance in the Temple with the rituals and paraphernalia of the new Order of the Sons of Liberty–the result of the proceedings of the late Supreme Council.
This obscure individual, with fame limited to the dusty walls of the Invincible Club Rooms and the traitor’s dungeon at Camp Douglas, upon his appearance in the Temple, assigned two chief reasons for the recent action of the Supreme Council. First and most important was, the obvious inadequacy of the Order of American Knights to subserve the purpose for which it was instituted, in consequence of the subordination of the military to the civil department. And, second, the disclosure in St. Louis had rendered the Order liable to intrusion by spies, an embarrassment to be avoided only by alteration of signs, grips, passwords, and name. We were then informed that we were Sons of Liberty (a sensible man would have said sons of the devil, if he had dared to have spoken the truth), and earnestly exhorted to exercise the utmost caution in adhering to the new rules and instructions of the Supreme Council. It is not a little amusing to witness the homeopathic doses of modern democracy, carefully administered to the rank and file of the northern people through the medium of these Orders.
In the first place, the Golden Circle edifies the “stranger advancing in dark, devious ways” with lessons upon the doctrine of state sovereignty, and admonishes him to “follow the straight and narrow path which is paved with gems and pearls, and bordered with perennial flowers whose perfumes all his senses will entrance,” all of which is received by the sincere candidate with every mark of approval. We next find the American Knights embracing its members in the bedazzling folds of military lace to be used when in arms against the Government. A splendid spectacle of the doctrines of Washington, Jefferson, Jackson and Douglas! And to cap the miserable climax, men boasting of the Democracy of their fathers in a line of lineal descent for generations back, are required to subscribe to the doctrine of the subordination of the civil to the military authority by the tenets of the Sons of Liberty.
This astonishing feature of the Sons of Liberty, as contradistinguished from the Orders which preceded it, at first met with murmurs of disfavor, but the dissatisfaction was principally among men who ultimately acted the _nobler part_, and as the tide of treason rolled up to sustain this measure “for the good of the Order,” all such were submerged and lost sight of, except by the evil eye set upon them as spies.
Without offering his advice, the writer would respectfully ask the _true_ Democrat, who may yet, from the temptations of firmly-rooted prejudices, incline to the belief that this organization was purely democratic in the Andrew Jackson acceptation of that term, how the above statement of principles comports with his notions of the doctrines of the party with which he has hitherto seen fit to fellowship?
Is it not clearly to be seen that this Order meditated the establishment of a government more despotic in its character than history furnishes any example of? A government with three degrees or departments, each oath-bound and a profound secret to the other, moving in their appointed spheres, and the civil departments of which were secondary, in point of power, to the military departments!
Let no man, of whatever political persuasion he may be, flatter himself for a moment that such a government could be Republican in its nature.
Having now traced, with perhaps a tedious hand, the rise and fall of two political Orders, ranking among the most powerful instruments of crime and public wrong of their day, the writer bids their unmourned remains farewell, to pass to the consideration in the succeeding chapter, of the desperate career and final explosion of the Order of the Sons of Liberty–a solemn warning to the American people forever.
To save the Goudys, Caulfields, Adams, Edwards, Duncans, Wickershams, Cuttings, and Kimberlys, the Morrises, Walshes, Jacksons, Pattens, Gearys, and Doolittles were put forward because they were eager for the fray, and possessed the temerity to brave the danger of Union bullets.
We have now seen how the Temple or First Degree was instituted in counties; how the various elements of treason were collected together and detailed for their special service of educating the ignorant, manufacturing materials and munitions of war, and devising plots to burn, plunder, and pillage unsuspecting cities; how each member was singled out according to his fitness for certain duties, which he performed without their character coming even to his fellow members of the same degree; and how the brained leaders of these institutions retired to the back ground to elude the vigilance of the ministers of the law, and “adjust the wires” that were to check to-day, and to-morrow precipitate the conspiracy.
The Grand Council, or Second Degree, was established in every State where the Temple Degree had obtained any strength and character as to numbers. This Degree resembled the State in its governmental organization, and bore the same relation to the Supreme Council or Third Degree that the State governments of the Federal Union bear to the government at Washington. The Order having a military department, these Grand Councils, in council assembled, adopted the militia and other statute laws of the particular State, with such revisions, exceptions and additional laws as were deemed essential to the successful operation of the Order.
Regular semi-annual meetings of the Grand Councils were held, convening respectively on the 22d of August and the 22d of February–the latter, in sacrilege be it said, being religiously observed as the birthday of Washington.
But extra sessions were almost monthly called during the year of 1864, prior to the election, to take precautionary and other expedient action upon the continually recurring changes of that eventful year. No considerable battle was fought in the front, that was not the signal for the assembling of this council, and no political event of any importance transpired that did not receive the solemn deliberations of this already _de facto_ legislative body. Of course no person ever became a member of this Council who had not first been inducted into the Temple, and then by his Temple elected as a representative in the Grand Council, the election for which purpose was held semi-annually as above, and new representatives took their seats at each regular session.
The Grand Council embraced in its sphere of labors such duties as experience seemed to dictate, as being necessary to the fulfilment of the mission of the Order. It provided remedies for unmistakable evils, and watched with a zealous care and fostering hand, every interest of treason within the boundaries of its jurisdiction.
The Supreme Council or Third and highest Degree of the Order in organization, was built after the pattern of the Federal government at Washington, and wielded a similar general control over the affairs of the Order, that our National government exerts over the consequences growing out of the union of the States under one central government. Here we see how admirably the design to effect Northern rebellion was conceived. The whole machinery of a government _de facto_, and in disguise though, it was, with all its branches, both civil and military in active operation for months and years within the very sound of the echoing steps of senators in the halls of the Capitol, was indeed a source of the most serious concern to the authorities, for the safety of the Republic. But valorous daring, tempered with prudence, was destined to bring to the light of day this infernal work of years, and accordingly the city of St. Louis was the scene of the first public development of the Order of American Knights, early in the spring of 1864, the principal facts of which disclosure the public learned from the press at the time, hence the writer will only allude in this connection to the effect created in various Circles of the Order, by the attempt upon the part of the Government to thwart the perpetration of the red-handed crimes contemplated by the leaders. When it was officially announced by Reuben Cassile, presiding Grand Seignior of the Chicago Temple, then recently removed from the Invincible Club Hall to McCormick’s Building, that disclosures of the Order in St. Louis had occurred, every countenance was stamped with dismay. The timely appearance at the Temple, however, of Judge Morris and other leaders, served to interpose restraint upon any serious apprehensions of difficulty resulting to the Order.
NEW ERA IN SECRET POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS–PLEDGE TO “TAKE UP ARMS” FOR JEFF. DAVIS–TRUE DEMOCRACY STRUCK DOWN–NATIONAL AND STATE LEADERS– INVINCIBLE CLUB LEADERS–VALLANDIGHAM’S RETURN TO THE STATES IN HIS CAPACITY OF SUPREME COMMANDER OF THE SONS OF LIBERTY.
A new era in the history of secret political orders was opened by the Sons of Liberty.
As the Presidential election of 1864 approached, the party in the minority began to appreciate the awkwardness of its attitude upon the political issues of the day, and appeared determined in its conclusion to obtain the ascendency in the coming administration, by means of fraud and force.
The great mass of the party had now become conversant and familiar with every species of political crime, through secret organization, and it only remained for the leaders to decide upon a programme, to have it executed with despatch and fidelity.
Languishing under the lash of chastisement inflicted upon those infamous enough to aid and abet the cause of dismemberment, mutual hate and slaughter, National extinction and death, they swore in this Order an eternal and most dreadful oath of vengeance upon their offenders, and pledged themselves, under fearful penalties of death, “ever to take up arms in the cause of the oppressed in their own country, first of all, against any monarch, prince, potentate, power or government usurped, and found in arms and waging war against a people or peoples, who had of their own _free choice_, inaugurated a government for themselves, in accordance with and founded upon the eternal principles of truth.”
Thus, the liveliest form of ancient or modern civilization, in a republic just rising to the glories of empire, was to be sacrificed to the mad notion of petty “State Sovereignty,” by a sworn band of desperadoes. How sad when other generations would ask, where is the Federal Government, to be answered only by poets, who would sing her elegy, as in the past they have sang that of the lamented Hellas:
“Ask the Paynim slave,
Who treads all tearless on her hallowed grave; Invoke the spirits of the past, and shed The voice of your strong bidding on the dead! Lo! from a thousand crumbling tombs they rise– The great of old, the powerful and the wise! And a sad tale which none but they can tell, Falls on the mournful silence like a knell. Then mark yon lonely pilgrim bend and weep Above the mound where genius lies in sleep. And is this all? Alas! we turn in vain, And, turning, meet the self-same waste again– The same drear wilderness of stern decay; Its former pride, the phantom of a day; A song of summer-birds within a bower;
A dream of beauty traced upon a flower; A lute whose master-chord has ceased to sound; A morning-star struck darkling to the ground.”
The thought of the miserable commentary stirs the ire of the patriot and nerves his arm to daring deeds, in the holy cause of liberty, the constitution, and his country.
Skulk back into your dark dens of iniquity, you Clement L. Vallandigham, and you James A. McMaster, and you S. Corning Judd, and you Amos Green, and you P.C. Wright, (in Fort Lafayette where you ought to be,) before the wrath of honest people falls upon your wicked heads! Each of you, with the exception of _you_, Wright, being too infamous for that, even, have been before the Commission at Cincinnati, and stand before an outraged people condemned out of your own lips! Dare insult the light of day with your hideous faces, and be dashed in pieces on the rocks of public scorn!
But to return to our text, the Sons of Liberty, we find that undaunted organization in full blast from the time of its official inception in New York up to the Monday morning of the arrests on the 7th of November last.
It is now proposed to show, by an allusion to certain prominent facts occurring during the summer of ’64, that the so-called Democratic party was the mainspring to the great conspiracy that has been attempted in the North with so much audacity that many men of the best judgment can scarcely believe it to be a reality. In this we do not wish to be understood that all men who have heretofore voted the “unterrified” ticket, have knowingly and willingly given aid and comfort to the treasonable plans and purposes of their leaders, for our personal acquaintance among that class of anti-administration men, is sufficient to enable us to say, with confidence, that many of them are as loyal at heart as any man who ever breathed the air of an American freeman.
But we mean this, and proclaim the fact in the face of every foe, that upon the death of that lamented statesman and patriot, Stephen A. Douglas, the Woods and McMasters of New York, the Seymours of Connecticut, the Vallandighams and Pendletons of Ohio, the Voorhees and Dodds of Indiana, the Judds and Greens of Illinois, and others of like ilk in other States, obtained the chieftainship of the party and inveigled its too pliable ranks into the prostituting embrace of this foul conspiracy, to overthrow the government and crown with success the cause of the confederate arms. It must be readily seen by every honest man of ordinary intelligence, that such an affair could never have gained a foothold among our people under a truly loyal condition of the opposing party. The truthfulness of this assertion is so very forcible to the candid reader, that illustration or argument in support of it would be superfluous. However, occasional incidents will serve better to connect popular leaders with the subject of these sketches, and call to the minds of participants practical facts.
Brig. Gen. Charles Walsh, some time during the winter of ’64 and ’65, received his quantum of a fund, of which we shall hereafter speak, to purchase arms to be distributed in the 1st Congressional district of Illinois, comprising the county of Cook, and the scene of the late Chicago conspiracy, the enactment of which was to be the signal for a general conflagration of our cities, and thus fulfil the prophecy of Jeff. Davis, that the grass would grow again, on the streets of the cities of the North.
Do the leaders of the Invincible Club, among whom are W.C. Goudy, John Garrick, Malcom McDonald, and Dr. Swayne Wickersham, remember that that institution was to be the public mouth-piece of the Sons of Liberty, in an address to the Democracy of Chicago, to have been issued during the Presidential campaign?
Do they also remember the joint delegation of Invincibles and Sons of Liberty that received Vallandigham and the Woods of New York, on their arrival in Chicago to participate in, and mould the proceedings of the National Democratic Convention?
Do they further remember the remarkable speech made in their Hall during the Convention, by Capt. Rynders of New York, whom they hissed from the platform for his bold and fearless expression of loyal sentiments?
Do they remember the motto, “Never worship the setting sun,” which appeared on transparencies, and frequently fell from their own lips, and was meant as a hit upon those who were supposed to have allied themselves with treason, because of their belief in its eventual success?
Do they remember how it was proposed that Charles Walsh, of the Sons of Liberty, was to negotiate a purchase of the Chicago _Post_, and convert it to the same villainous purpose of its contemporary, the _Times_?
Have they forgotten the fifty or sixty thousand dollars raised by subscription to the books of the Club, nominally to be used for procession and illuminating purposes, but which was used for the purchase of arms and the importation of butternuts, to engage in the attack upon Camp Douglas?
Have they forgotten that large sums of this money was obtained under false pretences–under pretences that it was to be used for ordinary campaign purposes?
Have they forgotten that through their instrumentality the McClellan Escorts, then organized in every ward, were officered by Sons of Liberty?
Have they forgotten the meeting of Invincible Club members and Sons of Liberty in the sanctum sanctorum of the Chicago _Times_, where the question of punishing Col. R.M. Hough and Mr. Eddy, in redress of personal injuries alleged to have been inflicted upon Wilbur F. Story, was gravely discussed by B.G. Caulfield, O.J. Rose, Alderman Barrett, S. Remington and others, and where also, large numbers of muskets and smaller arms were exhibited?
And lastly, have they forgotten that the Sons of Liberty, upon a certain occasion well known to every Copperhead member of the last Common Council of the city of Chicago, held themselves in readiness till after midnight, expecting to be called to the assistance of that, at that time, treasonable body?
None know the significance of these questions better than the persons above mentioned, and _others who were on hand about those times_. The merchants of South Water street in Chicago can now, perhaps, explain why they were called upon to subscribe so heavily to the books of the Invincible Club, and the writer would suggest the propriety of these merchants compelling those who solicited these subscriptions, to deliver up the arms so purchased, or refund the money to its rightful owners.
It is pretty well understood, we believe, that the Bridgeport Irish, vote the “_straight ticket_.” It is said, also, that James Geary, a Son of Liberty and “old clothes man” on the corner of Wells and Madison streets, could “influence hundreds of them by the wave of his hand.” Now this “old clothes man” was empowered to furnish food, raiment and shelter to all escaped rebel prisoners, and charge the same to the Sons of Liberty, _alias_ the Invincible Club, which, it is thought, _sometimes paid such bills_ out of South Water Street money _subscribed for processions and illuminations_. These facts are the keys to the revenue plan of the Sons of Liberty.
The complicity of the “_straight ticket_” voters in this scheme is further shown by the character of their State ticket, headed by Robinson for Governor, Judd for Lieut. Governor, and Hise of La Salle for Auditor, each Sons of Liberty, and Judd the Grand Commander of the State. If, as it would be made to appear, there was no complicity between the Democracy and the Confederate agents, why did Vallandigham, the Supreme Commander of an Order having its inception in Richmond, address the people from every stump in Illinois? If there was no complicity, why did Vallandigham, on his return from exile, in his official capacity, with his staff around him, defy the United States government that had justly banished him–with 80,000 Ohioans at his command?
If no complicity, why did all the rebels and confederate agents in Canada come to the Chicago Convention, and why were they here again at the November election? Copperheads of Chicago and elsewhere, answer these questions!
INSIDE VIEW OF A LODGE OF THE SONS OF LIBERTY IN CHICAGO–OPEN EXPRESSIONS OF TREASON–SIGNS OF THE TIMES–WAITING FOR REBEL VICTORIES–THE GREAT PEORIA PEACE MEETING–WHISKEY, TREASON AND GUNPOWDER.
Prior to July 1864, the information of the public or the authorities, in respect to the aims, intents and objects of the organized bands of home traitors, was very meagre and indefinite, for it was no easy task for detectives or loyal citizens to enter the portals of the Temples. True, enough had transpired at the investigations, and before military commissions in different sections of the country, to awaken a painful interest and unceasing vigilance on the part of loyal men. So well were these organizations guarded, that vigilance committees of their members were appointed with imperative instructions to report the names of all civic officers and detectives in the employment of the United States and Provost Marshals, and all persons, by whomsoever employed, who should attempt to obtain the secrets of the Order. So complete was the organization, that lists of names were reported and read at the weekly meetings, and the following day the names and descriptions of such officers were thoroughly circulated and reported to the brethren in other cities and towns, and as well might a belled cat hope to invade the precincts of rats and attain success, as for such a “spotted” individual to gain access to the Temples of American Knights and Sons of Liberty. Not a change was made on the police, not an increase or decrease of Provost guards, not a change of even the location of artillery in Camp Douglas, no change, however minute of interest to the rebels, was made but that it was reported and discussed within these nests and dens of treason.
It was attempted on several occasions by parties of loyal men, to ferret out and secure the secrets of the Order, but as well might an attempt have been made to possess the secrets of the Council of Ten, by the officers of the governments of Europe; it was almost impossible, and yet the developments upon the recent trials show conclusively, that had the task not been effected, the most terrible results would have ensued. With the desire to aid the Government to the extent of individual ability, it was not strange that when opportunity occurred, whereby all might be known, and that knowledge applied to the benefit of our bleeding country, that any loyal man would have availed himself of it, at any hazard. The writer found such opportunity, and waiving all personal considerations, undertook the task, trusting in God for success, and conscious that all good men would approve the motive, and that if for a time, reproach and calumny should cloud his reputation, or if perchance the assassin’s hand should execute the sworn purpose of the Order, as the penalty for surrendering them to the hands of our Government, the time would surely come when the motives and the acts would find that approval in the hearts of all honest men, as it did in his own. Confiding the information accidentally obtained to W.H. Rand, Esq., of Chicago, a gentleman whose patriotism and whose reputation needs no encomiums, he immediately advised the expediency of conference with the State Executive, and to the honor of Governor Richard Yates, it should be said, he fully realized the importance of acquiring reliable information of the plots of the secret ally of Jeff. Davis. By Governor Yates an introduction was given to Brig.-Gen. Paine, then in command of the department, and again full and unqualified approval of the course thus far taken, was expressed, with the urgent request to follow up every avenue of information in this direction. Gen. Paine issued an introduction to Col. B.J. Sweet, whom he declared to be a “model man and a model officer in every respect,” and in whom all confidence in so commendable a cause might be reposed. How nobly, how wisely and how well that gallant officer discharged his trust, all who have observed his course will concede, and that man whose heroism at the memorable battle of Perryville, and on other battle fields, will ever be held in grateful remembrance by his countrymen, has added new lustre to his name, and the hearty benedictions which will ever be invoked for the defender of Chicago–the noble Col. Sweet–attest the satisfaction and joy of the people, to know that his services in this most difficult and hazardous undertaking are appreciated by the General Government, and the star upon his shoulder will glitter brighter as time wears on, and Copperheads live only in history, an evidence of how low men may sink in the scale of morality, and a warning to all future time. For the writer to have hesitated in a course of duty so plain, and yet so distasteful would have been criminal, cowardly, and unworthy of an American citizen. The advantage gained was followed up unremittingly, by day and by night, for many weary months, regardless of all professional duties and personal considerations. It was at the outset found highly necessary, if not indispensable, to have the concurrence of one good, loyal man of marked qualification–one who was discreet, who had experience upon police duties, who was prompt, energetic, persevering, patient, fearless, and withal a strictly honest man, a citizen whose reputation was above reproach; that man was found; he was Robert Alexander. After brief consideration, Mr. Alexander gave to the writer his hearty and earnest concurrence. Nothing was left undone by him that could further the hazardous undertaking, and personal gratitude for his ready acquiescence, which we tender to him, will meet with a ready response in the hearts of all good citizens. It is now Thursday evening in July 1864. We will now ask the reader to go again with us up those long, tedious flights of stairs to the outer rooms of the “temple” of the Sons of Liberty in Chicago. We left the room before with the remembrance of only a hole six inches in diameter for a full sized Copperhead to crawl through, but we shall have better success this time. Advancing to the aforesaid door, and giving three distinct raps, the slide, which we find covers the hole from the inside, is moved up, and a live, full-grown Copperhead peers through the orifice. “We whisper the word “Peace,” or “Peoria,” or whatever the monthly pass-word is, and the door is open, and we find ourselves within the vestibule of the temple, surrounded by a little group going through the preliminary exercises of initiation. We see the candidate and sponsors, with hands uplifted, and listen to the very poor reading of an officer, from the ritual, and giving the new comer his first dose of States’ sovereignty and secession. This is so mystified and clouded with high-sounding words that the poor devil nods at every time the reader stops for breath, or to expectorate tobacco juice, and the ceremony is concluded, and the candidate, respectable for the good clothes which he wears this night as a rarity, follows his conductor to another door, where he hopes for admission, the only impression on the candidate being, that his right arm is weary from being elevated so long, and that he is coming rapidly into good fellowship with men of high judicial standing, who propose to give Abolitionists and Lincoln particular “hell under the shirt tail.” Again they knock and are challenged by an inside guardian, who lectures the newly fledged Son, who having nodded sufficiently, is conducted to the Ancient Brother in the West, so that the _Son_, reversing the order of nature, begins rising in the West. The “Ancient Brother” is a better reader, for here we find _brains_ for the first time, as it is the leaders, as we have already said, who do all the thinking, unless, perchance, the simple wretches find themselves in Camp Douglas, where they begin thinking for themselves. While the Ancient Brother is reading to the attentive comer, now happy in the thought that he has taken himself in out of the _draft_, let us survey the sanctum sanctorum; but first let us advance to the centre of the hall, where we find a piece of dirty oil cloth the size of a door mat, and stepping upon this, with body erect and turning our back upon the Ancient Brother, we find ourselves facing the Grand Seignior, who, on our first introduction, is Judge Morris; we salute, which we do by applying the palm of our right hand to the lips, then turning the hand to his seigniorship and bringing our left hand across the breast, which salutation being returned by the Grand Seignior, who sits upon a raised platform and wields a gavel, we take seats wherever our sense of cleanliness will permit, and where we hope there may be no traveling minute messengers conveying ideas from one man’s head to another. On the north side of the room is another platform and desk, where a guardian sits and addresses the candidate, who is supposed to lose his way and to be set right by this guardian, and even if the candidate is thoroughly sober he may be excused for losing his way, for it is a matter of much doubt whether he was ever in such a labarynth of words as he has just heard from the Ancient Brother, who, having given the man some pretty strong obligations, to endorse and support the policy of Jeff. Davis, together with an intimation that if he ever exposes any of the secrets, he may expect to suffer all sorts of penalties, and told him to fancy he had just received an acorn, the emblem of the order–he now sits down quietly in the pleasant consciousness that “we have got one more good voter on our side.” The guardian of the North having put the new _Son_ on his way, he appears in the East, reflecting his effulgence all around. The Grand Seignior now rises from his seat, drops his gavel and explains the mysteries of the initiation, giving him another dose of secession, about as much as the poor fellow can carry; tells him how to challenge a brother, concluding by giving the grand sign of distress, which is by raising the right hand and calling out “_Ocoon_” three times, which he says is made up of the name of _Calhoun_, whose name is mentioned with great reverence. Thus closes the ceremony of initiation. “Considerations for the good of the Order” being the next order of business, speeches are made by some of the older heads to make the new one feel at home. This “feast of reason and flow of soul” over, other business is transacted, and the temple is closed, the Grand Seignor occasionally expressing a few words of caution, saying that but few members must be present at the meetings at _this_ hall, as the presence of too great numbers will excite suspicion and lead to arrest. The next weekly meeting similar events occur, but _new faces_ appear at every meeting, that is to say, the greater number of members who were present last week are absent this week, and others take their places. The Chicago _Times_, however, is well represented at most of the important meetings. There were about two thousand members of the Sons of Liberty in “good and regular standing” in Chicago alone, at the time they were let down. By careful arrangements we were able to have reports from the different temples throughout the most important points in the Northwest, and carefully noted the chief business and obtained the list of members, all of which has been as carefully placed in the hands of the authorities of the War Department, and months ago much of the information was imparted to Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, in command of the Northern Department, who was pleased to express his highest appreciation of the services rendered, and a desire to have the investigation thoroughly made, that indisputable facts might be obtained, that truth and justice might be promoted and the interest of the country thereby protected. So thorough and searching has been the investigation that _every_ man of any note in this order, in almost every locality where this moral cancer has existed, is known and may consider himself in future upon his good behavior. It was the policy of the Sons of Liberty, which they observed as far as it was possible for them to do, to obtain positions of trust in the army, upon the police, in the courts, in railway offices and telegraph stations, in the office of Provost Marshals, post-offices, departments of government, both local and general, indeed, so completely did they carry out this plan, that they made their boasts that they were represented upon all the railroads running out of Chicago, and it was not an unusual thing for them to report matters of the various departments just mentioned. One member of the Chicago Order, as appeared in evidence before the military commission, traveled over the North wherever he desired, on the pass of a Provost Marshal in Indiana, his business being to aid in the organization of Temples in the different sections of the West. So rapidly did they increase in numbers, that Judge Morris estimated the number in Illinois alone at 80,000 members.
It was a rule of the organization, that its members should all be well armed and skilled in the use of weapons. The rapidity of increase in numbers, rendered them conscious of their strength, and they became openly defiant and talked treason upon the corners of our streets, and wherever little groups of people assembled. The mob spirit was excited, and all were ready for mischief whenever opportunity offered; and while all were bound to wait submissively till their leaders should give the signal for revolution, still many were restless and impatient for the hour to come, and hoped that they would not long have to wait. The suppression of the Chicago _Times_ was an auspicious moment for them, and they made capital of it. They were never tired of talking of Vallandigham, and while that worthy staid in Canada he was very serviceable to the Order, as John Rogers was of more service to the church dead than while living. Vallandigham made an excellent martyr and an accomplished exile, but as an active member at home, old Doolittle, or Charles W. Patten, or James A. Wilkinson, or J.L. Rock, or Obadiah Jackson, Jr., Esq., or even Mrs. Morris herself, was worth two just like him. Why he could not have staid in Canada for the good of the cause, we cannot understand. What a Mecca was Windsor, and how great was Mahomet, but alas, when the great, the Hon. Clement Vallandigham relapsed into the three-cent fourth-class lawyer, in the little one horse city of Dayton, “what a fall was there my countrymen.” No more pilgrimages, no more dinners with the great exile, no more texts of “arbitrary arrests” to preach from, that could draw as Val used to draw.
The reception of the news of a victory by the rebels, was always an occasion of rejoicing among the Sons and Knights, and in the exuberance of their joy they shouted their treason in all sorts of places, and at all seasons. They assumed to be peace men, and yet were always ready for a quarrel. It became evident to all who kept posted in politics, that there would be a wide division between the different wings of the Democracy at the coming National Convention, and a most determined effort was to be made by the Peace faction, to control the action of the Convention, and long before the assembling of that body, newspaper strife had commenced between them, and it was hoped, and so it proved, that like the Kilkenny cats, they devoured each other. With Peace in their mouths and contention in their hearts, the “unterrified” resolved upon a great meeting, to be held in Peoria. It was a “big thing.” The Chicago delegation took for the calumet of peace several boxes of fire-arms, so that if opportunity offered they might conquer a peace. Whiskey and gunpowder were other elements of that meeting, and as the escape of gas in petroleum wells, so noisy for a time, finally subsides, so after the ebullition at Peoria, Brig.-Gen. Walsh, and all the Chicago delegates, returned home, bringing with them their fire arms, without breaking bulk, and these weapons were carefully deposited, where they could instantly be obtained at the time of the uprising.
MEETING OF THE SUPREME COUNCIL, F.O.S.L. AT THE RICHMOND HOUSE, CHICAGO–TWO MILLION DOLLARS DISBURSED AS CONSIDERATION FOR THE GOOD OF THE ORDER–TRAITORS TO BE KNOWN TO EACH OTHER BY BADGES, AND THEIR PROPERTY SAVED BY DISPLAYING THE CONFEDERATE FLAG.
We have already shown that the three degrees in the Sons of Liberty had each their specific province. The lower strata composed of the rough material from which the Grand Council was made up by selections or choice of the brighter and more shining lights,–persons whose political views were up to the standard of treason, whose qualifications of intellect, shrewdness, cunning, caution, promptness, and firmness of purpose fully met the requirements of this degree of the order. The Supreme Council was composed of the Supreme Commanders–the ruling spirits of the order. This council was the body, therefore, from which all important measures must emanate, and the secrecy of their movements, even from the order below them, except such business as was regularly transmitted, was quite equal to that of the lower order, from the rest of the world. Such being the nature and character of this royal degree, and the fact that an uprising had been determined upon, it will be seen how essential it was to the Government of the United States, to be advised of their plans, and the old adage that “where there is a will there is a way,” was not a fallacy in the present case. On or about the 20th of July, 1863, agreeably to a private notice which had been extended to the Supreme Council, a meeting of that body was convened at the Richmond House, Chicago. During that day, as well as on the day preceding, members of that organization arrived in the city, and among the notables present on that occasion was Col. Barrett, who was a Major-General of the Sons of Liberty, in command of the District of Illinois, but who on the present occasion appeared in another character of no less moment, that of representative of the Confederate States Government, and charged with certain important instructions. Among the members present were Captain Majors, from Canada; Brig.-Gen. Charles Walsh, of Chicago; Judge Bullitt, of the Supreme Court of Kentucky, who acted as Chairman; Dr. Bowles, Mr. Swan, Mr. Williams, Mr. Green, Mr. Piper, Mr. Holloway, H.H. Dodd and James B. Wilson, Auditor of Washington County, Indiana. The last named person and Mr. Green were present as members of Dr. Bowles’ staff. After considerable discussion upon minor matters, Major-General Barrett, (commonly called Colonel Barrett, who had served the Rebel Government with some distinction, and was a first class rebel), made a formal proposition to unite Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio and Indiana with the Confederate States, through the agency of the Sons of Liberty, and as to the other States, their relations would be an after consideration. The enterprise, he stated, would be attended with no little expense, and would necessarily involve extreme caution, prudence and firmness. He added, that the Southern Confederacy had placed in his hands the snug little sum of two millions of dollars, which had been captured from a Federal paymaster on the Red River, in Arkansas, to be applied in furtherance of this proposition. Captain Majors was also, by his own statement, a representative of the Rebel Government. It was proposed to distribute the two millions of dollars through the Grand Commanders of Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois, and that the money was by them to be distributed through the Major-Generals to the subordinate officers, according as might be deemed expedient. This money, says Mr. Wilson, (and we have the best of reasons to credit his statement,) was expended for arms. Well do we remember that an oral report was submitted one evening at the Temple of the Illini, by the Grand Seignor presiding, that the pro rata for Illinois had been so expended, and that the weapons had been started for their destination, which was Chicago. These arms consisted of muskets, carbines, pistols, pistol belts and ammunition. At the Council meeting, of which we have spoken, the whole subject of revolution was freely discussed, and received the unanimous support of all present, and a time was named and agreed upon, but not until after much debate, several dates being named by different parties, and reasons given for fixing upon each. It was arranged that the Order in Indiana were to rendezvous at Indianapolis, also at Evansville, New Albany (opposite Louisville,) and Terra Haute, that they would seize the arsenal at Indianapolis, and the arms and ammunition would be distributed among the members. Wilson, before the military commission in Cincinnati, states that he learned from Dr. Bowles, that it was the purpose of the Order to free the rebel prisoners at Indianapolis, and that the same had been agreed upon with respect to other rebel camps, in other States, on the supposition that they would unite with the Sons of Liberty, in overturning the Government, and if they were found willing to do this, arms were to be placed in their hands. At that meeting it was a matter of discussion in what manner it was feasible to communicate with Gens. Buckner and Price, in order that they might co-operate, and have their forces near St. Louis and Louisville. The approach of their troops to those cities was the favored moment for beginning hostilities in the North. Mr. Wilson testified that he received a thousand dollars of the two million fund, but that instead of appropriating it according to the programme, he used it for buying substitutes, but the rightful owner can have the same upon call. Maj.-Gen. Barrett, the party having the fund in trust, has left the country, doubtless for his _health_, and the thousand dollars is still without an applicant.
At this memorable meeting, as it was the last meeting of this body ever held in Chicago, it was agreed that at the time of the uprising, friends (rebels and copperheads) should appear with red and white badges, and the property of such persons would also be saved from destruction by displaying from their buildings the Confederate flag. Thus were ample and definite arrangements made, and as that meeting adjourned it was the deliberate end and aim of all the persons there assembled (with a single exception) to effect their objects at all hazards. All who were present, as well as the rebels then in Richmond, conceded that of all points in the several States embraced in the proposition with which Col. Barrett was entrusted, Chicago was by far the most important post, and the one which, of all others, should first fall. The facility and ease with which Camp Douglas could be taken, was a matter of remark among the traitors in every section, and it was understood that communication could readily be made with the prisoners, as Mrs. Morris, wife of Judge Morris, and others who were known to be in the interest of the Confederacy, had never been denied access to the camp, and such prohibition was scarcely expected, as of course the plans of the conspirators must be a dead secret from the commander of the post. In the temples of the Sons of Liberty it was a matter of congratulation that it was impossible for a detective to obtain their secrets, yet all this time Col. B.J. Sweet was well acquainted with every move that had the least importance, for the writer made it an invariable custom to send dispatches regularly to Col. Sweet, who thus came into full possession of the plans and designs of the Order, as soon as they were announced, and hence was at all times in a position that he could not have been surprised by any assault upon the Camp. The Colonel is at all times perfectly cool and self-possessed, prudent in the highest degree, and inflexible in purpose, when once resolved upon a line of action. His arrangements were made with all celerity and completeness, and though his little force was quite too small to offer great resistance in case of surprise had not the facts been known to the commandant, yet the interior arrangement of the camp, the disposition of his forces, and above all, the perfect discipline which had ever been maintained by him, now offered a silent barrier which caused the conspirators to entertain direful apprehensions, as to the disaster to themselves when they should make the undertaking, for the movements of the camp were noticed from the observatories near by, and on one occasion Brig. Gen. Walsh, accompanied by an attache of the Chicago _Times_, made a personal visit to the camp, and being received as gentlemen by the gallant Colonel, they were able to make certain discoveries of a disagreeable nature. The greatest precaution, of course, was observed in the transmission of dispatches by the writer to Col. Sweet, for had it been supposed for a moment, that the commander of the post was cognizant of their acts, it would most certainly have precipitated the uprising, as the leaders of the conspiracy could not hope for so favorable a time again. The camp was enclosed by only one thickness of inch boards, not over twelve feet high, and a little force of less than eight hundred men were to guard some eight or ten thousand prisoners, many of them being the lowest class of raiders and ruffians.
During the latter part of July, at a meeting of the Sons of Liberty, Colonel Walker, of Indiana, was present, and in a speech referred to the recent seizure of arms in Indiana, and said a formal demand had been made upon Governor Morton of that State for them, and if they were not forthcoming they (the copperheads) would compel restitution by the bullet, and said Morton would be assassinated if he refused. At this time a man named James A. Wilkinson was Grand Seignior of the temple. The question of supplying our quota to avoid the draft, agitating the community, it was proposed to resist the draft, and all the members were required forthwith to arm themselves with firearms, and Charles W. Patten and Wilkinson both offered to supply all who could not afford to purchase firearms. Wilkinson was a very efficient member of the order, and very zealous. Much of his time he passed in the organization of temples in different sections of country; and it was often stated as encouragement for the members that the temples were rapidly multiplying, and being filled with the “best kind” of men. It was earnestly requested of the members, as the time was short–Judge Morris saying the purposes of the organization would be fulfilled within the next sixty days–to bring in as many new members as possible, and the injunction was duly heeded. The temple in Chicago thrived remarkably, and arrangements were made by which individuals could initiate members, and the initiated increased in numbers rapidly.
TIME FIXED FOR THE UPRISING OR REVOLUTION–EXTENSIVE PREPARATIONS–DRILL AND DISCIPLINE OF CLUBS–OPEN THREATS UPON OUR STREETS–MASS MEETINGS AND TARGET PRACTICE OF TRAITORS–PREPARATIONS FOR THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION IN CHICAGO–WHY THE UPRISING DID NOT TAKE PLACE–PRICE BEHIND TIME–ANOTHER PERIOD FIXED–ALL READY AT THE CONVENTION–PROMPT AND TIMELY PRECAUTION BY COLONEL SWEET.
The approach of the time fixed for the general uprising, witnessed remarkable and very unusual activity among the members of the Sons of Liberty, who now saw vividly the complete realization of their wishes, and were all, rank and file, in obedience to orders, busy with preparations. Little did the busy bustling city know of the plans and movements on foot. The same activity in trade, the same hopeful spirit among Union persons, the same gatherings at amusements, the same busy hum of industry as ever; nothing gave evidence of the existence of the terrible plot so soon to culminate, and to destroy by a single blow the hopes of our people,–to inaugurate a reign of terror as fearful as any in the history of the war. Citizens met and congratulated each other upon Union victories, and upon the probable speedy close of the national strife, and at the firesides of home discussed the terrible ravages of war, and as they knelt at the family altar, thanked God that our own city, and our State, and our section of the Union, had thus far been spared the immediate horrors and desolation which ever mark the theatre of warfare. Who of all in our fair city, besides the guilty wretches who were plotting the ruin and slaughter, had even a foreboding of the trouble so nearly upon them. For rebels in arms to commit cruelties and barbarities would have been expected, but for the authors of our ruin to be our very friends and neighbors, persons associated with us in business avocations, in social relations, and in the enjoyment of the same general blessings with ourselves, surpassed belief; yet such was the fact, and the faces that beamed smiles upon us by day, and joined us in our congratulations for national victories, by night were hideous with the dark designs and murderous intent. The gunsmiths were busy, and trade in weapons of all kinds was brisk; revolvers and knives particularly were articles of demand. So brisk and yet so silently and secretly, was the arming of individuals carried on, that weeks before the Convention assembled, but few, if any, of the members of Copperhead organizations but were well armed, and many had arms with which to supply other persons who might be less fortunate than themselves. It was indeed a dark picture to look in upon a group of the Sons of Liberty in their secure retreats, in the quiet hours of night, cleaning, repairing and inspecting their muskets and revolvers, moulding bullets, and making other preparations, and realizing that the mission of these monsters was the murder of men who dared proclaim and maintain their devotion to the Union. Upon the streets treason became emboldened, as time rolled on, and not a few personal collisions occurred from its utterance.
All this while that contemptible print, the Chicago _Times_, was instilling treason into the minds of its readers, and doing all that it could to embarrass the Government, discourage patriotism, and to give aid and comfort to the rebels; our victories, with that sheet, were always unimportant; our cause was unholy; our President a despot; our Union soldiers were hirelings; our Union-loving citizens were abolition fanatics; Jeff Davis was a master spirit of the age; his generals the heroes of the _Times_; and rebel victories were events cheering and hope giving, as they presaged the close of the war and peace; peace at the sacrifice of the Union, of national honor, of national dignity and national interests. Such was the Chicago _Times_ at that period–the darkest era in our history–and as well might we have looked for mercy from a hyena, or reason from a ghoul, as in the event of open insurrection in our city, to have looked to Wilbur F. Story, editor of the _Times_, to have endeavored to suppress the flames his incendiary print had for years been fanning into a blaze. And yet, citizens of Chicago and the West, this same Chicago _Times, now_, after the occupation of Richmond by our forces, and the surrender of Lee and all his forces, and the end of the rebellion is at hand, this same Chicago _Times_ pretends to rejoice in our success, and some days turns a cold shoulder upon its old friend and patron, who has contributed to its circulation and prosperity for years–Jeff Davis–and really declares that his master’s cause is hopeless. Most noble Story, most patriotic Story, most consistent Story! Rather weep with the fallen fortunes of your masters. Flatter not yourself that the cloak of loyalty, which you have found it so convenient to fling around you, as our Union processions come marching along with thundering tread, that they will believe your conversion sincere and lasting; the cloak is not long enough to conceal your feet, and Union men will recognize the same Wilbur F. Story, and none will be so obtuse as not to discover under any disguise Bottom, the tailor. In the position of that Copperhead print, the state of mind of the _Times_ man reminds us of an instance of what may be called poor consolation, A soldier of a division, after the command had run two days from the scene of an engagement, had thrown away his gun and accouterments, and alone in the woods sat down and commenced thinking–the first opportunity he had for doing so. Rolling up his sleeves, and looking at his legs and general physique, he thus gave utterance to his feelings: “I am whipped–badly whipped–and somewhat demoralized, but no man, thank God, can say I’m scattered!” And so, the Chicago _Times_, though kicked out of respectable society long ago, continues to print its daily issues, while from the scarcity of Copperheads all at once, since our recent glorious victories, we infer that _they_ have been “scattered;” and as snakes cast their skins in the spring, so the Copperhead _Times_ seems to have cast its own this season; but though it may appear in more pleasing garb with its present covering, let none forget that it is the same old Copperhead still. And the time will come when some enterprising showman will obtain and exhibit the last issue of that delectable sheet as the acme of treason and corruption during the war, and as an illustration of what villainy the mind of man may conceive, when he once turns against his country.
About the period of which we write, say a month prior to the Convention, informal meetings of the Sons of Liberty were frequent, and large numbers of the members often went out of the city on excursions, nominally for pleasure, but really for practice with fire arms. The most active preparations were made by the Democrats, resident of Chicago, to be able to accommodate their brethren from abroad, who would attend the Convention, or who would pay them an earlier visit; for the time of the uprising, it will be remembered, had been fixed for about the middle of August. The time assigned arrived, but “all was quiet on the Potomac,” and along the placid and fragrant Chicago. It was a complete fizzle, but not from want of harmonious action on the part of the Copperheads of the Northwest, but to the chagrin of the Rebel government, Gen. Price failed to make his appearance in the vicinity of St. Louis, or Buckner about Louisville. The disappointment and vexation of the Sons of Liberty was great, and it found expression in the peculiar style of oratory and diction, which Judge Morris had introduced into the Temple. The failure of the rebels to concur, as had been arranged, was for a time quite inexplicable and unsatisfactory to the most ultra secesh of the Temple. It was not easy to communicate with Price and Buckner, and much mystery and doubt hung over the failure. The leaders were in doubt as to the wisdom of rising at the Convention, some being in favor and others adverse to it. It was evident the leaders were not a little embarrassed, but they finally agreed that a large force of “bone and muscle” should be on hand in Chicago at the Convention, and if it was found that the War Democrats should be in the ascendency, and the Peace wing could get nothing–either platform or candidate–the uprising should occur at that time, but so confident were the Peace men that they should be able to have the control of the Convention, that Judge Morris and Brig.-Gen. Walsh, and other leaders, announced to the members of the _Illini_ their entire belief that there would be no doubt of the success of the Peace wing, in that Convention, and if so, no insurrectionary movement would be expedient; but if the uprising did not occur then, it surely would at the time of the Presidential election, and in the time which would elapse between the Convention and the election, the most active and earnest efforts would be made to strengthen the numbers of the Temples of the Sons of Liberty, wherever they existed. Judge Morris had expressed the confident belief that no difficulty would occur at the Convention, but declared if they (the Copperheads) should meet with any interference, the most serious results would follow.
The rank and file who had been edified by such men as J.L. Rock, Charles W. Patten, James A. Wilkinson, L.C. Morrison, L.A. Doolittle, James Geary, Mr. Duncan, Mr. Dooley, Mr. Frank Adams, City Attorney, and many others were most impatient, and it was quite probable that a slight cause of offence with Union men would result in an open riot, that could not be suppressed till the grand aim of the Order was accomplished. About this time L.A. Doolittle, who was never tired of expressing his devotion to the distinguished exile Mr. Vallandigham, announced that Mr. V., who was Supreme Commander of the whole Order, would honor the Chicago Temple with a visit during the Convention, but that worthy could not find time to make the visit. As the excitement of the coming Convention seized upon the minds of those who were to participate in it, much speech making was done inside the Temples. At these meetings the writer particularly noticed two members, who seemed to have fallen into disfavor by the course which they had seen fit to adopt. One of these men was Christopher C. Strawn, a young lawyer of this city, of some education, a very fair order of talents, and who had seemed hitherto taciturn and reserved. Upon conversation with him we were astonished to find that he did not approve of the Jeff. Davis principles, and had no fellowship with any overt act of treason. He had been appointed a Brigadier-General, on the ground of his supposed ability, but early took occasion to express himself, in such a manner that his commission was speedily revoked. Mr. Strawn was, he declares, not in the clique who favored a revolution. Mr. Strawn was subsequently arrested, but he was soon released, and freely communicated truthful information to the authorities.
During the summer an event truly unfortunate for the Sons of Liberty took place, it being an expose in the Chicago _Tribune_ of the signs, grips, passwords, &c. of the order. This was a cause of great distress of mind. We remember that at a meeting about the 25th of August (Charles W. Patten presiding), the expediency of changing the signs, grips, &c. was considered, inasmuch as it would be unsafe to use them in public, but the lateness of the day, and the time drawing so near when the entire forces of the order would be called into requisition, it was not deemed expedient to undertake any change or modification. At this meeting Judge Morris made a speech in which he said that a demand had been made for arms seized in Indiana (as Col. Walker had proposed to do), and if the demand failed, the revolution would be begun in Indiana “as sure as there was a God in heaven or an abolitionist in hell.”
At a meeting of the Chicago Temple Sons of Liberty, on the eve of the Convention, we heard for the first time (and that from the mouth of L.A. Doolittle), a definite plan for the attack of Camp Douglas. Doolittle told how the camp was situated, and that it was accessible on two sides; that guns were in position on only one side, and the west side was referred to by him as being the weakest; he spoke of the common board fence which formed the enclosure, and of the ease with which the camp could be taken, and the vast importance of liberating the prisoners the first thing upon an uprising. The speech of Doolittle was variously received; many of the members were much interested; others who were in the higher degrees of the order were vexed beyond measure that Doolittle should be so stupid as to proclaim, in this public manner, a matter which really belonged to higher degrees of the organization to decide. One of the number, James Geary, a second-hand clothes dealer and broker on Wells street, who will receive further mention by and by, became so much incensed that he ordered Mr. Doolittle to his seat, declaring, with an oath, that Doolittle was telling too much.
At a meeting about this time, several of the members spoke upon the subject of releasing the prisoners at Camp Douglas. A map of Camp Douglas was exhibited by an individual present, who seemed to be a soldier. The map was a fine piece of work and had been made by a hand accustomed to such labor. Upon this map the precise position of the various departments, headquarters, cannon, &c., were laid down. There could be no shadow of doubt in the mind of any man not stupefied with whiskey, and possessed of common sense, that the details of the attack had been carefully considered by those who were most interested in leading it on.
It had for some time been the policy of the Sons of Liberty to unite with the Invincible Democratic Club and the various McClellan escorts in the city and elsewhere, and seek to become its officers, that in case of an outbreak it would be far better to be the controlling power, than to be controlled. This plan worked admirably, and the Democratic Invincible Club of Chicago became one of the most corrupt organizations outside the order of Sons of Liberty. Its secretary at one time was Charles W. Patten, who had been a Grand Seignior of the Chicago Temple, was also a member of the Grand Council, and had taken a very active part in the prosperity of the order, and was chairman of the committee to see that all the Sons of Liberty were armed. One of the officers of the above named Club was Capt. P.D. Parks, whose devotion to Jeff. Davis and good whiskey were noticeable features in his character. This Capt. Parks was captain of the Invincible Club and often made speeches in the Sons of Liberty Hall.
On Saturday the 26th August (two days prior to the National Democratic Convention), immense numbers of persons came flocking to Chicago, indeed at no former time in the history of the city was there such an influx of strangers; they came in the cars and in wagon trains, and on horseback. One county alone sent nearly a thousand men. It was a noticeable fact that almost all persons who came into the city were well armed, and some of them even brought muskets. Treason was now rampant, and it would not be difficult, in looking around upon the most unprepossessing groups, and to hear the language, to fancy one’s-self in Charleston, or some other nest of treason. From all the men who came to the city we did not, in a single instance, hear one good, hearty expression of Unionism, but our “Southern brethren and their rights,” and this “wicked war,” &c., &c., were the topics of conversation, and it was safe to set it down, that this was the Peace wing of that most remarkable bird,–Democracy of 1864.
The writer was in close communication with Col. Sweet, commandant at Camp Douglas, and by aid of our auxiliaries not an item of information concerning the hostile intentions of the party transpired, that was not known instantly by Col. Sweet,–special carriers or orderlies conveying our dispatches. It must not be supposed that our observations were confined to Chicago. Our channels of communication with the principal points in the West were unobstructed; our “telegraphic cable” was in fine working order, and if those wise heads for a moment fancied that Col. B.J. Sweet might be caught napping, they were the worst self-deceived men we have ever seen. Col. Sweet proceeded with all caution and celerity to make his arrangements, and we beg the Colonel not to regard it as a breach of confidence in us to say, that the guns were in such a position and so well managed, that had there been any attempt to have assaulted the camp, there would not have been able-bodied traitors enough left, to have carried the killed and wounded to secure retreats. Almost any officer, perhaps, less cool than Col. Sweet would have blustered about in such a manner as to have rendered himself not only positively offensive to the citizens, but would have placed the city under martial law, and doubtless precipitated the very event it was wise for a time to avert. Col. Sweet was cool, and managed the matter with the most perfect military ability and skill. He compelled everybody, friend and foe, to respect him by his dignified, gentlemanly bearing, and yet there was that about his appearance that told plainer than words, that while he was courteous, polite, kind and willing to do all in his power and consistent with his duty to preserve the peace, yet had an outbreak been begun, of all men in Chicago, rebels and sympathisers would prefer to get as far as possible from Col. Sweet, or the reach of his influence. This gallant officer had his men under such perfect discipline that a simple request, even when the men were not on duty, was obeyed with the alacrity as if it had been a peremptory order. The discovery that Col. Sweet was ready for them, which discovery was early made and duly reported, had much to do with the good order which prevailed in Chicago during the Convention.
TIME OF THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION–TREASON EVERYWHERE PREVALENT–INSIDE VIEW OF THE TEMPLE OF SONS OF LIBERTY–MAJ.-GEN. BARRETT WITH COMMISSION FROM JEFF. DAVIS, AT THE HEAD OF A TORCHLIGHT PROCESSION IN CHICAGO–TRAITORS WITH LOADED MUSKETS UPON OUR STREETS.
The extraordinary activity of recruiting for the Sons of Liberty, and the zeal displayed by the master spirit of the Temple was ominous of the wicked work they might be called upon to perform. James A. Wilkinson, who was elected Grand Senior, was too young a man in the estimation of many, and he was about to resign, when Judge Morris remarked, that “age was not always wisdom” (the truth of which his own career has fully illustrated,) and by request Wilkinson continued to hold the post. The old order for arming of members was called up, and all were required to comply with the condition at once; a particular pattern of revolvers was specially recommended, and it was ascertained that the members were in almost every instance, fully armed. A young man named R.T. Semmes, who was said to be a near relative to the commander of the rebel pirate Alabama, was appointed to deliver an address before the Order, but this duty was never complied with in a formal manner, as it was subsequently thought Judge Morris was better qualified, he being in a higher degree than Mr. Semmes, to impart such information as the lower degree should know. Upon an occasion of a special meeting, the Judge made a long address, in which he stated the number of members of the Order in Illinois at 80,000 men, saying they were all well drilled and could be implicitly relied upon, at the right time; members were enjoined to remember their obligations to sustain the principles of the Order, and to aid each other. The Judge stated that “we” (the Sons of Liberty,) had _two full regiments_ all well armed and drilled, in Chicago, and that a third was forming. Such cheering information was received with great gratification, and gave a greater impetus to the recruiting for the Order.
The question of the draft agitated the members at each meeting, and all declared their purpose never to go to the army, either voluntarily or otherwise, to fight our brethren, “whose cause was just and right,” and a strong attempt was made to array the organization by formal action to oppose the Government, and those especially who were impatient for the general uprising, thought it a timely opportunity and ample provocation, and felt confident that as the South manifested open hostility and presented a bold and united front instantly upon the firing of the first gun upon Fort Sumter, so would it be in all the States of the Northwestern league; they would at once rise, when knowing that their brethren of Chicago were in arms against the “usurper and his hirelings;” but these hasty counsels did not prevail, and individuals were exhorted to take care of themselves if drafted, but on no account to go to the army.
Not only was there remarkable activity in the Chicago Temple just prior to the Convention, but in all the States where the order existed. Our Indiana neighbors often sent their worst Copperheads to the Chicago Temple to receive instructions in regard to the mode of initiation; and about this time, a man named Westfall, of Elkhart, Indiana, appeared in the Temple, and edified the members with most _encouraging_ accounts of the order in his own State. He was properly qualified as a Grand Seignor, and no doubt served with that grace and dignity of which his appearance gave such promise. It is hoped that the citizens of Elkhart appreciate this gentleman’s devotion to “the great cause.” Judge T.H. Marsh was put through a similar course of training, and being possessed of remarkable dignity, no doubt made an excellent Grand Seignor. If he was not fit for a good Judge, he was fit for a Son of Liberty. He no doubt remembers the artist, who by an unlucky daub, spoiled his picture of an angel, but took fresh courage, declaring it would make an excellent devil. So the judge may make his own application.
The day of the great Convention at length dawned upon at least a hundred thousand strangers in Chicago. Every hotel was densely packed from cellar to garret, private houses were filled to their uttermost capacity, while hundreds the night before, who could not find any kind of a shelter, took in plenty of whisky to prevent catching cold, and laid themselves quietly at rest in the gutters, much to the consternation of the myriads of rats that infest our streets. These street sleepers now arose, and shaking themselves, their toilet was complete. Of all the God-forsaken, shaggy-haired, red-faced, un-shorn, hard-fisted, blasphemous wretches that have ever congregated, even at the gallows at Newgate, many of the visitors of the Peace wing of the Democracy were entitled to the first consideration. Still there was no collision with the citizens, although the representatives of the “unterrified” had sworn that there should be no arrests in Chicago during the Convention. The better class of strangers were War Democrats, and it was evident they had no fellowship for the ragmuffins of the Peace wing.
It should here be stated that the Order of the Sons of Liberty had purchased firearms, carbines, pistols, shot guns and rifles, and at the time of the Convention had stored in the city of Chicago, arms, for at least ten thousand men. These arms had been brought here at various times; some of them had been brought by vessels and others by rail, and were now safely deposited in four different depots in Chicago, the locations of which were known only to the Sons themselves. From these four principal depots one or more boxes of arms were taken on such occasions as would best serve, and placed in trust with some out-and-out rebel sympathizer in the different wards, so that at the time of the general uprising the “faithful” could readily obtain supplies. On one occasion Brig.-Gen. Walsh applied to H.A. Phelps, on State street, with a request for him to receive two boxes of muskets, but that man did not like to incur the risk, whatever his sympathies may have been, and the arms were not deposited with him.
It was quite apparent, the first day of the Convention, that our citizens had resolved to act upon the advice of Adjutant-General Fuller, to let these fellows “have their jaw out,” and they did have it out, and became terrible _bores_.
At an early hour, the temporary building erected for this gathering, near Michigan Avenue, was crowded to excess, and after beginning their labors all the speakers, without exception, entertained the audience and relieved themselves of the most violent denunciations of President Lincoln, and the policy of the administration. Each speaker vied with the last in culling from his vocabulary of hard words, terms sufficiently expressive of their feelings toward the government, but do as well as they might, even with the aid of the poorest quality of whiskey and education, evidently of many years among the lowest of the low, not one of them could out-do the Chicago _Times_. The only parties who could approximate it were Gov. Harris of Maryland, and Long of Ohio, who were most decidedly in favor of secession. The differences between the War Democrats and the Peace men, well nigh ended in personal violence, and would, but for timely interference of the police. It is not our purpose to report the doings of the Convention, and an allusion is only made to call special attention to the elements which made up the party who gave to General George B. McClellan a nomination which proved to him the worst punishment that could have been inflicted, and exhibited him to the world in worse company than he had ever before mingled. The hostility between the different factions of the party, but rendered the Peace wing or Sons of Liberty the more united, and more firmly bent upon the overthrow of the government, as they saw clearly enough, even before the adjournment, that there was not a shadow of hope of electing the ticket formed, and the only hope of genuine copperheads now laid in the election of State officers, and Judge Morris told the people “if we can but get our Governor and Lieut.-Governor, it is all we ask for; the order is strong enough in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa and Ohio to enable us to take the general government into our own hands.” He added, “as the Washington government had not seen fit to execute the Constitution and the laws, we will bring them to Illinois and execute them ourselves.”
At the close of the Convention, and the compromise had been made by the different factions of the party, then came a time for general rejoicing. In the evening torchlight processions, with lanterns and transparencies bearing devices and mottos, all expressive of their animosity at the administration. At the head of one of these processions was Maj.-Gen. Barrett, the military commander of Illinois. At that very time Barrett had in his pocket a programme, which had an intimation been received from Price or Buckner, would have been of fearful import to the citizens of Chicago. Barrett had at one time lived in Chicago, but for some months past was a resident of Missouri. He was thoroughly armed, and well knew the elements that had assembled in the city. Barrett had been in the rebel service, or rather we should say in _another_ arm of the service, inasmuch as none in these days, when all men are for the Union, and it is so easy to be a patriot, will pretend to deny that the Sons of Liberty were as much an arm of service for Jeff. Davis as his artillery or infantry. This fellow Barrett, had on one occasion, as appears by testimony before the Cincinnati military commission, visited Chicago as an accredited agent of the Davis government, but he was not molested, and mingled with men of his own stripe, without fear and without difficulty. It will be interesting by and by, to read of the Chicago Convention, and the incongruous elements there assembled. But as all things have an end, so did this remarkable gathering, and dispersed quietly, never again to meet as the representatives of the American people.
Of course most of the Roughs of the Peace wing had been induced to come to Chicago, with the idea that an uprising was imminent, and would no doubt take place, when they would be able to repay themselves abundantly from the property of our citizens. It is not strange therefore, that these half starved, brutal wretches looked with evil eyes upon our National banks, and hoped till the last that some lucky incident might occur which would provoke an outbreak, and they would have an opportunity to pillage our banks, stores and dwellings, but they were doomed to disappointment, and with surly looks and threats of vengeance, left the city, resolved at a future day to draw their pay, principle and interest, from our banks, and we shall, in a future chapter, see the manifestation of the same spirit, easily recognized as Peace wing democracy.
REBEL OFFICERS IN THE TEMPLES OF SONS OF LIBERTY–MURDERERS, BOUNTY JUMPERS, DESERTERS, FELONS, VAGABONDS AND TRAITORS IN COUNCIL–PLANS OF ATTACK ON CAMP DOUGLAS–FIRES TO BE KINDLED IN THE CITY–BANKS AND STORES TO BE ROBBED–NAMES OF SPEAKERS–HATRED OF UNION SOLDIERS.
At a meeting of the Sons of Liberty in September, 1864, a plan was reported, much to the relief of those who had a horror of conscription; it was arranged that such of the members as might be drafted, should report within three days to the Grand Senior of the Temple, and they would be supplied with means to defray their expenses to the southern part of the State, where they would remain till their services should be required, and that they would find friends there, strong enough in numbers, to defy the officers of the law. Such persons were to form military organizations, and to be drilled and disciplined by rebel officers sent thither for that express purpose. The “Sons” of Chicago expressed their extreme regret at the very open and defiant manner of their brethren in the southern part of the State, and believed that it would be prejudicial to the prosperity of the Order. Our readers have not forgotten the Coles county tragedy, the murderers and their victims. There is not a particle of doubt that those murders were premeditated, and first the subject of discussion in the temples of the Sons of Liberty. The assault was made without provocation, and the thirst for the blood of Union men was the motive for the deed. We have never advocated or countenanced mob law, but if there was ever a time in the history of our government in which it was justifiable, it was in the cases of the Coles county murderers. The times seemed, perhaps, to have demanded a vigilance committee of citizens, who would administer justice fast enough to suit the emergency of the cases upon which they might be called to adjudicate, and having “cleaned out” the murderous scoundrels in that locality, they might have found a demand for their services in Chicago. But it is better that the people controlled their just indignation and left it to time, to punish the infamous wretches who turned their arms and their all against the country, to whom they are indebted for all the blessings which they proved themselves to be utterly incapable of appreciating. It was the boast of the “Sons” that their numbers embraced many of the officers of our armies, and the names of several were mentioned, who had sworn that they would never fire or order their commands to fire upon “our Southern brethren,” and it was added that such officers could serve the cause of this order better in the field, than in any other manner. As time passed on, the plans of the villains belonging to the Chicago Temple, or the plans of the order throughout the State for the attack upon Camp Douglas became more complete in their details. The policy of obtaining positions for members upon all the railroads and in telegraph offices, was very popular with the order, and it was confidently stated, that upon the release of the prisoners the leaders would at once take full possession of the railroads and telegraph offices. It was arranged that the attack upon the camp should be made the night after election, as it now became fully apparent to all that there was not a shadow of a chance to elect either National or State ticket by the Copperheads. Fires were to be kindled in different parts of the city, and these were to be so numerous that they would necessarily divert the attention of the citizens, while the attack should be made. Near the camp is a growth of small oaks and other small wood which offered a fine retreat or hiding place for those who would attack the camp. The attacking party were to go singly or in groups which might not attract attention, and when they were in readiness, they were suddenly to spring forward and commence an assault simultaneously on three sides of the enclosure. The risk to the invading party was not considered large, as the whole undertaking would be but the work of a few moments, and it was confidently believed that some communication could previously be established with the rebels by their desperate friends and allies upon the outside; and it is now quite certain that some intelligence was communicated to the rebels, and well understood by them, as not long before the election, supposed signals in the way of rockets, blue lights, &c. were at one time exhibited by a small group of persons, without any apparent design, which could have been distinctly seen at camp. Mrs. Morris, who has confessed her complicity with the rebel sympathizers, was a frequent visitor to the camp, and it was thought that she might be very useful in conveying letters, messages, &c. Indeed it was morally certain that there was an understanding between the rebels inside, and the cowardly dogs on the outside of the post. It will be remembered that fire arms for at least ten thousand men were safely and secretly stored in Chicago, and that there was a perfect understanding between the members of the higher degrees of the Sons of Liberty, and the leaders of the invading party from Canada; Had the attack been made, however good the understanding between the “Sons” and the rebels might have been, the former would soon have found, to their surprise and to their dismay, that their glory would suddenly have departed, for the released rebels would instantly have obeyed the commands of their own officers, and Northern Sons of Liberty would have been compelled to fall into line, whether they would or not. A few of the Sons would have received some consideration, and this would especially have been the case with Brig.-Gen. Charles Walsh, but in the main the “accursed democracy,”–as one rebel writing to another was pleased to speak of the order–was to be kept in the front, or in other words, used as circumstances might require to do the vilest offices of this vile and devilish conspiracy. As the time of the election was drawing near, the Sons of Liberty expressed a wish to have a man at their head, in the place of Wilkinson, who would command respect, and whose appearance of dignity and years would impress new comers most favorably. This man was found in Obadiah Jackson, Jr. Esq., as Grand Seignior, and so much gratified were they with his peculiar fitness for this distinguished honor, that they resolved to find a second officer, or Ancient Brother, and Lewis C. Morrison gave place to a Mr. Hoffman. Things were now working smoothly, new members were rapidly joining, and it was evident that the new organization was most favorable for the growth and unity of the Order. The rapidly increasing number of Temples in every part of the State, would have been truly alarming to the friends of the Union. New comers were introduced at every meeting, and large numbers were initiated at Judge Morris’ residence, where favored individuals were also initiated in the mysteries of the higher degrees; so that there were hundreds of persons, in good standing with the Order as bona fide members, who seldom or never visited the lodge room; this was especially the case with the higher grade of persons–the politicians, lawyers and others. At a meeting in the autumn, Judge Morris was present and made a speech in response to the request of several members, who asked information concerning the immediate purposes of the Order. He spoke, as was his custom, of the tyranny of the President; he said the rights of the people had been trampled upon, and the constitution had been violated by him. He referred to the suspension of the _habeas corpus_, and said many of our best men were at that moment “rotting in Lincoln’s bastiles;” that it was our duty to wage a war against them, and open their doors; that when the Democrats got into power they would impeach and probably hang him, and all who were thus incarcerated should be set at liberty; that thousands of our best men were prisoners in Camp Douglas, and if once at liberty would “send abolitionists to hell in a hand basket;” he said the meanest of those prisoners was purity itself compared to “Lincoln’s hirelings.” He added that the tyranny of “Abraham the First” was fast drawing to a close, and those who were anxious to fight, would not have to wait long. He also spoke in favor of retaliation.
The Judge’s speeches were always marked by vehemence, profanity and violent gesticulation; he never spoke except to condemn the administration, and to express his confidence in this Order to remedy all the evils of the administration, and that we should very soon–“in sixty days,” have the power, and yet on several occasions he expressed the belief that McClellan would not be elected. No one, not even the most stupid in the first degree of the Temple, could fail to understand how the Copperheads were to have the reins of the General Government in sixty days, and yet that the party could not hope for success at the polls. A man named William Hull, connected with the Order, rebuked such speeches in unqualified terms, and as a consequence drew down upon himself the odium of the Order. Mr. Hull expressed himself in favor of compliance with the