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Rail Splinters

The Story of the Republican Invincibles

July 4, 2023

Fleischer Auctions of Columbus, Ohio conducts periodic auctions of Civil War material and other historic Americana. Their catalog descriptions are extremely well-researched and informative. One of their upcoming lots is this oval albumen badge-under-glass with accompanying ribbon. We are not sure if the badge and ribbon go together; however, the use of a serrated or scalloped edge on the ribbon would seem to date it to the 1860-1864 time frame and the type font is also decidedly “of the period”. We have seen a “Douglas Invincibles” ribbon, so it is not surprising that other marching clubs incorporated the name. We picture a Lincoln “Republican Invincibles” badge from 1864, along with an excerpt of the catalog description which gives some fascinating background to the Lincoln “Invincibles” which started life as a “Wide Awake” chapter in 1860 and continued their political activity in the election of 1864. One of their rallies in 1864 resulted in the deaths of two Democratic partisans.

The Republican Invincibles were, much like the Wide Awakes, ardent supporters of Lincoln, the Union, and abolition. They first appear during the 1860 election campaign, with an early mention in the 27 August 1860 issue of The Daily Evening Express: “A Republican Wigwam was inaugurated on Saturday evening in Philadelphia….Many of the ward clubs and ‘Wide-Awake’ associations turned out to attend the ceremonies of the dedication amongst others the Republican Invincibles.” (p.2). While active in the 1860 election, they resumed their activities in the 1864 campaign. Reports of their torch-lit rallies are widely reported on, including on 30 September 1864 in the Pittsburgh Daily Post: “One of the great features of the Abolition demonstration on Saturday night last in Philadelphia was a company of “Republican Invincibles,” with caps and capes.” (p. 2). The Delaware Gazette and State Journal printed “Rally Once Again Boys. – A grand torchlight procession of the Union Campaign Club…The Republican Invincibles, and other Clubs of Philadelphia, will be present to unite with us.” (21 October 1864, p. 2). They were not immune from the political violence, however, with the Pittsburgh Daily Post reporting that “The Republican Invincible Club attack the procession” of Democrats in Philadelphia, concluding that “we learn two men were killed.” (1 November 1864, p. 2). Notices for the club were widely printed in the Philadelphia Inquirer in October 1864 advertising meeting times for members to “drill and business” as well as for “those desiring to join”. (5 October 1864, p. 5). They also hosted speakers including Dr. Wm. Elder (7 October 1864, p. 5) as well as Governor Richard Yates and Hon. Galusha A. Grow (The Evening Telegraph (Philadelphia), 28 October 1864, p. 2).