The organization of the Committee of Vigilance

The new Committee of Vigilance enrolled about fifteen hundred people that first day in 1856. Meanwhile a larger meeting hall was secured at Turn Verein Hall on Bush Street and in that hall later that evening the committee met again and signed another five hundred or so men. After some discussion, William Coleman proposed dividing into companies of a hundred men in Roman style and forming them into regiments of ten companies each. Since this met with a general consent men were organized according to their number, from one to one hundred and so on until there were fifteen regiments. They were to select the best men, from a military standpoint, from each company to lead them.

Vigilance committee military units, 1856

Military units of the Committee of Vigilance, 1856

Because there were many Frenchmen in the committee Coleman called for all the French speakers to assemble in the middle of the room and also divide into companies of a hundred men, and from each company select officers who spoke their own language. And then, because their numbers were somewhat less than a regiment, they were to form into a French Legion. This all met with hearty approval. The companies, regiments and legion were quickly organized, the officers selected and approved by the executive committee and within the relatively short time of twelve to fifteen hours the 1856 Committee of Vigilance was in nearly complete working order.


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