Browsing "Reconstruction"

To Secure Perpetual Ascendancy to the Republican Party

Radical Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania saw the defeated South not as Americans, but simply “foreign enemies subject under international law to the will of the conqueror . . .” He also contemplated executing the South’s leaders and confiscating their property as well as that of all who supported the independence of the American South. He was anxious to pass radical reconstruction amendments for purely partisan reasons – to disenfranchise white men in the South while enfranchising black men who could be counted upon to ensure the ascendancy of the Republican Party. This had to be accomplished while the military ruled the South, and before civilian courts were reinstated.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

To Secure Perpetual Ascendancy to the Republican Party

“The day after Lincoln’s death, Ben Butler was appointed Secretary of State. That was a clear omen; he was the Northern general who ordered his troops at New Orleans in 1862 to treat as common prostitutes any white woman there who “by word, gesture or movement insulted or showed contempt” for them.

Outside the government, real power in the Republican Party passed to Thaddeus Stevens, a dying and malignant man. Club-footed, bald but bewigged, of indeterminate origins, clamant for blood and ruin, he was of the type of Marat, Goebbels, Dzherzinsky or Szameuly. Stevens pointed the way: “Hang the leaders, crush the South, arm the Negroes, confiscate the land.”

The vote should be taken from the whites and given to the Negroes. Attacking “racial discrimination” he forced through Congress a bill “establishing for the security of the colored races safeguards which went infinitely beyond what the government has ever provided for the white race.” (President Lincoln’s successor, Mr. [Andrew] Johnson, vetoed this bill and narrowly escaped arrest at General Butler’s demand).

From the Negro-less North these white men raved for the extermination of the Southern whites. They tried to suspend trial by jury and, when the Supreme Court resisted, to pack this with compliant judges (President [Franklin] Roosevelt was the next to try that).

When the victorious General Grant became president the military commander in Louisiana, General Sheridan, telegraphed asking him to declare the whites there “banditti,” saying “no further action need be taken except that which will devolve on me.”

The real aim of all this was, as Stevens said, “to secure the perpetual ascendancy to the Republican Party.”

(Far and Wide, Douglas Reed, CPA Books, 1951, excerpts pp. 27)

Atlanta Compared to Warsaw and Budapest

Author Douglas Reed writes of the South’s defeat and radical Republican rule that “The wonder is that the South ever lifted itself from that prostration, and by its own bootstraps.” And Truslow Adams said of the twelve years of postwar reconstruction that “There is no parallel for the situation in the history of modern civilized nations, and it is almost incredible that it happened in our own country.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Atlanta Compared to Warsaw and Budapest

“So strong is the memory of what the Republicans did after the war that Southerners still automatically vote Democratic. The most their representatives can do, when they reach Congress, is somewhat to retard the new campaign against the South; on the whole they promote the aim of the new immigration to “take over the future of America.”

The clear trail from the Civil War to the present [1951] was the first of my surprises in America. Like most Europeans, probably, I was ignorant of that war and when I studied it felt like an archaeologist who finds the original of the Communist Manifesto in Greek ruins.

What went with that wind was more than the political power of the South; what came with the new one was the enslavement of white men by Soviet methods. Only the particular spirit of the South prevented that condition from becoming permanent.

“That the Southern people were put to the torture is vaguely understood” (wrote Mr. Claude G. Bowers in 1929 in The Tragic Era), “but even historians have shrunk from the unhappy task of showing us the torture chambers . . . It is impossible to grasp the real significance of the revolutionary proceedings of the rugged conspirators working out the policies of Thaddeus Stevens without making many journeys among the Southern people and seeing with our own eyes the indignities to which they were subjected.”

The key-words are “revolutionary” and “conspirators” and they fit today’s situation like a glove. That the North, with its newly-discovered gold, growing industry, command of the sea and increasing population would win that war was plain to clear heads in the South from the start, and did not deter them from a war which, they believed, had to be fought. The way to the South was opened to persons recognizable today as the revolutionary conspirators we know as Communists.

Of the twelve years that followed, the miracle is that the South survived. Mr. John Gunther . . . says, “If you read the history of those days . . . Atlanta on the 1870s must have startingly resembled Warsaw or Budapest under the Nazis in the 1940s . . . Chopping up the South and ruling it by an absolute dictatorship of the military, while every kind of economic and social depredation was not only allowed but encouraged, is so strikingly like what is going on in Germany at present that the imagination staggers.

Slightly different comparisons might be more correct. The sufferings of the South compare more closely with those of Budapest, Warsaw and all of Eastern Europe under the communists after the 1939-1945 war ended than even under the Nazis in 1940.”

(Far and Wide, Douglas Reed, CPA Books, 1951, excerpts pp. 25-26)

 

Lincoln Facilitates Western Virginia Secession

In James Randall’s “Civil War and Reconstruction” of 1937 (DC Heath & Company), he writes that “In tracing the formation of West Virginia, the historian finds it necessary to go behind the printed histories, most of which follow a definite pattern and justify every step of the new-state movement as a triumph of Unionism and a vindication of popular rule . . . [but] the masses of archival and manuscript material that have come down to us reveal irregularities and extra-legal processes of such a nature that traditional conclusions will have to be abandoned.”

Randall writes further that “It is probable that, had war not supplied the impulse, no dismemberment of the State would have occurred,” and that a so-called ordinance from Wheeling on August 20, 1861, “was in reality the work of an active but limited group of seperationists in the counties near Pennsylvania and Maryland.” As the secessionists drew a map of their new “State,” the people within “had no opportunity, county by county, to determine whether they would adhere to Virginia, or join the new commonwealth” (pp. 329-330)

It is worth noting that the United States Constitution which Virginia ratified, stipulates in Article IV, Section 3: “. . . no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State . . . without the Consent of the Legislature of the State concerned . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Facilitates Western Virginia Secession

“Lincoln was not opposed to secession if it served his political purposes. This fact is proven when he orchestrated the secession of western Virginia from the rest of the State and set up a puppet government of the new State of West Virginia, in Alexandria, Virginia, right across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

His own attorney General, Edward Bates, believed that this act was unconstitutional, arguing the obvious – that States must first exist before being accepted into the Union. Neither the president or Congress had the constitutional authority to create States, for a truly free State can only be created by its people.

This was another patently undemocratic or dictatorial act that, once again, Lincoln rationalized in the name of “saving democracy.” Lincoln ignored the arguments of his attorney general as well as the words of the Constitution, but benefited in 1864 by additional electoral votes and congressional representation that was completely controlled by the Republican party in Washington, not the people of western Virginia.

Interestingly, the legislation establishing West Virginia allowed for the people of the new State to vote on a gradual emancipation program. This was Stephen Douglas’s position in the Lincoln-Douglas debates – that the new territories should be permitted to vote on whether or not they wanted slavery.”

(The Real Lincoln, A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda and an Unnecessary War, Thomas J. DiLorenzo, Forum, 2002, excerpts pp. 148-149)

A Northern General’s View of Negro Suffrage

As the Republican party completed its thorough bludgeoning of the South in early 1865, the realization of postwar politics and establishing Republican hegemony over the country for a long period became a primary consideration. With the South eventually returning to national politics, the question of Negro suffrage and ensuring they would always vote Republican became paramount. But there were also those in the Republican party who favored separation of the races, like Major-General Jacob D. Cox, who led a division under Sherman at Atlanta, and under Schofield at Fort Fisher – the latter where he observed Northern white and black troops interacting.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Northern General’s View of Negro Suffrage

“Jacob D. Cox entered the Reconstruction debate in his role as the Republican candidate for the governor of Ohio. On the surface, the question of federal policy toward the freedmen was of little relevance to the Ohio gubernatorial campaign, since that office had no jurisdiction over the question.

However, in 1865 no politician, at whatever level he operated, could ignore Reconstruction. Federal officeholders would use the State campaigns of 1865 to gauge public opinion on this issue. Moreover, the Ohio Unionist party reflected the divisions of the national party over the question of Negro suffrage; antislavery men from the Western Reserve advocated it, southern Ohio Unionists opposed it, and the majority of the party’s 1865 convention delegates wished to take no immediate position.

Although the party platform ignored the question, many members, especially the anti-slavery Republicans, insisted that Cox define his position concerning the status of the freedmen.

Cox announced his plan reluctantly . . . [and] Disagreeing with the call for immediate Negro suffrage coming from Western Reserve Republicans, the candidate claimed that declarations by State parties and nominees would be premature and would make more difficult President [Andrew] Johnson’s task.

Decisive pressure came, however, from the seat of Ohio antislavery sentiment and Cox’s alma mater, Oberlin College. [Cox’s reply was the eight-page] Oberlin Letter — an antislavery call for the separation of blacks and whites. Knowing that his more radical friends would accuse him of racism, Cox began by asserting his commitment to certain principles held by antislavery men.

“The public faith is pledged to every person of color in the rebel states, to secure to them and to their posterity forever, a complete and veritable freedom. The system of slavery must be abolished and prohibited by paramount and irreversible law. Throughout the rebel states there must be, in the words of Webster “impressed upon the soil itself an inability to bear up any but free men.” The systems of the states must be truly republican.”

To Cox, however, “the effect of the war has not been simply to “embitter” their [the two races] relations, but to develop a rooted antagonism which makes their permanent fusion into one political community an absolute impossibility.” The granting of equal political rights to freedmen would only hasten the onset of a race war.

This would occur, Cox argued, because the unique historical position of black Americans, coupled with their distinct physical appearance, made amalgamation impossible. Southern whites, unwilling to operate on a basis of equality with blacks, would combine to keep them powerless, either by law . . . or through violence. Recognizing the incongruity between the democratic promise of America and his restricted position, the black man would resist. In the ensuing contest, he could not win.

Cox’s contact with white Northern soldiers convinced him that white troops would side with white Southerners and the Northern population would acquiesce in the eventual extinction of the colored minority. America’s republican institutions had met in Southern racial antagonism an insurmountable obstacle.

Claiming a commitment to the freedom and prosperity of the freedmen, but believing racial divisions incurable, Cox advocated separation.”

(The Cox Plan of Reconstruction: A Case Study in Ideology and Race Relations. Wilbert H. Ahern, Civil War History, A Journal of the Middle Period, John T. Hubbell, editor, Kent State University Press, Vol. XVI, No. IV, December 1970, excerpts pp. 294-296)

 

A Shoddy Aristocracy Rules Conquered Provinces

Other than humiliating the American South and its people after military defeat and utter desolation, Radical Republicans led by the vindictive Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania had little plan for restoring the Union they claimed to have saved. Stevens was a Gettysburg iron furnace owner who benefited from high protective tariffs promoted by his party. His abolitionist credentials were tarnished by successfully arguing a case to return a fugitive slave to their owner; and being accused of murdering a pregnant black woman in the late 1820s.

The war can be said to have been waged by Lincoln’s party as retribution for the Confederacy’s virtual free tariff importation rates established in early 1861 — Northern ports faced desolation as the Northern-majority U.S. Congress passed Vermont Senator Justin Morrill’s 47 percent tariff.  With the Radical Republican firmly in power in 1865, nothing could restrain them from even higher tariffs to protect their party’s industrialist supporters.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Shoddy Aristocracy Rules Conquered Provinces

“Throughout the North, as in Iowa, Radicals won smashing [electoral] victories. Congressional propaganda, campaign smears, claptrap discussions, and the evasion of fundamental issues had won over presidential patronage and blundering.

Neither the Congress nor the President nor the South had been wise. In the North the people had been deceived into believing that the Radicals had a plan for orderly restoration and the competence to put it into operation. But in reality they had a plan which, burdened with the spirit of vengeance, was designed to achieve little more than their own temporary supremacy.

They had no program designed to achieve reasonable and enduring solutions. The Union had been saved, but in the wake of the war the rising leaders were showing the lack of foresight and wisdom to grapple with the problems of the new order. The end result for a generation was to be a “shoddy aristocracy” in the North, destitution in the South, and a low level of political morality in the nation.

Old Thad [Stevens of Pennsylvania] and his satellites on the Joint Committee were grinding out measures to deprive [President] Johnson of the federal patronage and control of the army, and to vest these functions in the hands of Congress. And at the first party caucus Stevens rebuked Republicans who . . . assured constituents that the Fourteenth Amendment alone was an adequate condition for the restoration of the “conquered provinces.”

In this session, revisions of wartime economic legislation had been pushed into the background by Reconstruction matters. However, when, through Morrill, industrialists quietly slipped in a bill to revise the tariff upward by 20 percent . . .”

(John A. Kasson, Politics and Diplomacy from Lincoln to McKinley, Edward Younger, State Historical Society of Iowa, 1955, excerpts, pp. 217- 219)

 

Radical Republicans Consolidate Power

Long unhappy with Lincoln’s lack of severity in punishing the South, Radical Republicans knew that freedmen could not be left in friendly relations with their former owners and jeopardize triumphant Republican war gains. The Union League was the terror-arm of the party which taught the freedmen that their white neighbors would re-enslave them at the first opportunity, and unwavering Republican voting would protect them. As the Radicals no doubt were responsible for Lincoln’s demise, they also found his successor lacking in sufficient hatred for the South and disposed of him as well.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Radical Republicans Consolidate Power

“While a stunned people paid final tribute to Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis fled southward from Richmond. His capture symbolized the end of power of a restraining, agrarian aristocracy in America. Lincoln’s passing removed the last effective check on vindictive Radicals and symbolized the end of power of a restraining, agrarian democracy.

Out of the confusion created from the scars of war and from the demise of hoary agrarian restraints, business-industrial America was to swagger in under the cloak of the [Republican] platform of 1860 and Radical Reconstruction.

Ephemerally, hate and revenge would run rampant, tarnishing reputations, sweeping away moderate men, and pushing to the top many who had not even expected political leadership only a few years before.

For a few fleeting days following Lincoln’s assassination, Radicals had purred contentedly around Andrew Johnson. The new President was one of them: he talked of harsh treatment for rebels. But by . . . late May, Johnson . . . was following Lincoln’s moderate reconstruction policies.

In the [mid-June 1865 Iowa] State convention . . . A rising temper of Radicalism had been revealed . . . Radicals on the floor had pushed through a proposal committing the party to an amendment to the State constitution allowing Negro suffrage.

To grant universal suffrage to the Negro would enable “base politicians” to pander to “ignorance and incapacity”; the race as a whole would be unfit to exercise the voting privilege for a generation.

Thad Stevens, cool, grim and confident, sat ready to “spring the drop” on [new] Southern Congressmen, on President Johnson, and on any moderate Republicans who stood in his way. With malice toward the defeated, and charity toward Negroes, railroad entrepreneurs and industrialists, this cynical old man had some carefully laid plans for the perpetual ascendancy of the Republican party.

[Johnson’s reconstruction plan] would bring Western and Southern men (with certain Eastern allies] into a combination to rule the republic. Such a rule, agrarian in nature, might mean loss of power for Republicans; and it would almost certainly dilute or reverse wartime tariff, railroad and monetary policies so lucrative to the expansive business, financial and industrial interests. [Financiers], ironmasters, and railroad entrepreneurs had as much to lose from an unfavorable economic policy as did Radical politicians from a Reconstruction policy which might bring loss of power and patronage.”

(John A. Kasson, Politics and Diplomacy from Lincoln to McKinley, Edward Younger, State Historical Society of Iowa, 1955, excerpts, pp. 178-179; 181-184; 189-190)

Hollywood Censorship and Denatured History

The William Dieterle-directed film “Tennessee Johnson” released in January 1943, originally written to depict the epic post-Civil War political battle between Andrew Johnson and Thaddeus Stevens, is not available on video though according to the author “pops up now and then on Turner Classic Movies.” This was the same era when South Carolinian Jimmy Byrnes was told that despite his stellar career in the Democratic Party, a Southerner could not be added to FDR’s ticket as vice president in 1940 – but the Soviet-friendly Henry Wallace was.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Hollywood Censors and Denatured History

“Tennessee Johnson, an MGM biography of President Andrew Johnson . . . starred Van Heflin as the cussed tailor of Greenville and Lionel Barrymore (one of Hollywood’s great New Deal-haters) as Thaddeus Stevens, Johnson’s radical nemesis. The movie received the sort of respectful notices often given to earnest historical films. It was also one of Hollywood’s most craven moments.

The film was originally titled The Man on America’s Conscience.  The script . . . took the traditional Claude Bowers view of Reconstruction and Johnson’s impeachment: that is, that “Johnson fought the bravest battle for constitutional liberty and for the preservation of our institutions ever waged by an executive” against Pennsylvania congressman Stevens, the brilliant but hateful clubfoot who wished to mistreat the conquered Southerners like a vast peonage.”

Enter Walter White, secretary of the NAACP. When he learned that MGM was producing an anti-Reconstruction film, White complained to Lowell Mellett, director of the Bureau of Motion Pictures of the Office of War Information. The OWI, a propaganda agency created by one of FDR’s executive orders, requested a copy of the screenplay . . . [and] when Mellett and White previewed the unedited film, they hit the roof.

Mellett demanded that key scenes be reshot or removed. Thad Stevens, the screenplay’s villain, was humanized; one new scene had him kissing and petting Andrew Johnson’s grandkids. A scene in which Stevens plied Johnson with drink before his legendary incoherent vice presidential Inaugural Address was left on the cutting room floor. Rewritten dialogue assured us that Stevens was “sincere” if a mite vengeful.

The essential character of Lydia Smith, Steven’s mulatto housekeeper and probable mistress, disappeared. Despite the changes, a gang of Hollywood liberals – Ben Hecht, Zero Mostel, Vincent Price – petitioned the OWI to destroy the picture, in best fascist fashion, in the cause of national unity.

Tennessee Johnson – the OWI demanded a conscience-less title – was released in its denatured form. It’s a fairly standard biopic: Johnson, nicely played by Heflin, is the runaway tailor’s apprentice and self-styled champion of “poor white trash” who is only trying to act on his predecessor’s wise policy of malice toward none and charity toward all. With the exception of Jefferson Davis, secessionists are depicted as huffy churls and hotheads.

One consequence of Walter White’s protest was the omission of Lydia Smith, a meaty role for a black actress. The part was recast as the corpulent “laws a mercy!” black maid of stereotype. The excision of Lydia Smith not only warred upon the truth, it also made Steven’s Negrophilia less comprehensible. Love, after all, is always a higher afflatus than political principle.

Walter White’s autobiography makes no mention of his role in altering Tennessee Johnson. The title is absent from a full shelf of books on censorship and the movies; censorship, it seems, only worked one way in Hollywood.”

(The Hollywood Ten(nessean), Bill Kaufmann; Chronicles, October, 1998, excerpt, pp. 39-40. www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

A Superior Race of Yankee Employers

The land seized, sold and leased in occupied South Carolina by the North’s Direct Tax Commission was dominated by Northern philanthropists and others who had acquired their wealth by exploiting free labor. They developed Northern support for the “Port Royal Experiment” by convincing manufacturers that successful black farmers would become ravenous purchasers of Yankee goods. In a June 15, 1864 letter to the Edward S. Philbrick mentioned below, Northern General Rufus Saxon wrote: “What chance has [the Negro] to get land out of the clutches of the human vulture, who care for him only as they can gorge themselves upon his flesh? If you had seen the hungry swarms gathered here at the land sales in February . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Superior Race of Yankee Employers

“[In the occupied South Carolina’s Sea Islands], the first purchasers were principally the New England wing of the planter-missionaries [who] welcomed more favorable circumstances in which to prove their theory that free labor could grow more cotton, more cheaply, than slave labor. The largest buyer [of land] was Edward S. Philbrick, backed by wealthy Northern philanthropists . . .

Federal authorities were reluctant to lease or sell subdivided plantation tracts to the freedmen [though some] managed to purchase several thousand acres . . . but the acreage they acquired was always well below that purchased by Northern immigrants, and this result was intended by a majority of the tax commissioners.

The truth is, not many of the liberators had boundless faith in the freedmen’s capacity for “self-directed” labor so soon after their emancipation. When in January 1865 General William T. Sherman set aside a strip of land along the southeastern seaboard for the exclusive occupancy of the thousands of slaves who followed his army to the sea, the news was generally greeted in the North with lamentation and deep foreboding.

It was a great mistake in statesmanship, the New York Times said, for what the ex-slaves needed was not isolation and complete independence, but “all the advantages which the neighborhood of a superior race . . . would bring to them. And what they needed even more was the good example and friendly guidance such as Yankee employers could largely provide. Few doubted, after emancipation, that the freedmen had some promise, provided that Yankee paternalism was allowed full scope.

When the old masters talked of free labor, they really meant slave labor, “only hired, not bought.” And how could men whose habits and customs were shaped by the old order readily grasp the requirements of the new order? The case seemed plain to all who had eyes to see. If the freedmen were ever to be transformed into productive free laborers within the South, the New York Times argued with unintended irony, “it must be done by giving them new masters.”

(New Masters: Northern Planters During the Civil War and Reconstruction, Lawrence N. Powell, Yale University Press, 1980, excerpts, pp. 4-5)

History as a Tool for Manipulating the Masses

History as a Tool for Manipulating the Masses

“[Mitch] Landrieu’s speech praising his own actions in the advancement of the Eternal Reconstruction of his beloved “bubbling cauldron of many cultures” was hailed far and wide, and the local leftist paper, the Times-Picayune, proclaimed him the inevitable frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 election.

[That] oration at Gallier Hall was scheduled to coincide with the conclusion of the removal of the 16’-6” Robert E. Lee statue, which had, since 1884, presided over Lee Circle atop a column some 70 feet tall.

In its obituary [of Lee’s passing in 1870], the New York Times praised Lee’s character and singular talents, though it decried his participation in the “rebellion” and referred to his perceived duty not to “raise his hand against his relatives, his children, and his home” as an “error of judgment,” a participation in a “wicked plot.”

Two days later, the Times declared that “The English journals are teeming with eulogistic obituary notices of Gen. Lee.” One week later, it reported glowingly on a gathering at none other than Cooper Union, “in a tribute to Robert E. Lee.”

It is noteworthy that none of these papers, Northern, Southern, or European, mentioned a war prosecuted either to extinguish or to defend Southern slavery, let alone a conflict to settle the future of “white supremacy.” For the South, it was a defensive war against an overweening, nationalist invader. For the North, it was a war to quell a “rebellion” against a Union that was somehow sacred and indissoluble.

Abraham Lincoln, remembering his revenues, had not threatened slavery where it already existed, had promoted an amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing that the peculiar institution would live in the South in perpetuity (the “Corwin Amendment”), and in his 1862 Emancipation Proclamation held out the promise that any State in “rebellion” which would rejoin the Union could keep its slaves.

White supremacy was quite simply the status quo in every State, North and South, whether blacks were enslaved or free, before and after the war.

[So long] as race-baiting politicians can incite resentment to garner votes from a near-permanent black underclass and (now) a generation of white adults taught to hate their ancestors and view all history through the lens of Critical Race Theory. It is a clever means of changing the subject while the percentage of blacks in New Orleans living in poverty (and subject to violent crime) soars above that of the rest of America, a reality attested to by Ben C. Toledano in “New Orleans: An Autopsy” ten years ago.

The rule of Leftist Supremacists, from Moon Landrieu in the 70’s through six black Democratic mayors and up to Moon’s son Mitch, hasn’t altered these deplorable conditions, nor has the removal of Confederate monuments which, Landrieu admits, he never paid any mind to when growing up in New Orleans. The past is only a tool for manipulating the masses in the name of Progress, which translates into power for men like Landrieu.”

(The Discarded Image, Aaron D. Wolf, Chronicles, July 2017, excerpts pp. 36-37, www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

Black Democrats Jeered and Hissed in 1876

During the 1876 gubernatorial campaign to rescue his State from the Radical rule of the corrupt Massachusetts-born governor, Daniel Chamberlain, Democratic candidate Wade Hampton challenged the many blacks in his audiences to advance to a new level of freedom. “You have, ever since emancipation been slaves to your political masters [of the Republican Party]. As members of the Loyal [Union] League you have been fettered slaves to a party.” Since the war’s end, Radical Republicans used the Union League to elect its candidates, suppress political opposition, and terrorize black men who sided with Democrats.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Black Democrats Jeered and Hissed in 1876

“City of Dreadful Night.” Always the words recall two nights in Charleston almost exactly ten years apart – September 1, 1886, the night after the earthquake, September 6, 1876, [the] night of the King Street riot. The riot was the worse, by far, to live through.

The riot night there was tumult and confusion of hate and fear and pistol shots, howls of wild rage, savage threats and curses, appeals of pursued and bloody men for rescue, mercy and life. The riot could have been prevented. All know that now.

It was one of the tragic incidents of the 1876 campaign and . . . it gave Charleston perhaps the most fearful night of her eventful history. The white people were overconfident. They knew unrest and anger were seething and increasing among the Negroes and were prepared to resist and suppress an outbreak; but the outbreak came before it was expected . . .

Looking back it is easy to see that the storm signals were plain. The Radical Republican leaders had noted with growing dismay and fury the slow but steady additions to the number of Negroes enrolling in Democratic [party] clubs, for one reason or another. A riotous attack had been made on the Negro club in Mount Pleasant.

The meeting of the Democratic club of Ward 8, August 31, in the old carriage factory, Spring Street near Rutledge Avenue, was invaded by a number of boisterous [Republican] Negroes who interrupted . . . [as they sought an] opportunity to injure Isaac Rivers, a huge black man and an effective speaker, working for the Democrats, and J.W. Sawyer, another colored speaker. Rivers and Sawyer were hustled, threatened and cursed, but escaped uninjured.

On the night of September 5 . . . On motion of Colonel J.D. Aiken a committee of seven was appointed charged especially with protection of colored Democrats.

[A] mob of Negroes packed the street around the entrance to the meeting place of Ward 5. The white men formed a square, with Rivers and other Negro Democrats in the middle, and marched into King Street through a roar of jeers and hisses. They were aided by police and the disturbance ended.

A meeting of the colored Democratic club of Ward 4 was held the night of the sixth at Archer’s Hall, King Street, J.B. Jenkins, vice-president, presiding. The Hunkidories and Live Oaks, Negro Radical Republican secret organizations had gathered their forces and were massed, waiting, in King Street, armed with pistols, clubs and sling shots, the last made with a pound of lead attached to a twelve-inch leather strap and providing a deadly weapon at close range.

Mr. Barnwell led the white men gallantly. They checked to mob by firing pistols just over the heads of those in the front rank . . . the police arrived at the nick of time, charged, used their clubs and were resisted fiercely. At Citadel Green the fighting became desperate . . . and several police were insensible or disabled.

A new mob of Negroes poured out of John Street, shrieking “Blood!” A black policeman named Green and J.M. Buckner, white, were shot, fell, and were drawn out of the fighting crowd with difficulty. The fifteen white men who remained on their feet struggled into the Citadel grounds and delivered the Negro Democrats, none of whom was injured.

Then the whites fled as they could and the Negro mob took the street [and] divided into gangs of fifty to one-hundred and paraded, firing pistols, defying the police, chasing and mercilessly beating every white man they could see and catch, smashing store windows, shouting threats to exterminate the white population.

The main guard house was filled with wounded white men, some of them picked up insensible and probably left for dead. Mr. Buckner was seen to be dying. Several policemen were fearfully wounded. Two reporters for the News and Courier sent to the scene of the riot were beaten, struck with stones and rescued by police only with much effort.

Panic spread fast and everywhere as people understood that war had begun on race lines and that Negroes appeared to have possession of the city. White men were compelled to stay in their homes with shivering and terror-stricken families because any white man venturing on the street alone invited death uselessly.”

(Hampton and His Red Shirts: South Carolina’s Deliverance in 1876, Alfred B. Williams, Crown Rights Books, 2001 (original 1935), excerpts pp. 119-121)