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Confederate PhoenixRebel Children and Their Families in South Carolina$

Edmund L. Drago

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780823229376

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: March 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823229376.001.0001

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Reconstruction and Redemption: The Civil War, Part II

Reconstruction and Redemption: The Civil War, Part II

(p.108) 10 Reconstruction and Redemption: The Civil War, Part II
Confederate Phoenix

Edmund L. Drago

Fordham University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explains reconstruction and redemption after the Civil War. Bishop Benjamin Tanner was convinced that Congressional Reconstruction heralded the beginning of a New World. Reconstruction brought the abolition of slavery and the restoring of their family life on a more permanent basis. Despite the gains of Congressional Reconstruction for black families, the Civil War was a lingering catastrophe for South Carolina's children.

Keywords:   reconstruction, redemption, Civil war, South Carolina, Bishop Benjamin Tanner, Congressional Reconstruction, New World, slavery, children of war

Bishop Benjamin Tanner, active in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, denounced the deification of the evangelical Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson: “The prayers of Stonewall Jackson were as refreshing to Beelzebub as a draught of ice water.” Tanner knew the canonizing of Confederate heroes could endanger the opportunities for blacks and their progeny wrought by the war. He was convinced that Congressional Reconstruction (1867–1876) heralded the beginning of a New World. Black ministers, such as Tanner, offered a millennial interpretation of the war, climaxing in “The Promised Land” of a multiracial democracy.1

For African Americans, Reconstruction brought the abolition of slavery and the restoring of their family life on a more permanent basis. The war liberated black children in ways their parents and grandparents could never have imagined. Black men and women were better able to shape their family and religious life. They eagerly sought education, especially for their children. Black schools proliferated with the aid of the Freedmen's Bureau and various missionary societies in the North. Congressional (or Radical) Reconstruction allowed them to shape South Carolina politics. Out of some 487 men elected to office during this era, more than half were black. These black officeholders and their constituency shaped a liberationist version of history. An annual Emancipation Day Parade still marks this pivotal era of black liberation.2

In contrast to this millennial interpretation of the war, Episcopal minister A. Toomer Porter could not help juxtaposing “the stirring scenes” of the past with the bitter defeat of the Confederacy. Expressing the doubts and emotions whirling in other white South Carolinians, he questioned a God who would allow the failure of good Christian soldiers such as Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. Jackson. God seemed to have abandoned His chosen people. Uttering the words of a shared despair, the minister “wished to die” but was saved by a vision of his dead seven-year-old son when he visited the child's grave at Magnolia Cemetery. Recalling his poor boy, Porter feared for the education and economic prospects of South Carolina's white children. A voice told him to establish a school to educate the orphans.3

In 1866 a Baptist journal mirrored Porter's concern: “Our children are nearly all the treasures left to us.” With black and white Republicans controlling (p.109) the state, the reality of Black Republicanism nurtured the gnawing fear that the Confederate legacy would be lost. These “treasures [our children] must be taught their fathers and brothers did not die in vain. The deaths of so many men required that their sacrifice be honored for generations.” In 1869 Edward McCrady Jr., president of the Survivors' Association, told the gathering, “Only we can collect and preserve our transactions.” Likewise, Wade Hampton claimed it was up to South Carolina's “surviving children to vindicate the great principles for which she fought.” Generations of white children might forget or misinterpret their ancestors' heroic actions.4

Despite the gains of Congressional Reconstruction for black families, the Civil War was a lingering catastrophe for South Carolina's children. Caught up in the secession fever of December 1860, state leaders recklessly gambled away the future of generations of children. By the summer of 1865 the state's economy was in a shambles. Planters went up the spout, losing millions of dollars in slave capital. White yeoman farmers found themselves competing with blacks as landowners, renters, sharecroppers, and laborers. The advent of black suffrage in 1867 resulted in a multiracial democracy in a state with a black majority. The new alliance of white and black Republican, however, was unable to bring peace, prosperity, and security to the state. Disaffected whites attributed the failed situation solely to widespread corruption fostered by carpetbaggers and scalawags in collaboration with black officeholders rather than to the severe national economic downturn. The North, tired of the war, had turned its interest and resources westward in a journey of manifest destiny. In 1870 smoldering discontent erupted into an insurgency movement in the Upcountry, which threatened to spread and set back the gains of former slaves. It pitted the children of the war, white and black, against one another, in what one historian has described as part 2 of the Civil War.5

Death on a massive scale was one of the chief legacies of the war. As early as June 1863 a teacher of the State Arsenal Academy worried about the thousands of “killed and mangled human beings” for a cause criticized by the enlightened Western world. The thought haunted mothers, aunts, sisters, and the elderly that the deaths of their men might have been in vain. Confederate Congressman William Porcher Miles, consoling an elite Lowcountry mother for the death of her youngest and oldest sons, pointedly declared their loss was not in vain. The mother had witnessed the excruciating agony of the oldest, who had expired at home. Other “Sons of Privilege” also died in droves. No company better epitomized them than the “Charleston Light Dragoons.” Their Byronic sense of noblesse oblige and bravery commingled with combat inexperience ultimately led to their decimation; not many survived untouched by the (p.110) scourge of war. A few resorted to barbaric activities their loved ones thought only the Yankees did.6

In the end, thousands of South Carolinians died; many more were wounded. Some were seriously maimed. Between 1867 and 1907 there were more than twelve hundred applications for artificial limbs. Little children, their treasures, provided the best therapy for some veterans. Two boys helped their father overcome the trauma of losing much of his leg. The trio played horse with the four-year-old mounted on the veteran's healthy leg and the two-year-old on the amputated one. The father provided the locomotion and a song that rhymed with the sounds of a horse's hoofs. Still, the net impact on many families was extreme as men returned home physically and mentally debilitated, only to face daunting economic problems. Just how many South Carolina soldiers experienced posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is problematic. Economic and physical problems often accompanied complicated mental ones. In October 1865, an impoverished veteran was admitted to the state asylum. His insanity was caused by measles and exposure as a soldier. A farmer-carpenter was admitted as a pauper on July 4, 1866. He had been suffering for two years since the death of his brothers in battle. One married man, a father, might have been paranoid. Exposure and hardship during the war and loss of property pushed him to the breaking point. In another instance, a dentist was admitted for suffering from ill treatment as a prisoner of war. He had once tried to commit suicide.7

Women were also casualties of the war, as revealed by the records of the state lunatic asylum. Some came from nearby states but almost all had connections in South Carolina. The prolonged war triggered long-standing emotional problems. In 1862, a single woman from Charleston, age thirty-seven, was diagnosed as insane. Victimized “the excitement of war,” she wanted to be shot. She had relied on morphine to ease her depression. In 1863 a forty-five-year-old woman, who had been married for twenty-two years, was admitted to the asylum. She had a long history of mental illness, but doctors believed her most recent episode was precipitated by the death of her soldier-son. Another married woman, age thirty-four, who had raised five children, was admitted in February 1865. Her first attack of fever had been caused by sleep deprivation resulting from nursing her wounded son. She called herself “a the son of God.” March 1864 a widow, only twenty-two years old, with two children, became a patient for trying to burn herself. Her psychosis was brought on by the death of her soldier-husband. A twenty-five-year-old woman from Pickens District entered in February 1866 because she could no longer contain her distress over her husband's death. The people admitted into the state asylum just give a glimmer of the continued suffering caused by a destructive war.8

(p.111) Military failures brought bitter recriminations; some were aimed at the soldiers themselves. In May 1865 Pauline DeCaradeuc Heyward refused to delude herself further about the valor of the soldiers; she branded them as cowards and deserters. Most hatred was directed toward Northerners, some of whom had been in South Carolina before the war. One Confederate soldier from Horry District lost a leg at the Battle of the Wilderness. Nine years later, he married a local girl. Her mother never forgave her son-in-law for having been born in New Hampshire. His wife concluded that her mother held a deep resentment toward the North for their tribulations.9

For Manson Jolly of Anderson in the Upcountry, the war turned into a vendetta. Jolly joined the Confederate army in February 1861. More than six feet tall, the redheaded farmer enlisted at Pendleton in Company H., First South Carolina Infantry Regiment. Later he was a scout in Company F, First South Carolina Cavalry. His five brothers died in the war. Black soldiers allegedly killed his baby brother. According to Confederate folklore, Jolly set a quota of Yankees he would kill for their deaths. The estimate ranged from fifteen to one hundred for his five brothers. Whatever it was, he met his quota. When Jolly returned home, Union soldiers had occupied Anderson. The Yankee-hater moved to Texas, where he died in 1869. His fame was heralded in a ballad made popular in South Carolina. Among the young, he became a legend.10

Adding to the mental anguish of dealing with the deaths of so many loved ones, families were undergoing an economic crisis that cut across political, class, and racial lines. Between 1866 and 1870 South Carolinians experienced some of the worst poverty in the nation. Nearly a hundred thousand were in danger of starving as severe drought hit the state in 1866 and 1867. Children, black and white, suffered. A Charleston newspaper declared, “Children are eating all sorts of things they can get hold of, and their appearance betokens great destitution.” Conditions began improving in spring 1869, but the national depression of 1873 plunged the state into the doldrums. Unable to pay their taxes, small farmers and workers lost their land. During the year 270,000 acres fell under the auction block; shortly thereafter the number doubled. The violence associated with the election of 1876 just worsened economic conditions. Rather than blame the unfavorable climate of the national economy, many whites attributed their collective misfortune to losing the war and resulting Republican corruption; scapegoating the Yankees and their black cohorts was a way of venting the frustrations and bitterness that had been building up for a long time. As for the blacks, many became disillusioned by the deteriorating situation. Some considered making peace with the Democrats.11

South Carolina's elite found themselves without some of the assets they enjoyed before the war. The Rev. and Mrs. Paul Trapier had invested all their (p.112) money in Confederate securities and currency. General M. C. Butler joked that all he got out of the war was one leg, a wife and three children, and a mountain of debt. Like the rest, the Rev. A. Toomer Porter was left penniless. Thomas B. Chaplin returned to the Lowcountry an old man without power and fortune. He survived by teaching at a school for blacks. The exsoldier suffered from a severe opium addiction that might have begun during the war. Chaplin, obsessed with getting back his plantation, called Tombee, became engaged in an exhausting and extended legal struggle. Tombee became his again in 1890 after the Democrats came to power. Amarinthia Snowden and her sister lost most of their money and other assets except for the family home. Others depended on kin in the North.12

Children of the elite had to acquire new “situations” and skills. The struggles of Sallie Chapin's fictional hero, Fitz-Hugh St. Clair, mirrored the hardships of the elite youth. General St. Clair, the patriarch, had died in the war. Bereft of the family fortune, the youth worked at odd jobs. He departed for New York to seek a “situation” to support his little brother and sisters as well as his widowed mother. He was falsely accused of stealing but was saved by the intervention of Mr. Winthrop, the president of a bank and former college roommate of the boy's father. Winthrop had lost his entire inheritance in speculation. General St. Clair had loaned him money to get back on his feet. Not only did Winthrop shower money on the youth, he offered the lad his daughter's hand in marriage. Her father had named her Lucie in honor of Fitz-Hugh's mother. Chapin, using her hero as an example, predicted that the South would rise “like a Phoenix from her ashes.”13

The elite had its resources. Right after the war, during Presidential Reconstruction (1865–1866), when only whites could vote, some survived on patronage. Many allied themselves with railroad, factory, and merchant business interests. Railroads especially provided job opportunities for the elite lacking assets and other means of employment. Richard H. Anderson, a former Confederate general, worked as a laborer for the South Carolina Railroad. John Glenn of Newberry, the son of a doctor, came back from the war after he was twice wounded and imprisoned by the Yankees. Governor James Orr helped him get on as a conductor on the Greenville and Columbia Railroad. In New-berry District his case was typical. Confederate children as they grew up readily found employment on the railroads when the Democrats (Redeemers) again controlled the state. According to C. Vann Woodward, from those malleable to make these connections evolved the Origins of the New South.14

Formerly prosperous families, such as the Palmers of the Santee River and the Bryces of Columbia, had difficulty surviving in a changed world. Louis P. Towles, the historian of the Palmer family, titles their story The World Turned (p.113) Upside Down. In 1869 Edward G. Palmer placed his daughter Harriet in the state insane asylum. The directors of the Charlotte and South Carolina Railroad, in appreciation for his past services, voted an annuity of $250 for her benefit. The stigma was probably great, but at least she was not on the pauper list. The Bryce family of Columbia weathered the war, but not the hardships that followed, even though the plantation was intact. When the family patriarch died in 1867, he left a large debt. The war had irreparably damaged his son John, who suffered from alcohol and drug abuse. He could not make the adjustment to peace and became a mercenary. The young women in the family survived through judicious marriages.15

Enterprising women pulled their families through hard times. Pauline DeCaradeuc was born in 1843 into a large planter family. Her brothers and sisters included Francois (“Frank”), John Antonio (“Toni”), Margaret Ann (“Mannie”), and St. Julien Raoul. Her bright prospects were darkened by the war, especially when both Frank and Toni were killed. Toni was only sixteen when he had enlisted; he was the family favorite. Rejecting his death for a while, she saw him in her dreams. She felt desolate and lost but realizing her mother's growing sadness as the death toll of young men in their neighborhood rose, she turned to the responsibilities added to her by the war. As the older sister, she tutored St. Julien when she could capture him from his outdoor activities and cared for Mannie who was not robust. In July 1865, Mannie, a teenager, had all her teeth extracted and replaced with dentures. This painful operation hurt her chances for marrying well.16

After an elegant courtship, Pauline married Guerard Heyward in November 1866. Despite financial difficulties, her family willingly made the sacrifice to hold an elaborate wedding ceremony and reception. Besides a magnificent wedding gown of white silk with a long train, the beautiful young bride had a bountiful trousseau. The bridegroom's family had roots in the Lowcountry elite; Thomas Heyward had signed the Declaration of Independence. During the war Guerard's family had trouble making ends meet while both the patriarch and the scion were at the front. The war was a debilitating experience for the young man. A first lieutenant, he was captured on Morris Island in July 1863 and subsequently imprisoned at Fort Delaware. He was not released until June 12,w 1865.

Gruerard and his father attempted to recoup their losses by planting cotton near Bluffton. Their efforts proved fruitless. Pauline's father had given up to work for the railroad and later relocated his family to Charleston. When George Heyward, the patriarch, died, Guerard had two families under his care. In 1868 the young man quit planting to become a bookkeeper in Savannah. He was able to find clerical positions for his younger brothers. By 1876 he had established a partnership with a successful cotton and rice factor. Pauline had borne nine (p.114) children; five survived. When her husband died in 1888, she was determined to keep her family intact. Within a week after his death, the widow had turned their home into a boardinghouse.17

Even families with powerful patrons suffered from the war. Eliza Fludd's life (1808–1887) was a panorama of scenes from a prewar life of comfort turning into a refugee existence to the difficult return home and adjustment of living impoverished in a city now occupied by the enemy. Her travails were not unique, giving insight into the hardships elite women and their families endured in the transition to peace. In the winter of 1866, a federal official noted that upper-class women were without shoes, food, light, and heating. He appealed to New Yorkers to send care packages for the needy. Eliza was the daughter of Kinsey Burden, one of the state's wealthiest planters. Her sister Portia Ashe had married Charles Louis Trenholm (1809–1865), a Charleston merchant whose brother George made a fortune as a financier in the Mercantile House during the war. Charles had left $300,000 in the hands of his brother. But when George departed to serve as the Confederate secretary of the treasury, his partners squandered his brother's money. When Charles died in September 1865, his real-estate holdings were considerable but produced little liquid cash. George did what he could to provide the widow and her family with the necessities but their lifestyle took a plunge. The situation caused tensions between the Trenholm families. Charles's funeral was held in Eliza Fludd's residence on Spring Street in Charleston and the burial was at Magnolia Cemetery.

Eliza herself was in financial straits. Her husband, John M. Fludd, had died before the war. She was left with a grown son, John S. Fludd, and a married daughter. The widow was devoted to her daughter, Mary Portia, and cared deeply for her grandchildren, one of whom was called “title” Charles. By the end of the war, Mary and her husband James D. Mitchell had four sons, all less than six years old, and a six-month-old daughter. The war had left Mitchell penniless and unemployed. Adding to the family tribulations was the death of Julius, the third boy, in October 1865. Seeking solace, Eliza related the ordeals of the family through her correspondence with her Philadelphia confidant and fellow evangelist, Mrs. A. P. Jolliffe, whom she endearingly called “ster.”

Eliza, a radical evangelical, had come to believe that God had called her to enlighten the people of Charleston who had become haughty after the early Confederate victories of 1861. God told her to move to the small town of Gowansville in the northwestern corner of the state to avoid divine retribution on the city. Friends and family ridiculed her. People derisively referred to her as “The Prophetess.” But her daughter and son-in-law, who refused to emigrate to the wilds of the Upcountry, agreed to join her in Columbia. Mary was several months pregnant with her third child. In December 1861 the Great Fire consumed (p.115) sumed Charleston. The Circular Congregational Church, which Eliza had attended, went up in flames. Besieged by a Yankee army and armada, many who once had laughed at the Prophetess also fled to Columbia. In July 1862 Eliza moved to Gowansville, where her daughter and grandchildren joined her while Mitchell returned to the port city to carry on his business. Visiting Charleston in late 1864, she was prevented from returning to Gowansville by a monster storm. Early February 1865 she was staying in Camden, soon to be invaded by the very Yankees she had tried to avoid. Ten days after she arrived in Camden, Columbia was on fire. An inferno shook the capital after its surrender. As the Prophetess had warned, God's anger manifested itself by a baptism in fire.

The family, living in Camden, was in crisis. Sarah was pregnant with her fifth child. The children as well as their mother were constantly sick. The children battled with whooping cough. Their grandmother worked from five in the morning to ten in the evening daily to keep the family afloat. When they returned to Charleston, their situation did not improve. Although able to do some household duties, Mary had not fully recovered. Eliza bore much of the responsibility for taking care of her sick grandchildren. Difficulties did not lessen; the family's financial situation was dire. The head of the household, James Mitchell, an accountant, could find only temporary work. Eliza's three houses in the city did not provide much economic relief. The Freedmen's Bureau had seized two of them. One was turned over to blacks; the other was rented to an Irish family. The Fludd family home was stripped bare; Eliza's fine clothes were gone. She had to borrow a bed to sleep on. The widow used her buried silver to buy bread but most of this asset was eaten up by taxes. Once that was gone, the family was without income and servants. In November, family members, having only one change of clothing each, suffered through the cold nights. Sometimes there was no food in the house. When the children asked for sweet potatoes or bread because they were hungry, they could not understand why their parents could not get the food for them. To Eliza, the family's descent seemed surreal. She bewailed the taking of their property with-out compensation and other mistreatment by their oppressors who left them destitute while their enemies took such pleasure in their misfortunes. She especially anguished over the sufferings of her daughter, whom she had pampered and protected from “the insolence” of blacks. Despairing, the old woman cried out, “Is there no righteous God to avenge these wrongs?”

In March 1866, Eliza's faith reached the breaking point. Her beloved daughter, suffering from a prolonged depression, contemplated suicide. To make things worse, Mitchell's prospects for a permanent post were dim. Business was at a standstill, with hundreds of men looking for work. The family vegetable (p.116) garden was no longer providing food. They seldom ate meat. The oldest boy had a fever. A doctor blamed the declining health of the entire family on the lack of good food. Eliza herself had become sick for want of food; she did not even have sheets for her bed. Comparing her lot to Job's, she sewed for pay. The new year found the baby girl having trouble teething. Eliza's nerves were wracked. By the summer of 1867 both Mitchell and Eliza were worn out. Confined in bed with an infant, Mary was a basket case. She was probably undergoing postpartum depression aggravated by poor diet, stress, and liver problems.

Congressional Reconstruction did not significantly improve the family situation. In July 1867, Fludd successfully managed to get food rations from an officer in the Freedmen's Bureau, but subsequent efforts failed. Blacks distributing the rations refused to give any aid to a white Rebel. One officer told her she had to sell her house first. On January 27, 1868, Eliza had to pay $200 in taxes on her home or lose it. She concluded that if she did not have a suffering family who sorely depended upon her, she might ask God to take her. Meanwhile, her close correspondent Mrs. Jolliffe had died. The woman's letters and boxes of gifts, including money, had bolstered Eliza's spirits. According to a source, the Northerner in her will had left her Charleston friend some money. Blessed by such goodness, Eliza called on her faith for endurance. As an evangelical Christian, she viewed Congressional Reconstruction in apocalyptic terms. The Prophetess predicted that Christ would crush the Dragon. The Republican Black Party of the Devil and its reign of corruption would end in violence. From the ashes of violence, a new Phoenix would arise, and once again the South would become a refuge for the godly. The widow's faith was affirmed when her daughter gave birth to a son in 1867 and a girl named Eliza Fludd in 1871. The evangelist lived to see the redemption of her state under the leadership of General Wade Hampton, a first cousin of her husband. Eliza died in May 1887, and her funeral was held at the rebuilt Circular Congregational Church. She was buried at Magnolia Cemetery near her dear friend Charles Trenholm.18

The suffering of the elite paled in comparison with the lot of most white Carolinians. The former aristocrats might have complained that their houses were confiscated, but most of these were returned. To economically distressed whites in the Upcountry, still dealing with the death of their men, Republicans with black allies and the black militia symbolized all that they hated most. Racism was an important factor in keeping ordinary whites in the Democratic Party. The Republicans also failed because their party did not do enough to help everyday people. White laborers, sharecroppers, and tenants found themdselves competing with the emancipated slaves. Except for creating a state system of public education, Republicans failed to offer a platform that would sustain a coalition of poor whites, yeomen, and blacks. Such an alliance never fully (p.117) materialized to make possible a viable multiracial democracy. In 1876 a Congressional Committee asked a black Republican “if poor white men work much.” He replied that poor whites and blacks in Abbeville District worked “nobly,” but the poor whites were “a heap harder on the colored people than the other white men.”19

With conditions deteriorating further, blacks and whites became embroiled in a Klan-induced “Reign of Terror” during 1870–1871. The Ku Klux Klan was most active in the Upper Piedmont of the Upcountry counties (formerly districts), mainly in Chesterfield, Fairfield, Lancaster, Laurens, Newberry, Spartan-burg, Union, and York. The Klan was unable to prevent a Republican victory in the 1868 elections. But it was fully operational by 1870 and led by prominent members of the communities. Physician J. Rufus Bratton of York was involved in the lynching of James Williams (also called Jim Rainey), a captain of the black militia in the county. Merchant James Avery, a former Confederate major, organized the York Klan in 1868. Both men escaped to Canada. The membership came from all segments of the society. Lou Falkner Williams concluded that the leaders were planters and professional men who had served in the Confederate military. “Ordinary Klansmen” were often poor whites, some as illiterate as their black victims. Williams has documented the Klan's war on black women and children.20

Black children had images of Klan violence permanently seared on their psyches. Millie Bates remembered the day the Klansmen came to Spartanburg. The children were playing in the house when the man they sought tried to get out of a window. Millie was scared to death and hid under the bed. The victim was shot in the head and fell to the floor but lived long enough to be hanged. She concluded: “Dem Day wuz worse worse'n de war.” Alice Duke, an ex-slave from Union, was in bed when the Klan whipped her father. She covered her head and remained completely silent. Lina Anne Pendergrass also of Union recalled: “The Ku Klux Klan she scairt me. They took my daddy; my brother was too young.… Us nebber did see pa no mo'.” Jane Wilson, born in New-berry, saw a Klansman kill a storekeeper. She explained. “I was a little girl and saw it. Some little children were standing out in front.”21

In terrifying black families, Klansmen conveyed a message to their fathers and brothers: See us or else your family will suffer. In March 1871 the Klan broke into the home of John and Mary Robertson. The family lived near Chester. Mary wept, “One of the men gave my little baby boy two cuts.” On a subsequent visit the Klansmen burst in unexpectedly. Mary refused to tell them where her husband was, only to have a pistol waved in her face. The hooded man promised to blow her brains out; another threatened her with a knife. Four of them whipped her five times each.22

(p.118) The Ku Klux Klan appeared in York County in March 1868. It was particularly vicious. A Federal officer estimated that of the 2,300 males in the county eligible to vote, 1,800 were Klansmen. Three hundred persons were whipped and six murdered. Seventy-five percent of the black population was forced to live in the woods for safety. Klansmen stormed the home of Amzi Rainey in York County. Amzi hid in a box while his wife tried to delay the invaders. The men gave her four or five “licks” before they even interrogated her. Asked where her husband was, she denied his whereabouts. “I smell him,” said one Klansman. Finding Amzi in the box, they again threatened to kill his wife. A little girl begged, “Don't kill my pappy.” They threatened to kill her, too. The party shot several volleys over the couple's head. The daughter discovered her hands full of blood; a ball had glanced off her head. There were also allegations that the Klansmen raped another daughter in front of the other children in another room. Amzi Rainey was allowed to flee after he promised never to vote for the Radical Republicans.23

On several occasions the Klan visited Harriet Simril's husband Sam Sim-mons. The family also lived in York County. The first time the Klan came they whipped Sam. On the second visit his wife told them he was not present. They spit at her face and threw dirt in her eyes, momentarily blinding her. They dragged her onto the road and “ravished” her. Later asked about her condition by a Congressional Committee, she responded: “I had no sense for a long time. I laid there.” At last she was able to get up and take the children out into the woods where they joined her husband for four nights. The family's home was subsequently burned. What the Klan specifically did to Harriet Simril was deemed “too obscene” for the Congressional Committee to publish.24

The Klan also victimized Minister Isaac Postle's family. They lived in eastern York County near Rock Hill. Isaac and Harriet Postle had six children; the old-est was fourteen. Awakening them at night, a Klansman yelled for the minister. Harriet, seven or eight months pregnant, was unable to put on her clothes. The fourteen-year-old boy hid under the bed but was discovered. Mrs. Postle screamed, “It is my child.” One man stuck a pistol in the boy's neck; another gouged “a piece of skin [out of him] as big as [her] hand.” She denied that her husband was present. They put a rope around her neck; she fell. A man put his foot on her body. Her pregnancy could have been terminated. She identified Dr. Edward T. Avery as the one who put the rope around her neck.25

In 1871 President U.S. Grant placed nine South Carolina counties under martial law. Federal authorities and marshals rounded up more than 600 men between 1871 and 1873. Of this total, 220 were indicted and 53 pleaded guilty. Five were tried and convicted by black juries. The trials began in the state capital during November 1871 but were moved to Charleston in April 1872. By the (p.119) end of the year most Klan prosecutions had been concluded. Although a substantial number of Klansmen had been arrested in the nine counties, prosecutors concentrated on York and Spartanburg, where the violence was noticeably prevalent. The Enforcement Act of 1870 was used because the crimes were committed before the Ku Klux Klan Act became operative. Federal prosecutors also employed an innovative use of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. In an eleven-count indictment, they argued the attack on black women and their children violated the constitutional protection of life, liberty, and property. Invasions of the homes of black men constituted an attack on their voting rights.26

The Constitution of the Ku Klux Klan required that members be at least eighteen years old; many were in their twenties. Some were children of the war. Judging from the thirty-one who pleaded guilty by January 1871, most of the rank and file were farmers. They were illiterate and dirt-poor. Lewis Henderson was described as “so ignorant that he seemed incapable of understanding the simplest English or expressing himself with any coherence.” Another Klansman spoke so incomprehensibly that he needed a fellow Klansman to interpret his testimony. William Ramsay of Spartanburg, age twenty-five, pleaded, “I was but a poor, ignorant man, and did not know better.” He further reasoned, “It seems to me that men who had good learning and knowledge ought to have teached us better.” Asked if people were poor in his area, John Burnett, age twenty-one, replied, “Yes, sir, very.” Most claimed they were intimidated into joining. Some feared for their safety or being shunned by the community. Verbal intimidation was common, including death threats. Whipping was the most common physical threat. Such Klan sadism, which had cowered some to join, had its impact on white Republicans. All over the Upcountry they withdrew from the party after the nightriders visited them.27

The trials provided a window on how the postwar judicial system defined manhood. Prosecutors, Southern and Northern alike, viewed night raids as dishonorable and unmanly. Manhood entailed maturity and responsibility; it could be lost. This challenged the idea that participation in the Klan constituted a rite of male passage. Since the most prominent Klan leaders fled, the judges and lawyers on both sides urged leniency for the rank and file on the grounds of youth, ignorance, poverty, and immaturity. Court officials put Southern slavery on trial. Judge H. L. Bond, a Republican from Maryland, noted that the young men, mostly illiterate, were raised in a society based on slavery and the whip.28

The judges considered youth, illiteracy, and other extenuating circumstances. Nineteen-year-old Melvin Blackwood was an illiterate hired laborer. He was probably around fifteen years old when the war ended. Judge George S. (p.120) Bryan, a Democrat from South Carolina, sentenced him to jail for only two months because of his “extreme youth.” James Wall, an illiterate farmer with a wife and children, was allowed to go home to plant the spring crop. But Judge Bryan sentenced twenty-year-old day laborer Monroe Scruggs, who had been around sixteen when the war ended, to prison for six months. The Lowcountry judge conceded that prominent men and public sentiment had led Scruggs astray. However, using Scruggs as an example, he pointed out: “Whether these enormities have been committed on men,—still more on women—they were wholly unmanly, and let me say, utterly un-South Carolinian.”29

The judges were harshest on older men with standing in the community. Judge Bond excoriated Samuel Brown of York for leading young and ignorant men to their downfall. Brown, a former magistrate, was in his sixties. The defense pleaded that he had stopped one raid. Bond observed that this was “one instance of a return in manhood.” It was not enough to mitigate his transgressions. Brown was fined one thousand dollars and sentenced to five years in prison. Whatever their circumstances and final sentencing, the convicted were judged to have forfeited their manhood.30

Most of the rank and file received a fine and/or three to six months in jail. Those accused of more egregious crimes, such as the attack on the Amzi Rainey family and the lynching of James Williams, were sentenced to a year and a half in jail. In April 1872 the court tried additional cases involving murder. One man was sentenced to ten years in prison. More than a thousand other cases were pending trial. In the summer of 1873 Grant, wanting to end all this nasty, emotionally draining business, granted clemency for Klansmen awaiting trials. He pardoned those already in jail.

In assessing the ultimate impact of the Klan, scholar Jerry West notes that these men would come to participate in another movement that would end Republican rule in South Carolina. Red shirts would replace white robes. Wade Hampton, an icon of the old order, would make this transition possible.31

Recognizing how Federal intervention had broken the Ku Klux Klan, the opponents of Reconstruction changed their tactics for the gubernatorial election of 1876. Hampton with ties to the Lowcountry would take the “high road,” promising blacks he would preserve their right to vote and attend public schools while Martin Gary from the Upcountry would use the force and intimidation of 290 rifle clubs with 14,356 members. Both men, former Confederate generals, would lead a campaign of Redemption. Some ex-slaves saw no difference between the Klan and the Red Shirts. Hampton supporters had to rein in Gary because too much violence could bring massive federal intervention. The flannel Red Shirt became a symbol of the Hampton campaign. Supporters wore them in Hampton's processions through various cities. Five hundred to two or (p.121) three thousand men, many in Red Shirts, riding behind Hampton, created a spectacle. Hampton's strategists were brilliant in orchestrating the campaign.32

Hundreds of women and children participated in these political rallies. Younger women joined their mothers in stitching thousands of Red Shirts. They also decorated the platforms and made flags. On each occasion as their Redeemer reached the podium, they waved flags and joined with the men on horseback, shouting “Hurrah for Hampton!” Young ladies threw flowers in the general's path. They did everything but “jine the cavalry.” Doushka Pickens Dugas, the daughter of Governor Francis Pickens, rode at the front of fifteen hundred Red Shirts as they entered Edgefield. She became known in Confederate folklore as Carolina's Joan of Arc. The campaign of 1876 was an important highlight in the life of many young people, including seven-year-old W. W. Ball of Laurens. His experience revealed how the women in his family taught him his heritage. Fear of the Radical Republicans had already left a deep impression in his psyche. When his grandmother made him a Red Shirt (thought not of flannel), he was elated, especially wearing it to see a Hampton parade with her. Attired in a Red Shirt while marching in a Hampton procession, particularly on horseback, was a new generation's rite of passage. In Newberry “the Town boys were also in the saddle, conspicuous in their red jackets.” Young men, who were disappointed at not being able to serve during the war, wanted an opportunity to prove themselves to their older male kin, needless to say, many of whom were veterans. Some overly eager youths posed a danger to the Hampton campaign; they were all too willing to employ violence even at the cost of bringing more federal troops into the state. Veterans had to restrain these mere boys, who did a lot of the work.33

Many South Carolinians looked at the election of 1876 through the prism of a newly minted Confederate nationalism. From the ashes of the Civil War and Reconstruction rose a new Confederate Phoenix. The unity so lacking in the last two years of the Civil War blossomed in a later nationalism that eluded the historic Confederacy. Hampton's campaign and subsequent victory overcame many old divisions; the general offered a soothing and nostalgic view of the past and the road to recovery. Conscription, inflation, impressment, speculation, and desertion were no longer relevant, and the sacrifices of the dying and the maimed had been redeemed, given new meaning. The harsh reality of the war, if not erased, was cleansed by a righteous cause, home rule, led by a redeemer, “a gentleman and an officer” steeped in planter paternalism and the Southern code of honor. The Upcountry and Lowcountry united on the necessity of a Hampton victory. Class antagonisms were temporarily shelved or redirected against Republicans. Economic hardship, coupled with the failure of Republicans to help them, caused some blacks to reevaluate their situation. In (p.122) appealing to these conservative blacks, Hampton blunted charges that the Democrats or Redeemers were antiblack. Hundreds supported him; many joined his processions, sporting Red Shirts, some on horseback. Their presence helped forestall federal intervention until late in the campaign.34

Hampton' victory meant that the state's patronage was firmly back in the hands of the Democrats, but his promise to blacks barely survived his two terms. A younger generation, children of the war, who were more in tune with hardliners such as Gary, would triumph over the paternalists during the agrarian revolt of the 1890s. How the Confederate legacy of white children and the deferred dream of the Promised Land for black children played themselves out is the subject of the next chapter.


(1.) See quotation in review of Tanner's An Apology for African Methodism in Southern Presbyterian Review, Columbia, S.C., 19 (April 1868): 305–312; Porter, Led On, 188.

(2.) Joel Williamson, After Slavery: The Negro in South Carolina During Reconstruction, 1861–1877 (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1990); Thomas Holt, (p.164) Black Over White: Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1979), 1.

(3.) Porter, Led On, 230.

(4.) “Sunday School Literature—An Important Question,” Religious Herald, April 12, 1863,as quoted in Sally G. McMillen, To Raise Up the South: Sunday Schools in Black and White Churches, 1865–1915 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001), 1; Proceedings of the First and Second Annual Meetings of the Survivors' Association, 3–5; Hampton as quoted in Richard Gray, Writing the South: Ideas of an American Region (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 76.

(5.) Edgar, South Carolina, 376, chapter 17, “The Civil War: Part II, 1865–1877.”

(6.) John B. Patrick Diary, June 5, 1863, SCL; Smith, Smith, and Childs, Mason Smith Family Letters, 52–53, 130–138, 280–281; W. Eric Emerson, Sons of Privilege: The Charleston Light Dragoons in the Civil War (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2005), xv–xvi, 103–104.

(7.) Kirkland, Broken Fortunes, 411, Patrick J. McCawley, Artificial Limbs for Confederate Soldiers (Columbia, S.C.: SCDAH, 1992), 9–40; Edgar, South Carolina, 644 n. 68; Conner, Letters of General James Conner, 205–206; Eric T. Dean Jr., Shook Over Hell: Post-Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997), chapter 6. See also John T. Jackson, October 2, 1861, Admissions; James Green, July 4, 1866, Physician's Records; Joseph D. Ferguson, no date; [Olin?] Festner, February 18, 1868, Physician's Records, SCDMH.

(8.) Mary E. Eason, January 21, 1862, Admissions and Physician's Records; Harriet Bibb, July 3, 1863, Admissions and Physician's Records; Ann Eliza Meyer, February 2, 1865, Admissions and Physician's Records; Martha Harben, March 28, 1864, Admissions and Physician's Records; Martha J. Bird, February 20, 1866, Admissions and Physician's Records, SCDMH.

(9.) Heyward, Confederate Lady Comes of Age, 76; Ellen Cooper Johnson Memoirs, 11, SCL.

(10.) Manson S. Jolly Papers, 1861–1865, CSC; UDC Recollections, 1: 452–453; Heyward, Confederate Lady Comes of Age, 113; JWP to JP, December 24, 1862, Elizabeth Pursley to husband, January 4, 1863, Pursley Papers. Confederate family folklore includes stories of revenge with an undercurrent of anger, bitterness, and resentment for the war. Manson Jolly's story brought not only vicarious pleasure but also release for these strong emotions. In March 1867 the body of George Heyward was found on a public road with a shot through the head. Blacks were blamed for the assassination of the former Confederate officer. The economic hardships caused by the patriarch's death forced the family to relocate to Savannah. Years later in Alabama an old veteran who had served under Captain Heyward confessed on his deathbed to the murder as revenge for a reprimand. In modern times, this was fragging. Stories of invading Yankees ripping necessities from whites and then doling these items to blacks justified one Confederate officer and his men to take things they needed from blacks.

(11.) Hope and Silverman, Relief and Recovery, xi–xii, 12, 23, 34, chapter 1; Charleston Daily News, May 8, 16, 1867; Poole, Never Surrender, 75; Simkins and Woody, South Carolina During Reconstruction, 163, Williamson, After Slavery, 381–392; Mark Wahlgren Summers, The Gilded Age, or, the Hazard of New Functions (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1997), 77; Lewis P. Jones, South Carolina: A Synoptic History for Laymen, rev. ed. (Orangeburg, S.C.: Sandlapper, 1971), 199; Drago, Initiative, Paternalism, and Race Relations, 79; Kyle S. Sinisi, Sacred Debts: State Civil War Claims and American Federalism, 1861–1880 (New York: Fordham University Press, 2003), 39–40.

(12.) Massey, Bonnet Brigades, 325; “An Account of the Experiences of the Family of the Rev. and Mrs. Paul Trapier during and after the War between the States” by T. D. (p.165) (Mrs. Paul) Trapier, Paul Trapier Papers, SCAL; Simkins and Woody, South Carolina During Reconstruction, 18; Porter, Led On, 188, Rosengarten, Tombee, 25–36, 295; Blanton, “The Life of Mary Amarinthia Snowden,” 7–11; Mary Elizabeth Massey, Refugee Life in the Confederacy (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964), 275.

(13.) Chapin, Fitz-Hugh St. Clair, chapters 16–22.

(14.) C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877–1913 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971), 19; Simkins and Woody, South Carolina During Reconstruction, 18; Pope, History of Newberry County, 2:30–31; “Journal of Artha Brailsford Wes-coat,” 71.

(15.) Towles, A World Turned Upside Down, 2, 622–624, 761, 992–993; Harriet Palmer, March 9, 1869, SCDMH; Elizabeth Buescher, “‘I Must Have Something’: Childhood, the Civil War and the Campbell R. Bryce Family,” SCL.

(16.) Heyward, Confederate Lady Comes of Age, xviii, 5–6, 17, 82; Kirkland, Broken Fortunes, 90.

(17.) Heyward, Confederate Lady Comes of Age, chapter 11, prologue, epilogue; Kirk-land, Dark Hours, 214. Pauline's father gave her $500 for her wedding outfit. Her wed-ding gown came from Baltimore. She had additional dresses made for her in Augusta. One was cut too short for her hoop.

(18.) Fludd Papers; Porter, Led On, 112–113; Anne Middleton Holmes, The New York Ladies' Southern Relief Association, 1866–1867 (New York: Mary Mildred Sullivan Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy, 1926), 29; Charleston Daily Courier, September 19, 1865, May 14, 1887; South Carolina Genealogies: Articles from The South Carolina Historical (and Genealogical) Magazine (Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Co., 1983), 4:308; Ethel Trenholm Seabrook Nepveux, George A. Trenholm, Financial Genius of the Confederacy: His Associates and His Ships That Ran the Blockade (Anderson, S.C.: privately printed, 1999), 7: Ethel Trenholm Seabrook Nepveux, George Alfred Trenholm: The Company That Went to War, 1861–1865 (Charleston, S.C.: Comprint, 1973), 4; Charleston County Death Records, 1821–1926, entries C. Trenholm, September 18, 1865 and Eliza Fludd, May 13, 1887, CCL. Circular Congregational Church Records, SCHS. My forthcoming monograph on Eliza Fludd gives more details and insight into her life.

(19.) As cited in Drago, Hurrah for Hampton, 17. Also see Simkins and Woody, South Carolina During Reconstruction, 19.

(20.) Richard Zuczek, State of Rebellion: Reconstruction in South Carolina (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996), 74; Allen W. Trelease, White Terror: The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, paperback, 1999), 363, 367; Lou Falkner Williams, The Great South Carolina Ku Klux Klan Trials, 1871–1872 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996), 2, 21 (map), 28, 32–39, 47, 74, 76–77, 105–106, 120. Williams offers a chilling account of the Klan's atrocities, especially on women and children.

(21.) Rawick, American Slave, vol. 2, pt. 1, 336, pt. 2, 46–47, vol. 3, pt. 3, 248–250, pt. 4, 215–217.

(22.) KKK Reports 5:1,866–1,868.

(23.) Simkins and Woody, South Carolina During Reconstruction, 459–460; Williams, Great South Carolina Ku Klux Klan Trials, 35, 62; KKK Reports 5:1, 744–1,745. Jerry L. West, The Reconstruction Ku Klux Klan in York County, South Carolina, 1865–1877 (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Co., 2002) is the best account of the Klan in York.

(24.) KKK Reports 5:1, 861–1, 862.

(25.) KKK Reports 5:1,951–1,955. For Edward T. Avery, see Williams, Great South Carolina Ku Klux Klan Trials, 78, 95–100.

(26.) Williams, Great South Carolina Ku Klux Klan Trials, 1, 40–59, 63–66, 103–111; Trelease, White Terror, 403–408, West, Reconstruction Ku Klux Klan, ch. 7.

(27.) KKK Reports 5: 1,972–1,990; Williams, Great South Carolina Ku Klux Klan Trials, 93; West, Reconstruction Ku Klux Klan, appendixes 1 (Klan Constitution) and 6 (profile of those from York County sent to the federal penitentiary in Albany, New York). Those sentenced to the penitentiary seemed older.

(28.) KKK Reports 5:1983. For the argument that Klansmen were responding against challenges to their manhood, see Rubin, Shattered Nation, 171.

(29.) KKK Reports 5:1,985, 1,989–1,990.

(30.) Bond as cited in Williams, Great South Carolina Ku Klux Klan Trials, 116–117. See also West, Reconstruction Ku Klux Klan, 137, appendix 9.

(31.) Williams, Great South Carolina Ku Klux Klan Trials, 106–111, 121–125; West, Reconstruction Ku Klux Klan, 116–117.

(32.) Drago, Hurrah for Hampton, 1–28, 37; Simkins and Woody, Reconstruction in South Carolina, 474–513.

(33.) John S. Reynolds, Reconstruction in South Carolina, 1865–1877 (New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969), 357–358; Drago, Hurrah for Hampton, 10; UDC Recollections, 1: 506–607; John B. Edmunds Jr., Francis W. Pickens and the Politics of Destruction (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), 140–141; W. W. Ball, A Boy's Recollections of the Red Shirt Campaign of 1876 in South Carolina, Paper Read Before the Kosmos Club of Columbia, S.C., by W. W. Ball, January 21, 1911, pamphlet (Columbia, S.C.: Kosmos Club, 1911), 8, 11; Newberry Herald, September 20, 1876.

(34.) See Drago, Hurrah for Hampton.