Wade Hampton, the Red Shirts, and Anderson – Part I: The Reconstruction Governors

Lieutenant General Wade Hampton III is one of the most revered and reviled Civil War figures in South Carolina. Volumes have been written on his life, and there are numerous buildings, highways, schools, and monuments named for him across the state, including a street in Anderson, South Carolina. This series of articles focuses on his campaign for the governorship of South Carolina and the key role the city and county of Anderson played. The first part examines the background events leading to Hampton’s campaign.

Wade Hampton

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Wade Hampton III (Library of Congress)

Wade Hampton III was the scion of a powerful Southern family with roots that go back to the Revolutionary War. He was born in 1818 in Charleston, the son of Colonel Wade Hampton II, a veteran of the War of 1812 and a grandson of General Wade Hampton I of the Revolutionary War. During the Civil War, Hampton III was a Lieutenant General and commanded the Hampton Legion, despite not having any military experience. His rank was due to his status as a wealthy planter and a member of the state government. His legion originally consisted of six infantry companies, four cavalry companies, and one artillery battery. What remained of Hampton’s Legion was present at Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.

At the start of the war, it is believed that Hampton was the wealthiest man in the South and the largest slave holder. The Hampton family had grown wealthy since the Revolution, and owned plantations in South Carolina and Mississippi, and maintained a summer home in western North Carolina, High Hampton. At the war’s end Hampton was broken. The slave labor that fueled his fortune was at an end, and although he maintained ownership of his plantation, he found it difficult to turn a profit in the new economy.

Hampton was extremely popular in South Carolina, and he was urged by many to run for the governor’s seat in 1865. Hampton, however, refused, believing that it would be suspicious for a former Confederate general to be governor of a southern state so soon after the war. In 1868, he became chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party’s central committee, but he was not directly active in politics until 1876 when he finally ran for the governor’s seat.

The twelve years after the war are known as Reconstruction. From 1865 to 1877, the governments of the former Confederate states were managed under the Reconstruction policies implemented by Congress. Hampton usually maintained a neutral stance on political issues, but he became involved in the defense of the Klansmen in 1870. Due to the rise of Klan activity in the south, Congress passed anti-Klan legislation in 1870 and 1871. Although there is no evidence of Hampton being directly involved in Klan activity, he did raise fund for the legal defense of Klan members. Because of the new laws, Klan chapters began to vanish across South Carolina, but they were soon replaced by “rifle clubs” which acted as law enforcement bodies. These would clubs would prove useful to Hampton in the years ahead.

The Reconstruction Governors

At the end of the Civil War, Andrew Gordon Magrath was the 71st governor of South Carolina. As a Confederate governor, he was removed from his office and replaced by an appointee of President Andrew Johnson. Benjamin Franklin Perry, a unionist from Greenville, was the 72nd governor from June 30, 1865, until the November elections. His successor was James Lawrence Orr of Anderson, the 73rd governor, and the first governor of South Carolina to be popularly elected. Since the Revolution, the governor was elected by the General Assembly, save for Perry. Orr served as governor from November 29, 1865 to July 6, 1868. The next three governors were South Carolina’s Reconstruction Governors.

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Robert Kingston Scott (Library of Congress)

Robert Kingston Scott, 74th Governor of South Carolina from July 6, 1868 to December 7, 1872. Scott was the first governor of the state to be elected to two consecutive terms. He was a former Union general and native of Pennsylvania. He moved to South Carolina in 1865 and served as assistant commissioner in the Freedmen’s Bureau until 1868. With no previous political experience, he was nominated by the state Republican Party and elected South Carolina’s first Republican governor with a staggering 75.1% of the vote. He was reelected in 1870 with 62.3% of the vote. In both elections, the majority of Scott’s support came from thousands of Freedmen, many of who were voting for the first time. Scott’s administrations were marked by scandals that involved the mismanagement of funds. He was charged by the legislature with over issuing state bonds, but the pending impeachment was dropped when Scott delivered a speech justifying his actions. His second election was mired in charges of voter fraud and corruption. This was a direct cause of the formation of the Ku Klux Klan. It was under Scott’s administration that the General Assembly, now under total Republican control, passed legislation that funded, at tax-payers’ expense, a full time saloon and restaurant, an example of the gross overspending that would characterize the Reconstruction Governors. Under Scott’s administration, the state debt tripled, and he became the archetype for the Carpetbagger.

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Franklin Israel Moses, Jr. (www.palmettohistory.org)

Franklin Israel Moses, Jr., 75th Governor of South Carolina from December 7, 1872 to December 1, 1874. Nicknamed the “Robber Governor,” Moses was a native of South Carolina, unlike his predecessor, and had served in the General Assembly as Speaker of the House. He was a supporter of secession before the war, but took a tone of reconciliation after and was well known for hosting African-Americans at his home both before and during his time as governor. He supported the establishment of a black militia to provide protection to Freedmen and pushed for the integration of the state university. In 1873, Henry E. Hayne became the first African-American admitted to the school. As the state’s second Republican governor Moses continued the spending trend established by his predecessor. He purchased the Preston mansion in Columbia for $40,000 to serve as the governor’s residence and spent another $40,000 on living expenses during his two year term as governor, all while receiving a salary of only $3,500. He was charged with fraud in 1874, but the state Supreme Court ruled that he could not be charged with a crime while governor, only impeached. (Incidentally, his father, Franklin Israel Moses, Sr., was the Chief Justice of the court.)

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David Henry Chamberlain (www.palmettohistory.org)

Daniel Henry Chamberlain, 76th Governor of South Carolina from December 1, 1874 to December 14, 1876. The last of the Reconstruction governors, Chamberlain was actually the best of the three in terms of scandal. He was a Union veteran and had moved to South Carolina in 1866 to tend to the affairs of a deceased relative. He took an interest in local politics and held several offices before his election as governor in 1874. Chamberlain was part of a growing faction that sought to reform the Republican leadership in Columbia. Spending had gotten out of control as the state’s debt increased year over year, and Chamberlain saw the writing on the wall. Clean up the party or lose control. Chamberlain instated drastic reforms. He slashed public wages by one-third, vetoed many tax increases passed by the General Assembly, and called for replacing university professors with school teachers. Despite his reforms, Chamberlain became a symbol of the corruption of the Republican government that had controlled the state for over a decade.

The legacy of the three Reconstruction Governors is mixed. Positive steps were taken for recently franchised Freedmen as they began holding local and state offices, but tensions smoldered as many South Carolinians were infuriated by the overspending of the Republican government and the mounting debt that resulted. Radical Reconstruction had gripped South Carolina for twelve years, and it had failed to live up to its lofty ideals. A change was coming in the government, a change that would have effects for nearly a century, and it would begin in Anderson, South Carolina in the Campaign of 1876.

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