Pitchfork Ben Tillman and The Ending of Reconstruction in South Carolina

I trust that regular readers of this blog can tell from my posts that I take pride in being an American and enjoy studying the history of our nation.  Alas, no American can take pride in all aspects of our history.  One feature of our history that is a matter of shame and not pride is the treatment that Black Americans endured in our nation for centuries.

After the Civil War, “Redeemer” white governments arose after Reconstruction and fought to take away the newly won franchise from Blacks .

Senator “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman of South Carolina, he got the nickname Pitchfork  from stating in his 1896 that he would drive a Pitchfork into President Grover Cleveland’s ribs, on March 23, 1900 in a speech in the Senate summed up what happened to the rights of blacks throughout the South:

We did not disfranchise the negroes until 1895. Then we had a constitutional convention convened which took the matter up calmly, deliberately, and avowedly with the purpose of disfranchising as many of them as we could under the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments. We adopted the educational qualification as the only means left to us, and the negro is as contented and as prosperous and as well protected in South Carolina to-day as in any State of the Union south of the Potomac. He is not meddling with politics, for he found that the more he meddled with them the worse off he got. As to his “rights”—I will not discuss them now. We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and we never will. We have never believed him to be equal to the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him. I would to God the last one of them was in Africa and that none of them had ever been brought to our shores. But I will not pursue the subject further.

Of course “Pitchfork” Ben prettied up the process for a national audience.  Rights were taken away from Blacks in South Carolina through a long process of violence and murder.  Tillman was involved in one notorious incident, the Hamburg massacre of 1876, that Tillman bragged about when he ran for governor in 1890.

The Attorney General of South Carolina made a report on the Massacre shortly after it occurred: (more…)

Published in: on March 22, 2023 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Pitchfork Ben Tillman and The Ending of Reconstruction in South Carolina  
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December 20, 1860: The Union is Dissolved

The video at the beginning of this post celebrates, I think that is the correct term, the secession of South Carolina on December 20, 1860.  The video is hilariously inaccurate, most notably in not recognizing the historical fact that a right of secession had been hotly debated and contested prior to the Civil War and in failing to breathe a word about slavery, the reason why the secession crisis occurred.    In contrast to this Neo-Confederate balderdash, I think the words of former Congressman James L. Petigru at the time were apt:  “South Carolina is too small to be a Republic and too large to be an insane asylum.”   Here is the ordinance of secession for the little state that started the big war: (more…)

Published in: on December 20, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on December 20, 1860: The Union is Dissolved  
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February 17, 1865: Burning of Columbia, South Carolina


Controversy has raged since the burning of Columbia after Sherman’s army occupied it on February 17, 1865.  Although Sherman did not order the burning, I think the weight of evidence is that Union troops were responsible.  Blaming South Carolina for starting the War, Union troops were eager to visit upon the capitol of the Palmetto State the destruction that they believed was a just punishment.  Union diary accounts and letters leave little doubt as to Union responsibility.  Nonetheless, Sherman always denied that his troops were responsible.  Here is his account of the  fire: (more…)

Published in: on February 17, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on February 17, 1865: Burning of Columbia, South Carolina  
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December 24, 1860: The South Carolina Declaration of Independence

One hundred and fifty years ago, the nation was about to celebrate Christmas, the last Christmas the country would have in peace for over four very long years.  On this day in 1860, South Carolina published its Declaration of Independence, which notes that the reason for the separation is slavery.  The South Carolina Declaration of Independence: (more…)

Published in: on December 24, 2010 at 5:47 am  Comments (2)  
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