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The Last Campaign of the Civil War: South Carolina and the Revolution of 1876 Richard Zuczek Perhaps the finest single-volume work on the Civil War, James McPherson's Battle Cry ofFreedom carries the subtitle "The Civil War Era." It opens, fittingly enough, at midcentury and concludes—excepting a few forward glances—with Appomattox. On the war from 1 861-65, McPherson's book is superb. But it is troubling that this book, as with many works on this "era," entirely omits Reconstruction. Historians continue to reach further back to present the causes leading to war, but how often do they finish the story? The issues of 1 861—the nature of the Union, the nature of the citizen, the place of blacks in American society—were yet to be resolved in 1865.1 Over the next decade, regions and races continued to battle for their rights and their goals. Eventually North and South hammered out solutions to their differences, and a compromise of sorts emerged. This compromise—a truce, really—lasted about a century, about as long as the first one, the Constitution, had lasted before its great crisis. Far from presenting a complete picture of the events leading to that truce, this essay will only explore the waning days of the Civil War, examining its ending where it began, in South Carolina. Far from a political canvass, the 1 876 gubernatorial campaign in the Palmetto State was really a military operation, complete with armies, commanders, and bloodshed. Indeed, South Carolina might be a classic case of insurgency, with an attempt to overthrow, by terrorism and violence, a standing government . While an election was held in the state, terrorism and armed intimidation ' James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988). A few readers will undoubtedly suggest that the abolition ofslavery was not a war aim in 1861 . While this is true, no one can contest the fact that slavery itself, and more importantly the place ofblacks in American society, was the underlying cause ofthe war. McPherson's book would have been too large if he had included Reconstruction; I merely suggest that more appropriate titling will produce more accurate history. Civil War History, Vol. xlii. No. 1 © 1996 by The Kent State University Press THE REVOLUTION OF 1876IC were so pervasive in 1876 that the campaign resembled more a military conflict than a political canvass.2 Indeed, Carolinians themselves sounded the call of revolution, just as they had done sixteen years earlier and a century before that. Conservative whites, eyeing growing federal indifference, state Republican infighting, and the success ofMississippi in 1875, declared in 1876 that "the last Southern State, one of the thirteen that declared herself free one hundred years ago, [would] be again a white man's State." The Barnwell Sentinel pledged "that the Fourth of July will find us armed and equipped for another great struggle even as our forefathers were an [sic] hundred years ago." War hero Matthew C. Butler asked, "did not the mere fact of our migration to this land of freedom from the Mother Country presage the establishment of a pure white man's government? Did not the red man go to the wall before the superior race?"3 Turning to the three "Rs" that had driven secession—region, race, and rights—leading Conservatives began in early 1876 to rebuild a nearly defunct political machine. With surprising speed, the Spartanburg Herald's headline "Organization the Watchword" became reality. There seemed a "general uprising of the people who will no longer 'down at the bidding' of the corrupt majority." In Darlington County resolutions declared that the "time has come for bolder and more vigorous measures than have hitherto been adopted to rescue the State from disgrace and misrule." The Charleston News and Courier carried reports ofrallies in Greenville, Spartanburg, Newberry, Marion, Sumter, and Union counties. From the Abbeville Medium came the announcement that "the people are thoroughly aroused on this subject and are determined to succeed by fair or foul means, the next campaign will be short, sharp, and decisive." Ifmoney and persuasion do not work, the paper declared, then whites must "resort to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 18-31
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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