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Sat, 07.08.1876

The Hamburg Massacre Occurs

*On this date in 1876, the Hamburg, Massacre occurred. This was a race riot between the community's Black militia and whites from the surrounding rural area of South Carolina during Reconstruction.

Seven men died that afternoon, six were Black militiamen or civilians and one was a white farmer killed in the attack.  Hamburg was a small all-Black community across the river from Augusta, Georgia.   Like many Black communities in South Carolina, it was solidly Republican, and with the GOP in charge in Columbia, some of its men were members of the South Carolina National Guard (the Militia).

On the fourth of July that year, two white farmers from surrounding Edgefield County, Thomas Butler and Henry Getzen, attempted to drive a carriage through the town along the main road but were obstructed by the all-black Militia that was engaged in a military exercise.  Although the farmers got through the military formation after an initial argument, racial tensions remained high.   Two days later the two brought a formal complaint of obstruction of a public road before the local court in Hamburg.  The case was postponed until July 8.  They also hired an Edgefield lawyer as the farmer's counsel.  The complaint demanded that the Hamburg militia company be disbanded.  By this point, hundreds of armed white men, including many who were members of various rifle clubs, descended upon the small black community.  Militia members retreated to a stone warehouse that they used as their armory.

Sometime during the afternoon, a battle ensued. By mid-afternoon, a white attacker and a militiaman lay dead, and a few more members of the militia were wounded.  Hamburg's Town Marshal, James Cook, attempted to flee.  Cook was shot and killed. The rest of the militiamen and townspeople were captured in the armory.  Four of the militiamen were brought out and immediately executed by the white mob. The rest were allowed to escape.

Wade Hampton, a white ex-Confederate general ran for governor as a Democrat in the fall election.  He used the Hamburg Massacre to remind the mostly white voters across the state of the racial danger of the Republican-controlled (Black) government.   Hampton and the Democrats won the election and ended Reconstruction in South Carolina.


Stephen Budiansky,
The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox
(New York: Viking Penguin, 2008)

Thomas Holt,
Black over White: Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979)

Richard Zuczek,
State of Rebellion: Reconstruction in South Carolina
(Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1966)

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