After Slavery: Educator Resources

Exhibit Splash Image

9. Petition from Union County Republicans against Removal of Troops

The following educational document corresponds with Unit Four: Freedom, Black Soldiers, and the Union Military in the After Slavery exhibition. Note the "Questions to Consider" section included at the end of each document.

In 1870 and 1871 white paramilitaries in the South Carolina upcountry carried out a systematic campaign aimed at intimidating freedpeople and a handful of white allies from voting the Republican ticket. The sharp reduction in armed federal troops in South Carolina left Republican activists extremely vulnerable to violence.

Their predicament eased somewhat after President Grant declared martial law in ten upcountry counties, deployed bolstered federal troops in the area, and aggressively pursued prosecutions against Klan members. One result was the flight of suspected Klansmen out of the state, but by 1873, as these letters suggest, they felt confident enough to return, and Republicans were concerned that a new round of violence was about to be unleashed. Here a Republican activist in Union appeals to Governor Franklin J. Moses Jr. to maintain an adequate troop presence in the area.

Petition from Union County Republicans against Removal of Troops

February 20, 1873
We the undersigned Republicans, address you, in behalf of the peaceloving citizens of this County, to ask of you to use your influence, to have other troops, immediately sent here.

The subject is a very serious one, especially to the Republicans of this County, and many of the citizens of this County have expressed themselves, desirous that the troops should remain, and they openly acknowledge, that it is necessary for the maintenance of peace and order.

The action of the Government in pardoning members of the Ku Klux Klann [sic], instead of having the desired effect, in establishing peace and quietness seems to have operated in an entirely different manner, and men who have been members of the order and have been absent from the country, have already returned and are now making threats, what they will do when the troops leave.

We have no fear of any general trouble, but there will be insults offered and individual quarrels, and an undefined fear now prevails throughout the whole County, the removal of the troops at this time, is in our opinion certainly premature and we hope and implore that you'll have troops sent here immediately to occupy the barracks about to be vacated... J. S. Mobley and others (Union, SC) to Governor Franklin J. Moses, Jr.

March 4, 1873
I tell you if something ain't done soon after the troops leave this place the KKK will commence [to] kill again a great deale of them that had left here come back again and making the boldest threats now they have commence having the meetings now and if you can't get the troops to stay you will Please inform me as soon as you can as all the Party come to me to know what to do men are here that I [saw] warrants authorized for their arrest and they have not been arrested yet if he can't do no way to keep the Piece let me know we can't stay here and be killed when we know that we will be killed...these are facts[.]

J. S. Mobley (Union, SC) to Governor Franklin J. Moses, Jr.

[Moses responds with note on back of letter]
Answer this letter and say that I have communicated with the President and troops will be promptly furnished whenever needed. The people shall be fully protected and they need not fear.

Source: Governor Franklin J. Moses, Jr. Papers, South Carolina Department of Archives and History


Questions to Consider

  1. Judging from the first communication, what effect did the presence of federal troops have on whites prone to paramilitary violence?

  2. Mobley suggests that the government's policy in relation to prosecuting Klansmen has not had the desired effect. Why might federal authorities hesitate in bringing suspected paramilitaries to trial, and what did they hope to achieve by pursuing this approach?

  3. Judging from Mobley's second letter, what is the feeling among Radicals in the vicinity of Union as to their safety? What effect might his have on their willingness to take part in Republican campaigning? On freedpeople's willingness to come out and vote? On their ability to win support from whites?

  4. How should the federal government have dealt with the threat of paramilitary opposition to Reconstruction in the South?

Return to Exhibition: Unit Four