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    [1876 Presidential Election] and [Reconstruction]. Florida Election Archive comprising nine letters, six telegrams, and one report spanning the months October through December, 1876. Similar to the events in South Carolina, the months leading up to the election were marked by threats of violence to anyone thought to be voting the Republican ticket. Since the end of the Civil War in 1865, the southern states were under military occupation and the jurisdiction of the Department of the South. In the weeks leading up to the election on November 7, Republican leaders, as well as the U. S. Marshals, requested assistance from Brevet Brigadier General Thomas H. Ruger, commander of the Department of the South, to assist in keeping the peace.

    Included in this collection are several letters from Republican Congressman William J. Purman to Thomas H. Ruger pleading his case for military assistance in the coming weeks. His candid letters give an idea of the fear and anxiety felt by everyone in the period leading up to the election: William J. Purman ALS, September 18, 1876 regarding a need for military protection during the upcoming election. He says, in part: "We are satisfied that the enemies of law and order are making preparations to indulge in violence and intimidation in certain section on election day...As to the disposition of the troops the Governor and U. S. Marshal will in time designate to you the station where protection will be most needed to secure to all people there perfect freedom in the exercise of their right of suffrage." He dismisses an article that is published in the "N. Y. Tribune" claiming that U. S. troops are to be stationed in Florida. His answer is that he is tempted to publish a letter in response publicly refuting the article proclaiming that "...no necessity exists for the presence of the military in our State..." while holding back his personal opinion on the matter, "...but in spite of this necessary diplomacy I privately declare to you now, as I did to Gen. Sherman & Secretary Cameron, that there is a necessity for military protection in our northern counties, and that we ask for and expect the same from you at the proper time." He reveals why there is a need for such seeming hypocrisy: "All this may seem like...want of candor, but when I say that I know full well by experience the prejudices and secret springs of action prevading [sic] throughout the South, and the fact that a few years ago the assassin's bullet passed through my neck leaving me for dead on the ground, with my brother-in-law...who was a surgeon in the Confederate army, dead by my side, you may be able to appreciate my attitude and why we must be 'cunning wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.' I write this in perfect confidence, and with the request that no one may see it but yourself." [and:] William J. Purman ALS, October 17, 1876, expressing concern that violence may be imminent during the upcoming weeks: "From the formidable demonstration made by the Democrats at our Republican mass meeting...I am more than convinced that they have a plot laid to use violence and intimidation on or before election day..." He describes the scene: "Two Hundred men on horseback suddenly appeared...most of them from Ga., and most of them armed with shotguns...They mean to win by fair or foul means, and do not keep such declarations a secret." He pleads with Ruger for protection: "For the preservation of our rights and liberties and lives, against incursions from Ga. And Ala...do not fail in giving us the necessary military protection. Do not send any troops out of our state to the relief of any other...for we need them all here...I make this request not selfishly but justly and reasonably as 'self-preservation' &c." [and:] William J. Purman ALS, October 26, 1876, reporting on the conditions within his district with regards to the upcoming election. After proclaiming a victory for the Republicans if all goes fairly, he states: "...the Bourbon Democratic managers are waging a canvass upon the principle and instruction that the State must be carried Democratic 'at all hazards.' This 'all hazards' is well understood when placed by the side of the facts that Democratic clubs are now receiving...cases of Winchester rifles...The rebel programme in our State...is to 'raise hell' in a few of these border counties on election day...Cavalry companies, we have positive information, are organized in bordering counties in Georgia, whose object and purpose are to...by violence and intimidation stampede our voters on that day...Only the presence of U. S. troops can thwart the nefarious designs of these raiders, and I appeal to you for the fullest protection in your power."

    Packed with information, this fascinating archive gives a glimpse into the events surrounding the final election of the Reconstruction era in the State of Florida.


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    Thomas H. Ruger ALS, October 4, 1876, to William J. Purman in response to Purman's letter of the 18th Sept.

    George C. Wentworth Telegram, November 3, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger asking if he is "...authorized to send detachment from companies ordered to Pensacola to other points in this County where I deem their presence absolutely necessary to secure fair elections?"

    George F. Drew and Samuel Pasco Telegram, November 4, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger, in full: "Can you not have troops at Tallahassee & Monticello, Florida, on Election day? We desire them."

    William J. Purman and Marcellus Stearns Telegram, November 5, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger asking him to "...telegraph commanding troops Pensacola to distribute troops on election day throughout County, as my be requested by Deputy Marshal."

    William T. Sherman Telegram, November 9, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger informing him that the Secretary of War has ordered "...four Companies be sent to Tallahassee, Florida as quick as possible." He requests information of any action.

    William T. Sherman Telegram, November 9, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger ordering him to send additional troops from S. C, Georgia, and Florida to Tallahassee.

    [William T. Sherman]. J. Donald Cameron Telegram, November 9, 1876, from J. Donald Cameron, Secretary of War, and forwarded by William T. Sherman to Thomas H. Ruger, in full: "Telegraph Gen'l Ruger to proceed at once in person to Tallahassee, Fla and upon his arrival there to communicate with Governor Stearns. Say to him to leave affairs in South Carolina in the hands of a discreet and reliable officer." Sherman places a short note to Ruger at the end: "Please act accordingly."

    Copy of an ALS by William E. van Reed , November 8, 1876, informing the Asst. Adj. Genl., Dept. of the South, that he had proceeded to Pensacola as directed where he met with "...Deputy U. S. Marshal G. E. Wentworth who informed me that the battery [Battery B, 5th Artillery] should locate in Germania Hall." As there was peace, the battery returned to Fort Barrancas that night.

    Copy of an ALS by B. K. Roberts, November 5, 1876, to the Asst. Adj. Genl., Dept. of the South, informing him of his arrival at Lake City, Florida where he has camped "...within a stones throw of the town square." to prevent any violence during the election.

    Copy of an ALS by Paul Roemer, December 6, 1876, to the Asst. Adj. Genl., Dept. of the South, informing him of the happenings in Gainesville, Florida during the election. "The day passed very quietly and no disturbance of any kind took place. The only annoyance I met with during the encampment here was the throwing of several rocks through the windows of the building occupied by the men. This...was probably done by some of the drunken negroes, who were roaming all night, in considerable numbers, around the Court house square and the barracks."

    Copy of an ALS by William R. Hamilton, November 19, 1876, to George W. Crabb regarding the election as it occurred in Greenwood, Florida: "No outbreak...occurred and the voting was carried on in an orderly and quiet manner."

    Copy of an ALS by George W. Crabb, November 18, 1876, to the Adj. Genl., Dept. of the South, regarding the election as it occurred in Marianna: "...the voting was conducted peaceably and without undue excitement so far as I could learn."

    William H. McLaughlin Fair Copy of a Report, November 14, 1876, regarding the movement and actions of the 18th Infantry (?) at Tallahassee, Florida during the 1876 election.



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