Description[1876 South Carolina Gubernatorial Election]. Election Aftermath Archive comprised of seventy-one letters and telegrams and one proclamation spanning the months November, 1876, through February, 1877.
The months leading up to the election of 1876 in South Carolina were rife with tension. Violence was ever present and groups of armed men, calling themselves "rifle clubs," roamed the countryside. Supporters of the Democratic Party, they would often break up Republican meetings and intimidate Republican voters, both white and black. Black Republicans would often do the same toward black Democrats, Freedmen disillusioned with the corruption and broken promises of the Republican Party. Thomas Ruger was tasked with assisting Governor Daniel Chamberlain and the United States Marshals in keeping the peace.
Under the watchful eyes of U. S. troops, who had been placed at various polls throughout the state, Election Day came and went with little event. The result of the gubernatorial election, however, was anything but peaceful. In the first days of ballot counting, it appeared that Republican incumbent Daniel Chamberlain would win a second term, but by Thursday Democratic challenger (and South Carolina's favorite son) Wade Hampton III took the lead. Hampton declared a victory, but Chamberlain claimed voter fraud due to stuffed ballots in Edgefield and Laurens Counties. As a result, the Board of Canvassers was unable to certify the election. President Grant declared Chamberlain governor and the State Supreme Court proclaimed Hampton the victor. In addition to the gubernatorial mess, two separate Houses of Representatives convened, one Democratic and one Republican, both claiming legitimacy.
This collection of letters represents a dialogue between the major participants involved in the struggle for state power and the military authority trying desperately to keep the peace and presents, in great detail, the splitting of the state government in two. Examples include: Thomas H. Ruger Copy of a Telegram, November 30, 1876, to General William T. Sherman reporting his course of action at the first meeting of the South Carolina Legislature since the election on November 7. Ruger reports that several members of the Democratic Party "...who held certificates of election from the clerk of the Supreme Court..." were refused admission to the Hall of the State House of Representatives. Those of the same party who held certificates from the secretary of state also did not enter leaving the fifty-nine Republican members to enter solely. As they did not form a quorum as ordered by the State Constitution, they were forced to adjourn. This led to the formation of two separate Houses. [and:] Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, December 3, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger discussing plans to oust the men from Edgefield and Laurens Counties who are unlawfully participating in the proceedings. Chamberlain proposes to employ a "...force of forty (40) state constables and a detachment of the police of Columbia." He goes on to state that he believes "...an effort will be made to fill the State House tonight with the partisan of either political party in view of what is expected to take place...." and that "...the effort to remove the persons...will be resisted with force and arms and I think there is great danger of collision and bloodshed." [and:] Proclamation Issued by a Committee of the South Carolina House of Representatives, December 7, 1876. Issued shortly after the State Supreme Court's decision, in full: "Whereas this House has seventy-one members, Sixty-three of whom hold as their credentials certificates from the Secretary of State, and eight of whom hold certificates from the Supreme Court constituting a quorum under the constitution and laws of this State. And whereas also the Supreme Court, the highest judicial authority in the State has unanimously decided that this is the lawful constitutional House of Representatives of the State of South Carolina, and that there can be no other. Resolved that a Committee of five members be appointed to avail upon the officer in command of the United States troops in South Carolina, and inform him of these facts and request the removal of United States soldiers from the State House. And also to ascertain what obstacle, if any presents the legal House of Representatives from occupying the Hall in the Capital intended for the House of Representatives."
With the election of Rutherford B. Hayes as president (an election that was also in dispute), Reconstruction would come to an end. Shortly after assuming office, Hayes pulled all remaining U. S. troops out of the state capitals of South Carolina and Louisiana, the last two reconstruction states, and returned home rule to both. With the ending of military occupation, Wade Hampton was declared governor and Daniel Chamberlain fled north to New York City. This magnificent collection is packed with information from a little known episode of American history at the tail end of the Reconstruction era.
Additional material includes:
Thomas H. Ruger AN, November 28, 1876, written on an envelope. The note states that the envelope contains material ".relating to matters in S. C. and Florida pertaining to events subsequent to the election and up to and including the date of meeting of the Legislation of S. C."
Thomas H. Ruger AL, December 7, 1876, to President Grant reporting that armed men are in the city. As the state fair has just started, he believes some of them are there to attend that, but most are members of rifle clubs who are there ".because of the political situation, and particularly because of the expected attempt by the State Constabulary to remove certain persons claiming right to seats in the House."
List of Questions, December 1, 1876, submitted by "a committee of the House of Representatives" presented to General Thomas H. Ruger. Seven questions in all, they ask such questions as, "You are the commanding officer of troops in Columbia?" and "Will you be kind enough to inform us by whose authority those troops are in the State House?" Ruger ordered to troops to guard the State House and prevent those from illegally entering to claim seats in the Legislature.
[William T. Sherman]. Telegram from Sherman, December 7, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger, in cipher, with official copy. The telegram asks Ruger to order Company "D" 5th Artillery to Savannah, Georgia from Tallahassee, Florida, send ".the balance to Columbia.", and report any companies from his department that can be used in the Department of the East.
Thomas H. Ruger Fair Copy of a Telegram, December 7, 1876, to President Grant stating: "The Supreme Court of the State decided yesterday in the matter of Speaker of House.that the Wallace House was the constitutional House the Wallace House now claims to have Sixty three members holding the original certificates of the Secretary of State." William H. Wallace, a Democrat and former brigadier general for the Confederate States, and his faction were denied entry by Ruger who chose to ignore the Court's decision.
Thomas H. Ruger Fair Copy of a Telegram, December 7, 1876, to President Grant informing him of the situation in the city. He reports: "Much exitement [sic] for few days and large number of men in place some attending State fair but most came on account of political situation.No doubt members of rifle clubs came but did not appear on Street as organizations or armed." (see Sheet 211)
Thomas H. Ruger ALS, December 8, 1876, to a committee from the State House of Representatives in answer to their list of questions. He says, in part: "I have the honor to say in reply to your inquiries.that the United States troops now in the State House were placed there by my orders.if your body should appear at the State House for the purpose of entering the Hall." He further states that should they apply for assistance by the officer in charge, service to them will be rendered.
Thomas H. Ruger Fair Copy of a Letter, December 26, 1876, to the Adjutant General of the Army forwarding ".reports from officers in command of Posts and detachments relative to action taken by troops on 7th November."
Henry M. Black Fair Copy of a Letter, December 6, 1876, regarding his orders from the Secretary of War to offer his assistance to Governor Chamberlain during the meeting of the State Legislature. At one point, the governor calls upon Black and informs him that ".there was to be an attempt made after midnight by an armed body of unauthorized persons to seize and hold possession of the State House." Black informs General Thomas H. Ruger who orders him ".to send a Company to State House at once."
[William T. Sherman]. Fair Copy of a Telegram, November 24, 1876, from Sherman to Thomas H. Ruger, originally in cipher, stating: "The Secretary of War wants you to return to Columbia as soon as possible." With original telegram.
Robert M. Wallace ALS, November 28, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger. Wallace, a U. S. Marshal is requesting a detachment of U. S. troops ".to be sent to the house of Gen. Dennis.for the purpose of protecting the board of canvassers who are in my custody at Dennis' house." He also suggests ".that the officer in charge.patrol the block all night so as to afford some protection to the house of Gov. Chamberlain who lives on the same block." He then states his reason for the request: "It is feared that efforts may be made to do violence to the board of State canvassers or to the Governor which the deputy Marshals in charge and the city police could not resist."
Thomas H. Ruger Copy of a Telegram, November 30, 1876, to Secretary of War J. Donald Cameron reporting that his telegram was received and that, "The status as to the House of Representatives of the State remains as when I sent the dispatch."
Thomas H. Ruger Copy of a Telegram, November 30, 1876, to General William T. Sherman stating that the status of the State Legislature remains the same, but he will modify his former telegram to include ".exactly what has been heretofore done by the troops relative to the meeting of the Legislature."
Thomas H. Ruger Copy of a Telegram, November 30, 1876, to General William T. Sherman reporting that ".a new state of circumstances as to the Legislature has taken place today. The Governor calls on me to eject certain persons claiming to be entitled to places . [and] who were elected as Democrats. Both parties are now in the Assembly room.I have not at once acted.I request delay of action until my full message and that this be brought to the attention of the Secretary of War and President." In response, Sherman has sent a telegram informing him that "Both of your dispatches of today were placed by me in the hands of the Secretary of War who has gone to the President with the Attorney Genl. for consultation."
J. Donald Cameron Telegram, December 1, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger stating: "Telegram recd shown to the President and your action so far approved if any change in your course is deemed advisable will instruct you from here Keep us fully advised." Also, a fair copy of the above telegram.
J. Donald Cameron LS, November 13, 1876, to Colonel Henry M. Black forwarding orders, dated same, from William T. Sherman and reiterating the ".desire of the President that the Board of Canvassers in South Carolina have complete and absolute protection in the discharge of their legal duties." In a copy of a letter to General Winfield Scott Hancock which Cameron has enclosed, Sherman writes: "Please instruct the Commanding officer at Columbia, S. C. to hold his troops ready, to consult with and protect the Board of Canvassers in their duty."
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, November 27, 1876, to Colonel Henry M. Black regarding information of a raid on the State House. In part: "I am informed upon authority.that a body of armed and unauthorized men propose to put themselves inside the State House tonight.the better to execute their designs tomorrow."
[Ulysses S. Grant]. Copy of a Letter, n. d. (circa November, 1876), from U. S. Grant to Secy. of War J. Donald Cameron. In part: "D. H. Chamberlain is now Governor of the State of South Carolina beyond any controversy and remains so until a new governor shall be duly and legally inaugurated.the government has been called upon to aid with the military and naval forces of the United States to maintain republican government in the state against resistance too formidable to be overcome by State authorities.sustain Governor Chamberlain in his authority against domestic violence until otherwise directed."
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, November 28, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger concerning the guarding of the State House.
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, November 28, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger requesting troops for his protection at his house as ".reliable information has reached me that there is danger of some attempt at violence tonight."
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, November 28, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger requesting an early morning meeting.
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, November 29, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger requesting one soldier to ".spend the night at my house tonight."
[William T. Sherman]. Copies of Two Telegrams from William T. Sherman to Thomas H. Ruger. The first, November 30, 1876, informs Ruger that: "Both of your dispatches.were placed in the hands of the Secretary of War, who has gone to the President .for consultation. I will give you the earliest possible answer, tonight if possible." The second, December 1, 1876, informs him that his dispatches were ".the subject of a Cabinet meeting of which the Secretary will advise you direct."
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, November 30, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger informing him that ".a collision is imminent in the Hall. An Edgefield man and a Republican are now both speaking at once."
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, November 30, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger requesting to see him over ".business of the utmost importance. An attempt is now making to force an entrance into this building and overthrow the lawful House of Representatives."
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, November 30, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger informing him of ".certain persons not.elected by the Board of State Canvassers as members of the House from the Counties of Edgefield and Laurens, are now upon the floor of the House, taking part in the proceedings of that body and refusing to leave." and requesting help in barring them from the building. In the recent election, Chamberlain's second term was in dispute due to voter fraud from Edgefield and Laurens, where the vote outnumbered the population.
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, November 30, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger forwarding a letter from South Carolina Speaker of the House Edmund W. M. Mackey to Chamberlain requesting assistance in removing persons from occupying the chairs of the Speaker and Clerk in the Hall of the South Carolina House of Representatives. Chamberlain asks for military assistance.
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, December 1, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger again requesting assistance in removing unelected persons from participating in the proceedings of the South Carolina House of Representatives.
Copy of a Telegram from J. Donald Cameron, December 2, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger advising him the ".Governor of the State of South Carolina should exercise his own resources to purge the Legislature which he has recognized of unauthorized persons. If he is resisted in this it will become your duty to enforce his authority."
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, December 2, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger requesting a meeting as ".I have received a dispatch from Attorney General Taft which makes it necessary for me to confer with you at once."
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, December 2, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger asking if the officers can be at the Hall of the House in case there is a "collision."
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, December 2, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger regarding the removal of men from Edgefield and Laurens. Col. Alexander C. Haskell tells Speaker Mackey that ".the state authorities would be resisted in any attempt to remove the Edgefield or Laurens men." and ".the whole U. S. force here could not keep the people (Democrats) out of this building."
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, December 3, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger discussing plans to oust the men from Edgefield and Laurens Counties who are unlawfully participating in the proceedings. Chamberlain proposes to employ a ".force of forty (40) state constables and a detachment of the police of Columbia." He goes on to state that he believes ".an effort will be made to fill the State House tonight with the partisan of either political party in view of what is expected to take place.." and that ".the effort to remove the persons.will be resisted with force and arms and I think there is great danger of collision and bloodshed." General Ruger has apparently agreed to take part in the operation as Chamberlain then asks: "May I ask if you will give me your conclusions as to the precautions necessary? Will you take charge of the door of this building or shall I?"
Lewis C. Carpenter ALS, December 4, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger informing him of a plot to attack ".the Fair." He has come by the information from a gentleman he has known and trusts the information.
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, December 4, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger requesting an officer stay at his house overnight.
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, December 4, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger regarding the walkout of the Democrats en masse. "It is reported to me that the Democrats will proceed in some way to inaugurated Hampton as Governor and that he will seek to take possession of this office.if under the circumstances above stated, Hampton shall attempt to remove me from this office, you will protect me in holding it."
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, December 4, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger requesting a meeting.
Daniel H. Chamberlain ALS, December 7, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger regarding his inauguration as governor.
Daniel H. Chamberlain LS, December 14, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger regarding reports ".respecting the inauguration of Wade Hampton as Governor and W. D. Simpson as Lieut. Governor." He continues by relating reports that they will try to seize the offices of the governor and lieutenant governor and places himself under Ruger's advisement as to what to do if the situation should arise.
Daniel H. Chamberlain LS, January 30, 1877, to Thomas H. Ruger regarding the death of a judge, B. O. Holloway. He writes, in part: "Disturbances of the public peace arising mainly from race and political differences have been frequent at this place since the election, but on Friday last, a Trial Justice.was shot and killed by unknown parties. This set both races in arms and a condition of affairs now exists which seems certain to result in greater disorders." He then requests troops to quell the violence: "I have no doubt that the presence of a small detachment of troops will restore peace and order."
Daniel H. Chamberlain LS, February 4, 1877, to Thomas H. Ruger regarding the suggestion that those responsible at Timmonsville (see Sheet 107) should be "taken."
Group of Telegrams (6) between General Thomas H. Ruger and John G. Thompson, dated Feburary 14-15, 1877, Sergeant at Arms for the House of Representatives. The telegrams represent a conversation whereby Ruger has been subpoenaed to appear before the ".Select Committee of the house Reps united states on the use of the army in certain of the southern states since august first Eighteen hundred seventy six."
William Mills ALS, December 26, 1876, to Thomas H. Ruger informing him of a meeting he has had with Governor Stearns whereby Mills believes that there is ".no necessity for the presence of any more troops here at present." Stearns disagrees, believing that ".the Board of Canvassers.will return Mr. [George F.] Drew as elected Governor. if such.he intends making no contest but will turn over the State Government to him." Stearns also warns that ".it would be both necessary and important that the present command remain here during the session of the Legislature, the reasons for this are that the Negro population.greatly outnumbers the Whites, and that since the decision of the Courts they had shown.that collisions between Whites and Blacks that the civil authorities could not control might take place."
Telegrams (9) from Secy. of War J. Donald Cameron to General Thomas H. Ruger and Colonel Henry M. Black dealing with issues in the State of South Carolina and outside interference with the new legislature following the 1876 election. One telegram, dated Dec. 2, reads: "The Governor of the State of South Carolina should exercise his own resources to purge the legislature which he has recognized of unauthorized persons if he is resisted in this, it will be your duty to enforce his authority." A second telegram, November 26, 1876, from President Grant and forwarded to Thomas H. Ruger and Henry Black from Cameron reads, in part: "D. H. Chamberlain is now Governor of the State of South Carolina beyond any controversy & remains so until a new Governor shall be duly and legally inaugurated.the Government has been called upon to aid with the military and naval forces of the United States to maintain Republican Government in the state against resistance too formidable to be overcome by State authorities.sustain Chamberlain in his authority against domestic violence until otherwise directed." A third is entirely done in cipher.
Telegrams (3) from Thomas H. Ruger and Henry M. Black, November 27-30, 1876, to Secy. of War J. Donald Cameron.
Telegrams (2) from Winfield Scott Hancock, November 10-11, 1876, to General Thomas H. Ruger forwarding instructions from President Grant stating the same as in Sheet 37.
Telegrams (2) from William T. Sherman to General Thomas H. Ruger. The first, December 1, 1876, reads: "Your two dispatches of yesterday were recd also that of this morning all were placed in the hands of the Secy of War and have been the subject of a cabinet meeting at which the Secy will advise you direct." The second, November 25, 1876, is entirely in a numerical cipher.
Telegrams (4) from Ulysses S. Grant, December 3-6, 1876, to General Thomas H. Ruger. The first, in part: "I do not think you would be justified in taking U S troops into the legislative Hall to resist opposition made by persons claiming to have a right to be there either under the certificate of election from the board of canvassers or from the supreme court of the state or who have since been admitted by either of the pretended legislatures unless further advised you will confine your action to prevention unauthorized outside parties from resisting the action of the legal Governor of the state tomorrow on consulation [sic] I may be able to further advise you." The second, in part: "Fearing your instructions may be conflicting and leave you in doubt as to your duties in the present unhappy condition of affairs in South Carolina - I wish to say this. Governor Chamberlain is the legal constitutional Governor of the state and remains so until the legislature canvasses the vote & instals [sic] his successor and he is entitled as such to your support and protection.to be plain I want to avoid anything like an unlawful use of the military but it will be intirely [sic] right to sustain the Governor or.his agents or officers." A third asks for an update on the counting of the vote for governor and president. In the fourth, the president warns Ruger not to ".recognize in any manner any person as Governor of South Carolina other than DH Chamberlain until you hear further from me It is understood that there are armed bodies of men in Columbia probably a part of those who were commanded.to disband threatening the peace of the present authorities."
[Ulysses S. Grant] and [William T. Sherman]. Telegram from President Grant, November 10, 1876, to General Sherman and forwarded to Thomas H. Ruger from General Winfield Scott Hancock regarding the recent election, in full: "Instruct General Augur in Louisiana and General Ruger in Florida to be vigilant with the force at their command to preserve peace and good order, and to see that the proper and legal boards of canvassers are unmolested in the performance of their duties. Should there be any grounds of suspicion of fraudulent counting on either side it should be reported and denounced at once. No man worthy of the office of President would be willing to hold the office if counted in placed there by fraud. Either party can afford to be disappointed in the result, but the country can not afford to have the result tainted by the suspicion of false returns."
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