Republican Militia in South Carolina
John J. Hemphill

On March 16th, 1869, the Governor approved "An Act to Organize and Govern the Militia of the State of South Carolina," which made provision for the organization of the militia into regiments, battalions, etc, as the Governor might deem expedient. It then provided that there should be no military organizations or formations for the purpose of arming, drilling, exercising the manual of arms, or military manoeuvres not authorized by the act and by the Commander-in-Chief, and subjected any citizen violating this act to punishment in the penitentiary, at hard labor, for not less than one nor more than three years. Under this act the Governor refused to receive any but colored companies. The penalties for exercising the manual of arms were intended to, and did, prohibit any but those whom he authorized from enjoying this privilege.

On February 8th, 1869, an act was passed authorizing the Governor to employ an armed force, who were to be mounted and fully equipped; and on the 16th of the same month he was empowered "to purchase two thousand stand of arms."

In 1870 Governor Scott was renominated by the regular Republican convention, and R. B. Carpenter, himself a Republican, then regarded as among the ablest and most available of the new statesmen, was nominated by the "Reform Party," composed of the whites and dissatisfied Republicans.

Governor Scott, becoming apprehensive as to his reelection, soon made apparent the motives that had prompted the passage of the four acts of the General Assembly above specified.

Ninety-six thousand colored men were enrolled in military companies throughout the state, the simple enrollment costing the state over $200,000; the Governor in this way furnishing employment and compensation to his political "strikers' and "heelers" at public expense. The Adjutant General, F. J. Moses, Jr., bought one thousand Winchester rifles for about $38,000, and one million "central fire copper cartridges" at a cost of $37,000. On the order of the Governor the Adjutant General went to Washington and procured ten thousand Springfield muskets from the general government, thus anticipating for years in advance the state's quota of arms. These he had changed to breech loaders, which, with alterations in the accoutrements and the purchase above referred to, cost $180,750. Of which Moses, by his own confession, through fraud, was to get $10,000. It was all charged to the state at $250,000.

There were only two or three white companies in the state, and they were ordered by Governor Scott to surrender their arms and disband; and fourteen full regiments of negroes were organized before the election. These were fully armed and equipped and ammunition issed to them, as upon the eve of battle.

When called out on duty they were to be paid under the act, and were, in truth, paid the same complensation as officers and soldiers of the same grade in the Regular Army; and it was held by the authorities of the state at the time, that when they were attending political meetings in advocacy of Scott's election, they were "on service" within the meaning of the statute. Before a committee of the Legislature, ex-Governor Moses testified as follows with reference to organizing the militia: "The militia was organized and armed for political purposes by the advice and consent of Governor Scott, and I was commissioned by Governor Scott to proceed to Washington and procure all the arms and accoutrements possible from the United States Government, and at the same time purchase ammunition and make the contract referred to. The object was to arm and organize the militia for the campaign in 1870."

The "armed force," or constabulary, was organized and maintained for the same purpose. I quote from two of the reports made by deputies to the chief constable. On June 25th, 1870, J. W. Anderson, deputy constable says: "We can carry the county (York County) if we get constables enough, by encouraging the militia if the constables will work with me. I am giving out ammunition all the time. Tell Scott he is all right here now."

John B. Hubbard, the chief constable, testified before a legislative committee, in 1877: "It was understood that by arming the colored militia and keeping some of the most influential officers under pay, that a full vote would be brought out for the Republicans, and the Democracy, or many of the weak-kneed Democrats intimidated. At the time the militia was organized there was but, comparatively speaking, little lawlessness. The militia, being organized and armed, caused an increase of crime and bloodshed in most of the counties in proportion to their numbers and the number of arms and amount of ammunition furnished them." Again, the chief constable says: "Ostensibly the object of the constabulary force was for the preservation of the peace, but in reality it was organized and used for political purposes and ends. Governor Scott would order me to send men to any county where the Republican party most needed encouragement and reorganization. The deputies were authorized and instructed to attend all political meetings and report the political condition of the county to me, and I would report the same to the Governor."

Of the constables thus employed twenty were elected to the Legislature or to county offices. They were paid by the state their mileage and per diem while they overrode the white people of the state and made sure of the election of Scott and themselves to office.


Why the Solid South? or, Reconstruction and Its Results compiled by Hilary A. Herbert
R. H. Woodward & Company, Baltimore, 1890, pages 92-95.