Hamburg Massacre

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The Hamburg Massacre (or Hamburg Riot) was a key event of South Carolina Reconstruction. Beginning with a dispute over free passage on a public road, this racially motivated incident concluded with the death of seven men. It launched the furious 1876 Democratic campaign for South Carolina's “Redemption,” inaugurating single-party white supremacist rule, and leading to nearly a century of "Jim Crow" denial of civil rights.


Hamburg, a defunct market town across the Savannah River from Augusta, Georgia, had been repopulated by black freedmen since the end of the War. On July 4, 1876, two neighboring white farmers drove in a carriage down Hamburg's capacious Market Street, meeting the Hamburg company of the National Guard, State of South Carolina, which was drilling (or parading) under command of Captain D. L. "Dock" Adams. The men in the National Guard were blacks. According to one version of the story, the militia company purposely deployed to block the street and deny passage, and in another, the carriage intentionally drove up against the head of the column. In any case, after an exchange of words, the farmers passed through the ranks of the parade (Haworth 1906, 131 and Allen 1888, 314).

The farmers complained of obstruction of a public road before the local court in Hamburg, Trial Justice Prince Rivers presiding, at a hearing on July 6. The case was continued until the afternoon of July 8 when Matthew Calbraith Butler, Edgefield attorney,...
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