Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Union League, Hunkidories and Live Oaks

In their eagerness for “some more good years of stealing” the Carpetbaggers looked upon the black man as an opportunity for them to gain political control no matter what it cost the future. All election machinery was in the hands of the Reconstruction state government. 

The law was constructed to make fraud easy and safe. All black men were pressured into joining the Union League, a secret oath-bound society, organized and kept active by unscrupulous leaders of both colors. White people could know nothing of what was said in the lodges. They had reason to believe that hate and fear of the white race was preached continually and artfully, stimulated with reckless lies that the blacks were threatened with return to slavery as the sure result of any Democratic success and persuaded that continuation of Republican governments meant early seizure and division of all property…hence the 40 acre and a mule lie.

Results of the League meetings were seen on Election Day when the black voters were marched to the polling places in solid ranks and voted the straight party ticket. It was not uncommon for Union League members to be taken to as many polls as they could reach in one day. Behind the Carpetbaggers was the federal government ready to throw the compelling strength of courts and bayonets against anyone who protested.

Many people know about the Union League. However, not too many know about the Hunkidories and Live Oaks that terrorized Charleston and the South Carolina low country during the Reconstruction. The reason is simple. There is no way their actions can be twisted into something positive. Their purpose was violence and they were a very real part of the Reconstruction in South Carolina.

The Hunkidories and Live Oaks were black clubs formed with the assistance of the Radical Republican leaders of Charleston. The membership was comprised of black roughs and bullies used to intimidate and insult the white people and to embolden and solidify the blacks. Always armed and commonly displaying heavy bludgeons, they caused much trouble in the low-country. Their conduct had long been a menace to the peace of Charleston.

The following incident happened on the night Hampton was elected Governor, breaking the 12 year Carpetbagger reign in South Carolina. In Charleston, when the Republicans learned of the Democratic victory, the Hunkidories went on a rampage against white citizens. They set out to shoot any white man they could find. The Hunkidories’ first victims were a father and son, both prominent businessmen of Charleston. They were shot on their way back to their office after their noon meal, killing the young man and wounding his father. Further down on Broad Street the Hunkidories fired pistols randomly into a crowd. 

Those Hunkidories who didn’t have guns tore down fences to use as bludgeons. When the fight first began some of the black policemen initially tried to break it up. Things then changed when a white man saw a Hunkidori deliberately shoot at another unarmed white man. He demanded a black policeman do his duty as a public servant and arrest him. Instead the black policeman clubbed him for the asking. While that was happening on Broad Street, at another location in the city mobs rioted and broke store windows, taking whatever they could run off with before the federal troops and rifle clubs, comprised of local white men, finally arrived on the scene to quell the riot. 

“Hampton and His Red Shirts” by Alfred B Williams, published 1927, pgs 368-372
“The Reconstruction in South Carolina” by John S Reynolds, 


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