Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Andrew Jr., Rod
Grant , Roger
Bartley , Abel
The focus of this thesis deals primarily with the white elite of South Carolina during Presidential Reconstruction. Historians have noted South Carolina radicalism before the Civil War, but I propose that this radicalism did not simply fade away when the war ended. I argue that the Civil War did not destroy white South Carolinians' will to fight; a sense of nationalism still flourished as they continued to rebel against the federal government, despite the devastating effects of the war on the Palmetto State. This work will show that these white elites continued this fight because they were enraged over the total devastation left in the wake of Sherman's march through the state and the failure of the federal government to institute an acceptable Reconstruction plan. The radicalism of South Carolina's white elites started the Civil War, and they did not believe that all of the devastation was for nothing as they continued to defy the Radical Republicans at every opportunity.
Continuing their radical nature, the same men who led the state into secession before the war were placed back into their public duties after the war. These radical leaders rejected the few prominent measures during Presidential Reconstruction that may have brought then into the Union much sooner. Provisional Governor Benjamin F. Perry, a staunch Unionist before the war, placed these radical leaders back into power because they were popularly elected by the people. Like the more radical element of the state, pre-war moderate leaders such as Perry and Wade Hampton III were irate over the total devastation inflicted upon their precious state even though initially they did almost everything necessary to comply with the President's demands during Presidential Reconstruction. As the process dragged out, these leaders became more incensed, and their rage was reflected publicly in their rhetoric, which was based on their personal experiences through secession, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.
With the onset of Radical Reconstruction, the leaders of the Palmetto State realized that the process of being readmitted into the Union would drag out indefinitely, making it a secondary concern. Now they had to worry about keeping power within their own state against the unrepresented sanctions of the federal government, and this further enraged these radical leaders. Many of these leaders such as Perry and Hampton would vent their rage by becoming proponents of 'Lost Cause' rhetoric. This instigated negative reactions from their Northern opposition, making many of them targets for personal criticism aimed at discrediting them in the eyes of the public. Still, they espoused their rage publicly--even when their power within the state was taken away by Radical Republican legislation--all the while defying the federal government until reaching 'Redemption' over a decade later.
Bright, Walter, "Radicalism and Rebellion: Presidential Reconstruction in South Carolina April 1865 to May 1866" (2008). All Theses. 363.