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Title: K. K. K. sketches, humorous and didactic

treating the more important events of the Ku-Klux-Klan movement in the South. With a discussion of the causes which gave rise to it, and the social and political issues emanating from it.

Author: James Melville Beard

Release date: August 2, 2010 [eBook #33324]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Bryan Ness and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This book was
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Humorous and Didactic,



A Discussion of the Causes which gave Rise
to it, and the Social and Political
Issues Emanating from it.




624, 626 & 628 MARKET STREET.



Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1876, by
in the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.




Selheimer & Moore, Printers,
501 Chestnut Street.



Messrs. Geo. C. Reeler and H. R. and J. M. Park,



[Pg iv]


These sketches are placed before the public without other apology for their appearance than may be found in that demand for information on the subject treated which renders a work of the character a positive necessity of the times. The secret political movement here introduced to the reader has contributed more to the sensational character of American politics, and, at the same time, proven a more influential factor in those political questions with which we have dealt as a people, than any or all contemporaneous issues. And yet nothing has been written on the theme bearing a just proportion thereto,—absolutely nothing,—if we subtract the unknown quantity in the news problem of the day from this estimate, and for reasons as varied as obvious. We shall not weary the reader with a statement of the latter, nor a recitative of the conditions upon which they are or may have been based. It is enough that we know that no consecutive nor reliable history of the Order could have been written at an earlier period; and even at this date, so broken and fragmentary are those passages referring to its active career, compiled during months of arduous labor, that the author has been necessitated to group them in a series of historical sketches, or [Pg v]pen-pictures, and in treating the subject to adopt the style of the romancist, rather than that of the historian. He flatters himself, however, that while the reliability of his historical information is not impaired by this method, that the work will thereby be rendered more attractive to a large class of readers; and, on the other hand, as to facts connected with the morale of the weird subject, he is not hampered by these considerations, but is enabled to present them in such a concise form, and as sententiously as regards style, as their share of the task’s importance renders peremptory.

From the moment that the resolution to compose these sketches in the interest of the reading public became fixed in the author’s mind, he has been in constant communication with individuals who were not only influential leaders of the secret movement, but held high official rank under it; so that the authenticity of his statements affecting its regimé is placed so far beyond question that the reader is at liberty to take the latter as ex cathedra utterances of this singularly reticent body. Should those passages which are occupied with the more exciting events of K. K. K. history be calculated to awaken sensation in the public breast, it is a contretemps from which the author begs to excuse himself in the light of the same admission, adding, moreover, that he has availed himself of those examples which have gone before him in this department of literature, and reserved his art-flourishes for less susceptible divisions of the theme.

[Pg vi]The intelligent reader will see no politics, nor evidence of political bias in the pages of this volume, if he will do the author the simple fairness of its thorough examination. If in addressing his audience from the status in quo, to which the Ku-Klux troubles were referred in their origin and bloody career, forcible truths are given their due emphasis, he begs to assure the public that his utterances are no less strongly inflected from a standpoint of contrasted locality and habits of political thought. A man professing no politics but those of his grandfather, and, despite settled opinions favoring such partisanship, is strongly tempted at times to question their integrity, would hardly be supposed guilty of making an obnoxious necessity of some other man’s property, in this most precarious of titled possessions; and lest any should fail to perceive the allegory which this sentence contains, the author begs to call attention to it, and to appropriate the situation which it presents. The public mind is so excited regarding such topics at this moment, that it would fail to meet expectation, if it should decline to suspect every shadow of possessing substance, when projected from so suspicious a direction as the subject chosen; and feeling this, and perceiving the inutility of any other form of argument, the reader is invited, in conclusion, to adopt the usual method in such inquiries, and determine for himself the vexata quæstio.



[Pg vii]


Terms of Southern Surrender in the War of the Rebellion—Candor of Paroled Troops—“Lee’s Ragamuffins”—Generals Grant’s and Sherman’s Proposed Amnesty—The “Rump Congress” and Disfranchisement—What the Latter meant—Issues which the War Settled—How these were Revived by the Pending Congress—Anarchy in the South—The Loyal League 13
Situation Produced by the War—Discontented Partisans—The War District in the South—Words of a Northern Tourist—The Curse of Slavery—President Johnson—How the Work of Reconstruction was Inaugurated—The Law-making Power vested in Dummy Legislatures—Disfranchisement—Enfranchisement—The Color Issue which these Measures brought—A Singular Peace Policy—The War of the Conservatives in the South against Radicalism did not Revive Issues concluded by the late Civil Struggle, as the latter Boasted—Loyal Epithets—“Traitor,” “Guerilla,” “Southern Bandit,” etc.—The Shamelessness of the State Officials—The Uneducated Negro a Law-giver—Organization of the Loyal League—Some of its Peculiarities—The K. K. K. Movement as an Offset to the League 18
A Stirring Episode—Raising the Dead—Night-Hawk Abroad—Moving toward the Rendezvous—Grand Cyclops of Den No. 5—Forming the Magic Circle—K. K. K. Drill—On the March—The Tout Ensemble of a Raiding Body—Weird Costuming—Banners Inscribed with the K. K. K. Escutcheon—How the Scene Impressed Beholders 29
[Pg viii]CHAPTER IV.
Impressions after a K. K. K. Raid—Will Morning never come?—Conjectures Regarding the Subject in the Minds of those who should have been Prepared to Render an Opinion—What Superstitious People thought—The Mill Council—K. K. K. Arraigned on various Charges, and Acquitted for Want of Testimony—The Subject an Enigma—Man a Superstitious Animal 38
A Train which brought Welcome Passenger—Caucusing in the Open Air a Dangerous Proceeding—Correct Surmises—An Old Church, Bequeathed from Generation to Generation, and Liable to many Uses—Brothers and Sisters all—The L. L. in full Bloom—Storm succeeded by a Calm—Weird Visitors—What they left behind them—Sudden Panic—The Rally—Still in Doubt—The Chairman’s Stratagem—How it didn’t Work—Despondent Leaguers taught to Act for Themselves. 49
Contrasted Views of the Organization inspired by its Dealings with the Public—The Colored Man in the South—Kindly Feeling for the Race cherished by Native Southerners—Households Presided over by Colored Matrons—Superstitious Tendencies of Cuffey—His Ideas about “Ghosts,” and the Realm which they Inhabit—Spook Kinsfolk—The ideal “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”—Wherein it was a Failure—The “Infantile Sex” and their Greed for Ghost-lore—Painful Reminiscences—Use to which the Aged Patriarch, or Beldam, as the Case might be, put their Prerogative—Talent for relating Ghost Stories—The Young White Men of the South trained up in this School 61
A Band of Regulators whose Force at this time numbered a [Pg ix]Half Million well-organized and perfectly Drilled Men—Who composed its Draft—Considerations which recommended it to the Better Classes of Society—Its Haunts—Oath-bound Covenant, and Penalties attached—Galloping forth to Predestined Conquest—It proceeded under a rigid Constitutional System—Territorial Subdivisions—Empire—Realm—Province—Den—Grand Wizard and his Cabinet—Grand Giant—The Commander of a Den—Grand Cyclops—Night-Hawks, etc.—How Members were Initiated—Proposed Initiates might Retire if Displeased with the Conditions of Membership—How far the Klan was “Rebel” in its Draft—Members of the State Legislatures, Congressmen, and Governors of States, took its Vows upon them—Its Political Suffrages—Compelling Ignorant Colored Men to relinquish the Franchise—K. K. K. Placards—Empty Coffins containing Ukase of Banishment Carted to the Doors of Obnoxious White Citizens—Its Ideas of Social Decorum 71
The Klan never did its Work by Halves—How General Orders were Transmitted—Form of General Order—Its Imbroglios with the League—Avoided Conflict with United States Troops—League Informers—K. K. K. Intimidation of Witnesses—Memento Mori—Crusade of the Ermined Ranks—The Klan a Bitter Enemy of those Unorganized Parties of Ruffians who made War on their kind in the former’s Name—Its Right to Borrow Sympathy on this Exchange a Grave Question of Doubt—Vendettas Conducted against the “Shams.” 80
Misgovernment in Tennessee—The Loyal League and the State Administration—The K. K. K. an Outgrowth of the Conditions which the former Inspired—Rapid Development of the Order on Tennessee Soil—Its Purposes of Revenge—Legislation on the Subject—Militia called out and Detectives Employed—The State pronounced a Ku-Klux Barracks—A Simultaneous Uprising of the K. K. K. throughout the State and Concerted Raids against the L. L. Rendezvous in various Neighborhoods—Military Accomplishments of the Grand Wizard—Subcommanders in Charge of the Expedition—Capture of Secret Papers—Ku-Klux Hollow-square—Oath administered to Captives 88
Speech of Hon. Bones Button before the State Council of the Loyal League—What followed—Amusing Contretemps 97
Excitement throughout the State—Scenes at the Capitol—Government Officials Notified of the Extent of the Disaster—A Quorum of the Legislative or Judicial Bodies not Attainable—No Departures from the City—The K. K. K. Cabal Receiving that Attention from Caucusing Legislators which its Importance Demanded—A Mob at the State-House—At Sunset the Situation Unchanged—A Sortie from the Capitol—Mobs along the Route—Seeking Refuge from the Excited Populace—Out of Danger—The New Situation—An Ugly Specimen of the Genus Ku-Klux—The Governor Recovers from the Attitude of a Suppliant—An Amusing Episode 107
The Klan Outlawed—A Rash Act of one of its Dens—Negro Insurrectionists Placed in the Jail at Trenton—Subsequent Massacre—Detectives in Pursuit—Members of the Order Indicted—Efforts to Convict the Accused—Affair in Obion—Why these Horrors are Classed as Twin Editions—Description of Madrid Bend—K. K. K. Transactions in this Remote Quarter—Planters’ Jealousy—Message from Mr. J. to the Leaders of the Party—Cool Treatment it Received—The K.’s Declare their Intention of Punishing one of the Laborers on J.’s Farm—His Defiance—A Fierce Skirmish—J.’s Flight—Massacre of Fleeing Blacks—Eight Colored Men taken from the County Jail at Troy—Their Fate a Mystery 116
Any person, under color of law, etc., of any State, depriving another of any rights, etc., secured by the Constitution of the [Pg xi]United States, made liable to the party injured, 7034—Penalty for conspiring, by force, to put down the government of the United States, etc., 7035—Conspirator’s doing, etc., any act in furtherance of the object of the conspiracy, and injuring another, liable to damages therefor, 7035—What to be deemed a denial by any State to any class of its people of their equal protection under the laws, 7036 125
Adventists—How they Practised on the Parasitical Blacks—A Little Power is a Dangerous Thing—The Political Situation in ’67—The State Press—The Order of K. K. K. in Louisiana—When the Government Officials were first Notified of its Presence—The Feeling in Grant Parish—Riot Growing out of a Personal Difficulty—Blacks Entrenched in the Court-House at Colfax—Parley—Negroes Refuse to Surrender—A Second Defiance—Building Fired—Massacre and Termination of the Bloody Affair—Statistics of Losses in the Fight—Who were Responsible—The White League or Camelias—Occupied the K. K. K. Basis in Externals—New Orleans Riots—Their Effect on the Returning Boards—Coushatta—K. K. K. in Texas—Border History Uneventful 134
The Situation in Georgia—Some Things which may be Explained—Negro Criminals—Taking Refuge in the Ocmulgee Swamps—Ku-Klux Ambushed—A Terrible Oath—Uncle Jack B.—“Nigger Dogs” in the “Goober State”—Uncle Jack Interviewed by the Ku-Klux—What came of it—Getting Ready for the Chase—A Pack of “Negro Dogs” described—In the Swamps—The Opening Chorus—A Warm Trail—Disappointment—The Lull is Past—A Last Effort—Another Crime added to the Calendar—A fresh Start—At Bay—Tragical Scene 143
The Klan in South Carolina—Officious Interference in Politics—Atrocious Performances of Men in Masks—The “Shams,” or Counterfeit Editions of K. K. K.—How Organized—Their Vocabulary of Crime—South Carolina Fanatics—How the [Pg xii]“Sham” Movement Affected the K. K. K.—A Resolution of sine die Adjournment—K. K. K. Horrors on the Increase—Rotten-Egg Battalions—Citizens sometimes took the Execution of the Law into their Own Hands—A Case in Point 154
Experiments in Metaphysics—An Anecdote Dealing with the Characteristics of some People—Another—Peculiarities of the Caucasian—Ditto of the African—An “Awakening” among the Children of the New Abrahamic Covenant—“Brudder Jones’s Preechin’”—What it Wrought—The Pale-Faced Settlers in Distress—An “Artifice” of Retrenchment—Eloquent Discourse—Nineteenthly, and what followed—K. K. K. redivivus—“Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys are Marching, etc.”—A Break for Tall Timber 161
Late Announcement of the Earl of Beaconsfield before an Assembly of Englishmen—The Secret Societies of Europe—True Status with Regard to Current Politics—Combining the Offices of Regulator and Vigilante with that of Politician—Its Generical Belongings—Few Friends Unconnected with its Patronage—Negative Issue which it Introduced into the Great Campaign—Occupying a Voice in Southern Counsels—Unprincipled Plagiaries—Dangerous Sentimentalism Awakened at the North 172
A Popular Fallacy—Karl Konstant Kain, Esq.—Awaiting Events—An Intricate Subject for the Hospitals and Doctors—Getting Even with the Latter—Yellow Jack on a Raid—K. K. K., Esq. in his Prison Cell—Promoted to the Hospital—An Uncommon Defiance—K. Konstant Kain struggles back to Shore—“Do not Weep”—A Critical Moment—A New Cast and entire Change of Scenery—“Gruel” did it—Waited upon by a Deputation of Citizens—“Young Man, Go West”—The New Orleans Pest-House—Konfounded, Krooked Konundrum 180
Conclusion 189



[Pg 13]





Terms of Southern Surrender in the War of the Rebellion—Candor of Paroled Troops—“Lee’s Ragamuffins”—Generals Grant’s and Sherman’s Proposed Amnesty—The “Rump Congress” and Disfranchisement—What the Latter meant—Issues which the War Settled—How these were Revived by the Pending Congress—Anarchy in the South—The Loyal League.


The treaty concluded between the conquered and conquering States at the close of the late civil war, while arranging all external differences and disarming physical resistance, yet did not provide for certain contingencies arising from the ethics of the dispute, which were destined to exert a powerful influence over the destinies of the American people. Undoubtedly the Southern troops surrendered their standards, and accepted the conqueror’s amnesty in good faith, and we can but believe that their allegiance to the restored Union—which had been promptly tendered—would have been crowned with this condition but for the disposition[Pg 14] manifested by the civil power to review the pledges of its ambassadors in the field, and interpose supplementary conditions that could have no other beneficial effect than might be supposed to result, in a general way, from the humiliation of the conquered, and which would naturally tend to a revival of the casus belli. Having returned to their homes, and been soothed into accord with their new surroundings by those domestic Penates which had escaped the dispensation of fire and sword, through which they had mutually passed, “Lee’s ragamuffins,” as they had been styled by the Jenkinses of the period, set resolutely to work to restore their fallen fortunes, and, at the same time, so amend the shattered social fabric as that their personal and property rights might have that organized protection which cannot always be assured in times of civil disturbance. That they had forfeited any of those rights common to citizens of the republic under which they lived, by taking up arms in defence of a great national doctrine which, they were firmly persuaded, embodied its genius, if it did not represent its life, was a bombproof theory never seriously proposed until the glory of Appomattox had passed into history. To be denationalized, even in the sense which their severer critics ascribed as one of the conditions of their voluntary withdrawal from the national compact, carried with it discomforts of no mean significance; but to have the ill effects of their so-called treason visited upon them in the commonest concerns[Pg 15] of social being, and to be denied a part in the administration of those State governments for whose (supposed) integrity they had imperilled their lives, was the harshest of all possible reconstruction issues, and one which candid thinkers will regard a very faint reflection of that peace policy which the measure purported to represent.

Having determined to supersede the military policy enforced against the Southern States by the Union generals, with such felicitous results, the National Legislature, which, immediately upon the close of the war, had developed those diagnostics which caused fair-minded men of the period to look upon it as a distempered and revolutionary body (and achieved for it the title of the “Rump Congress”), resolved to replace it by another, altogether dissimilar in type, and contrasting strangely with it even in reference to the objects supposed to be had in view. The people of the South, contending for the doctrine of State sovereignty, and pledging their fortunes and their lives in defence of a supposed inalienable right, and the masses of the North as strenuously opposing this theory, and asserting that no emergency could arise whereby a member of the Union might reclaim its sovereignty from the national compact, presented an issue altogether susceptible of settlement. And, indeed, proceeding upon the obvious plan that where questions of great practical moment cannot be adjudicated otherwise, they must submit to the a fortiori of determined[Pg 16] majorities, the Southern people had already been driven to the amplest concessions regarding this measure; and whatever doubts they may have retained affecting the metaphysics of the discussion, were quite convinced that no other plan of adjustment would prove feasible.

But this inference (and it could be presented in no more tangible shape at the time) was far from satisfying that singular body of peace commissioners who, in the capacity of a national legislature, had assembled at Washington, not only to reaffirm the Southern doctrine, but to reconsider all the mighty results of Grant’s and Sherman’s campaigns, by disallowing the claims of the States lately in rebellion, and forcing them into that mourning period of so-called reconstruction and social and political anarchy, lately terminated. And thus, during the few years succeeding this new legislative departure, was presented the singular spectacle of States belonging to the National Union, who, by certain inherent properties of their being, could not forfeit, nor submit to forfeiture of the bond which established their identity therewith, acting independently of the national government in all things, save those non-essentials represented by taxation, the performance of military duty, etc.; and, at a later period, through the mysterious processes of pardons, congressional amnesties, and reconstruction, becoming (re)-invested with the only sovereignty which it was claimed they had ever possessed, that derived from the national compact.

[Pg 17]It is needless to say that there was no logical plan supporting that system of political manœuvres set in motion by the “Rump Congress,” whose earliest and latest results—the social and political emasculation of the white freeman, and the exaltation, in like respect, of the negro—provoked that state of anarchy in the South which alone could have rendered possible the great secret movement whose history we are to discuss in these pages.

It may be doubted whether the mere disfranchisement of the citizens of these States—though that condition were supposed to include every right and privilege dear to freemen—would have prevailed with this people to embrace those extreme measures which, soon after this event, they were driven to adopt with such unanimity. Loyal League supremacy, and the elevation of the black man to those political rights from which the Southern white citizen had been so recently thrust down, were far more conclusive factors of this result; and as such, in all narratives pretending to authenticity in delivering the political events of this period, will be more closely blended with the historical fact.



[Pg 18]



Situation Produced by the War—Discontented Partisans—The War District in the South—Words of a Northern Tourist—Widespread Destitution—The Curse of Slavery—How its sudden Abolition affected Community Wealth in the Southern States—The Political Situation even more Distressing—President Johnson—How the Work of Reconstruction was Inaugurated—The Law-making Power vested in Dummy Legislatures—Disfranchisement—Enfranchisement—The Color Issue which these Measures brought—A Singular Peace Policy—The War of the Conservatives in the South against Radicalism did not Revive Issues concluded by the late Civil Struggle, as the latter Boasted—Loyal Epithets—“Traitor,” “Guerilla,” “Southern Bandit,” etc.—Radical Rule in the South—The Shamelessness of the State Officials—The Uneducated Negro a Law-giver—Organization of the Loyal League—Carpet-Bag Administration thereof—Negro Draft—Some of its Peculiarities—The K. K. K. Movement as an Offset to the League.


When the clouds of passion and prejudice that brooded over the American States in the beginning of the latter half of the present century had dropped into the ocean of carnage, which during four years of severe revolutionary penance deluged all their borders, the return to those opposite tempers that beget in men a desire to renew the pledges of ancient covenants, and practise the ultima thule of[Pg 19] the Messianic idea, as delivered to us by the teachers of the Cross (forgiveness), was pronounced in degree; but while it exceeded the bare tendency looked for by men, as an outgrowth of the changed order of things, this moral rehabilitation of the body politic was effected by slow and painful stages.

Legions of men might have been found on either side of the sectional dead-line who cherished animosities which no philosophy born of the emotions could preach down, and before which even those ministers of red havoc that had invaded their homes were content to lower their weapons and view in forbearance a virtue.

It cannot be denied that while the widespread diffusion of the war burden and general travail had a tendency to equalize the feeling of the masses, and awaken a desire to return to the arts of peace, that in not uncommon instances inhumanities had been practised, and bloody reprisals sought, whose issues were wounds, for which the angel of peace brought no healing on his wings. Those more dignified passions which, in the outset of hostilities, had swayed the common breast in the rush to arms, where they had not become wholly extinct in a desire for reunion and renewed fraternity, as we have shown, had thus degenerated into the more human instincts of individual hate and revenge which, if sometimes less blameworthy, are far more implacable. Those who cherished the latter, however, were discounted in all their efforts to discourage[Pg 20] peace proposals by the feeling of distrust which their former actions had inspired, and, very soon after the Grant and Sherman dictation of peace terms, were left to those weaker subterfuges that might not hope for organized support. Many of this discontented class were domiciled on Southern soil, and it may be surmised that the genius of desolation that walked forth to meet them on their homeward passage from Appomattox and Gainesville inspired them with yet warmer resentments against the authors of the ignominious defeat under which they suffered.

The war district of the South, in the year of grace which brought about military amnesty, furnished one of those pictures of “crownless desolation” in the history of the world’s wars for which the art that decorated St. Peter’s with the images of purgatorial griefs could have possessed no adequate coloring, and in the attempt to portray which talents and scholarship less consummate than those of the divine Angelo must have issued in utter failure.

Cities destroyed; towns and villages laid waste; churches, schools, and public buildings rotting under the hospital plague, or, more fortunate, sleeping in the ashes of licensed incendiarism; wealthy plantations stripped of their agricultural paraphernalia, and relegated to the domain whence they had been lately redeemed by the good offices of the pioneer; and in room of these—landscape horrors; vast cemeteries, whose enforced tribute reached unto all kindreds; flame-scarred wastes memorializing a past[Pg 21] civilization, and extending from the Alleghany hills to the Georgian forests, and from the rivers to the sea; and brooding over all, sole relic of the conqueror’s power, that grim sentinelcy that looked down from dismantled ruins, and bleak, wind-shaken towers, upon the burial-place of the domestic arts.

A Northern tourist, who, soon after the close of hostilities, followed the trail of Sherman’s army half across the State of Georgia, and explored the Shenandoah Valley from the mountains at its source to the mountains at its foot, thus comments upon the scenes which beguiled the earlier and later moments of his journey: “And this lovely heritage, interspersed by hills and valleys, lakes and rivers, which but as yesterday, under the transforming hand of wealth and art combined, blossomed as the rose, and was lighted by the torch of America’s best civilization, now, and under these severe conditions—alas! that we should be driven to concede it—has sunk back into aboriginal unsightliness, and many portions thereof become the fitting abode of those monsters who, warned by an instinct of their nature, shun the haunts of human progress.”

But not only did this ghost of desolation hold its solemn rounds where wealth and its monumental insignia had erst been set up—more practical subjects were included in the fearful summing up of Federal conquest. The grain crop of four years had been consumed by the requirements of both armies, or ruthlessly committed to the flames through[Pg 22] the weak policy of military commanders; export products were sacrificed to confiscation needs; the agricultural districts were bereft of all labor aids, and stood tenantless and barren; nothing of practical value—not even the currency of the country, which had been demonetized months before the events of which we particularly write—greeted the impoverished inhabitant, who, standing in this presence, could scarce look back upon four years of bootless strife with regret unmingled with repining.

Slavery, which was undoubtedly a great evil, and is at this period conceded to have been such by its most clamorous apologists of ante bellum times, was nevertheless the great prop of community wealth in those States where it had been recognized by the government; and when (keeping in view the wide-spread destitution to which we have called attention) this pet institution was wrecked on the breakers of war, property affairs in all their borders reached an ebb beyond which, it would have seemed, they could not have been impelled by even a retribution born of that highest example of social evil—State treason. The male inhabitants of the South thus found themselves, at the close of the war, not only stripped of fortune, and all that pertained to a farmer’s inheritance, in the strictly agricultural communities to which they belonged, but without business capacity or business employ, had the former been supplied, and under the explicit disfavor of the government administration, in all its branches, with all that that implied.

[Pg 23]But while the physical straits to which the inhabitants of these States were driven almost exceeded belief, and challenged the sympathies of Christendom, they were met at this time with a yet more incorrigible evil, as we have already prevised, and one from which all attempts at escape seemed likely to plunge them into deeper miseries. Despite the generous policy inaugurated by the commanders of the Federal forces at the close of the civil conflict, and the good intentions of President Johnson, who had lately succeeded to the chief magistracy, the Congress of the United States at this time resolved upon a system of oppressions towards this people whose parallel is not to be found in modern history. This work was inaugurated by the passage of laws whose effect was a virtual dismemberment of the Union; all the efforts of these States to participate in the administration of the affairs of the general government being in pursuance thereof promptly discountenanced.

The movement which followed was in keeping therewith, and involved the withdrawal from the State governments of all their prerogatives as such. The civil power was vested in military satraps, who were commissioned to govern these provinces (for such they had become); or where the work of reconstructing or radicalizing the populace was more advanced, and it was necessary to preserve the form of the civil machine, State elections were improvised and conducted under the shadow of overawing[Pg 24] bayonets. The administration of justice was as summarily withdrawn from the legal functionaries, and given over to the Federal judicatories; or, what was far worse, placed in the hands of that most ignorant and despotic of all judiciary systems—military courts-martial. The law-making power, in its turn, was farmed out to dummy legislatures, which in their constitution, if not in the modus of their creation, were fac-similes of the great “rump” model which had made laws before them, and which, with its two-thirds majority and grand faculty for caucusing, was quite equal to all the devices of vetoing chief magistrates. The provision disfranchising the white men of the South had been contemporaneously declared, and was a part of that remarkable series which had empanoplied the negro race with all the political belongings of freedom.

The policy adopted by the Southern people in concerting resistance to the attacks of these modern Sejanus was the only one which could have succeeded, and, whatever else may be said regarding its morality, was just to themselves and disinterested mankind. They did not as a class, nor as individuals, conceive for a moment that their allegiance to the constitution and laws of their country was involved in the issues of the political war which they waged against Radicalism, though constantly reminded to that intent by their enemies, whose vocabulary of loyal epithets included such choice terms as “rebel,” “traitor,” “guerilla,” “Southern[Pg 25] bandit,” etc., and their integrity as citizens of the United States government they never ceased to insist upon, though their leaders foretold (and it has since been verified) that they would never succeed in establishing it until the movement, which they had inaugurated under so many difficulties, had accomplished the disestablishment of Radicalism at the national capitol.

The details of the political strife of those years are unimportant to our narrative; but the intelligent reader will perceive nothing occult in our purpose if we call attention to the long imprisonments to which many of the leaders of the Southern movement were subjected, the causeless sequestration of public and private properties, the numberless criminal prosecutions inaugurated in obedience to the whims of the “trooly loil,” the immense peculations chargeable to the State governments under Radical rule, and, lastly, the open robberies perpetrated under the name and with the sanction of the national legislature.

The governments in the South—State, district, and municipal—were negro governments, and if, in a few exceptions, this characterization was but partial, it was where the negro alternated with that pestiferous nomad—the carpet-bagger—in administering government for his late master.

Favored by this condition of public affairs, that remarkable secret order—the Loyal League—found its way into the Southern country, and was recommended to the negro by its politics, its dark lantern,[Pg 26] its facilities for the transaction of evil deeds, its avenues of escape afforded to the criminal, and, finally, its picturesque ceremonial, in which latter we can see no cause to dispute his taste or judgment. Some description of this singular body, which was, we believe, in a measure unknown to the great mass of the people of the Northern States, will not be deemed digressive at this point.

The order was subdivided into neighborhood organizations, and the heads of these were white men, while their vertebral force was recruited from the voting population above described; the chéf being as completely en rapport with his African brother as if he had been in truth his congener, and not simply dependent on him for patronage. Their locus in quo was nowhere and everywhere,—each city and town numbering its lodges and sub-lodges, and the diffusion thereof, throughout the agricultural districts, being in the somewhat extravagant ratio of one to the square mile. Their object was plunder. Their raids, directed against the white trash, contemplated everything that might be classed under the term commissaries, and ranged from the pig-pen to the poultry-yard, and from an ear of corn to a well-grown tuber. The “wee sma’ hours ayont the twal” was the festive time of night selected by the “loil” Moses and his dusky Israel for their exodus from forest or cavern, and, as they marched, the flesh-pots of the enemy disgorged their treasure, and animated nature held its breath. The goods and chattels of the [Pg 27]unreconstructed were, by act of Congress, their lawful prey, and if their foraging expeditions were conducted by moonlight, it was from constitutional considerations, and not through any well-grounded fear of resistance on the part of the intimidated whites.

The conclaves of the society were held nightly, and during the election campaigns, which progressed with tolerable regularity during eight months of the year, their en masse assemblages, or political rallies, occupied each alternate day of the week (the off day being devoted to itinerant duty among neighboring lodges). A weak solution of the Christian religion involved in the superstitions which they everywhere practised, aided them in their delusions concerning politics; and it is not exaggeration to state that the remaining four months of the year, under the above estimate, were devoted to their so-called revival meetings, which never failed to prove an insufferable burden to the pork- and vegetable-raising communities on which they were billeted. Their religion was, in truth, a part of their politics, and, on occasion, their ministry their most serviceable performers on the hustings.

These twin ideas of religion and politics having been introduced into the League, dominated the order so completely that its secular business was often arrested by a call to prayers, and more frequently than otherwise its order of business terminated by a twilight homily on the total cussedness[Pg 28] and final unreliability of all who anchored their faith to the Conservative idea in politics.

This new element, however, was far from benefiting the League; its morals grew infinitely worse; its larcenies became more frequent, and were prosecuted on a larger scale; it became more arrogant in its assumption of exclusive political right on unreconstructed territory; and, finally, assayed, through the medium of politics, to accomplish a social reform that would elevate the ignorant and semi-savage race which it represented to family equality with a class of beings who recognized no title to such a claim, but that of honorable ancestry and a spotless name. Beyond the attempt, however, which was warmly seconded by the national Congress, it is needless to say that nothing was ever done; and this extreme of rash legislation, undertaken, it would seem at this date, with no other object in view than the humiliation of a proud and constitutionally sensitive enemy, proved in the end the downfall of the League. From this moment, it was met by a counter movement, which, while possessing an organization in many respects superior to its own, covered its movements with the same veil of secrecy; caucused with the same regularity; foraged on its enemies with equal pertinacity and greed; and, finally, proceeded on its mission with the same fell purpose of triumphing by fair means or foul.



[Pg 29]



A Stirring Episode—Raising the Dead—Night-Hawk Abroad—Moving toward the Rendezvous—Grand Cyclops of Den No. 5—Forming the Magic Circle—Raiding Command—K. K. K. Drill—On the March—The Tout Ensemble of a Raiding Body—Weird Costuming—Arms and Accoutrements—Banners Inscribed with the K. K. K. Escutcheon—How the Scene Impressed Beholders.


In the month of November, A. D. 1866, in that portion of Western Tennessee known to dwellers as the Kentucky purchase, was enacted a scene which possessed romantic features entitling it to rank with the most exquisite fancies of Lamartine or Moore, and which, conscious of our inability to improve on its smallest detail, is presented to the reader without any fictitious adornment whatever.

In one of the apartments of the elegant mansion of Paul Thorburn, Esq., was assembled a company of pale watchers, who seemed thoroughly enlisted in behalf of their sick charge—an adult son of this gentleman, who for weeks had been prostrated by a virulent fever. It was plainly to be seen from the countenances of the good Samaritans who had been lingering near the couch—but now conversed apart,[Pg 30] or telegraphed signals to those who waited without—that all hope of the invalid’s recovery had vanished. Since the physician had passed from the apartment, whispering an attendant that he would return no more, the furniture of the room had been readjusted as if in obedience to the crisis in the affairs of its owners; that portion of the attendants who lingered had left their seats, and stood with folded arms and reclined heads, and the entire surroundings wore that abstracted and melancholy air which the reader cannot fail to have associated in fancy with such scenes.

The mother of the young man, pale and distraught from long weeping, had imprinted a kiss of heartbreaking farewell on the brow of her son, and removed her station to a neighboring window, whence she looked out upon the autumn landscape, and anon, as if seeking aid from afar, up at the pale empress of night, which, as it neared the meridian, projected great bars of golden light into the apartment. Her attitude had not changed for many minutes, as if the burden of grief that pressed inwardly upon her had taken away the power of motion, and now reclined against the casement—in form and feature immobile as sculptured Psyche, the tableau engrossed the attention of all who lingered in the vicinity. It may have been, too, that by means of that subtle, unperceivable line of communications, established between the emotions of beings and coming events which are to effect their[Pg 31] destinies, a signal had been telegraphed to the waiting company; for from the moment that they had been attracted towards this scene, their gaze had not once been removed from the form of the pale watcher, who suddenly, and as if wrought upon by the conditions of some outward wonder, developed a strong twitching of the facial muscles, and a dilatation of the pupils of the eye, which took in the landscape in the direction of the public road; then a nervousness of manner, betokening strong inward excitement; then an expansion of frame, whose lineaments, clear cut against the bas-relief of starlight, took on Titanic proportions; and instantly, as if in keeping with this strange pantomime, a hush, deep, all-pervading, filled the apartment, broken at length by an audible sigh from the couch of the invalid, followed by the frightened whisper, “Mother!” The reply, exploded in clear, ringing tones, was addressed to nobody, transfixed everybody, and started waves of sound that chased each other through every nook and angle of the large building—“Ku Klux!”

Six hours before the occurrence narrated here, a solitary horseman, mounted on a strong charger, might have been seen galloping along the highways, and thridding the bridle-paths of the voting precinct, since famous as Crow Hide township. Except a brace of pistols attached to the pommel of his saddle, and a something in his deportment which said as plainly as words, “stand out of the way,” there was nothing in the appearance of the cavalier to excite[Pg 32] special wonder; yet he succeeded so well in drawing upon himself the attention of mortality thereabouts that there was scarce an inhabitant in all Crow Hide who had not obtained a glimpse of himself, or his foam-flecked steed, as they flashed by, convoyed by clouds of dust, and imprecated by all the choristers of the farm-yard. The windows of habitations along the route were thrown open ere the apparition was fairly in sight; children at play were attracted by the strange cynosure, and hurried to obtain counsel of parents regarding it; horsemen, who were met under whip and spur, drew rein suddenly, and gazed anxiously after their strange counterpart, and anon, as if slow in making up their minds at the object which hid him from view; and in fact it was as clearly apparent, to even such of the hogs and chickens as were not frightened out of their wits, that a seven days’ wonder was being enacted in Crow Hide, as it was to more sentient creatures that the intangible something in the wind was not lawful subject for gossip. But if the majority were involved in doubt, and resolved to forget the incident as the most comfortable way of disposing of it, some there were who had cracked the conundrum, as was evident from their knowing deportment, their desire to avoid conversation on this topic, and finally, a disposition, plainly manifested, to convert the remainder of the afternoon into a holiday season.

As the twilight hour approached, stables were visited, trappings placed in readiness, and all those[Pg 33] indispensables of a scout’s toilet which might be performed in secrecy, executed. These preparations required brief time, and within an hour after night had fallen, steeds were being caparisoned, riders were mounting in hot haste and moving off by clandestine routes, the roads were filling with cavalcades of armed men, who seemed bent on some undertaking of “pith and moment;” and all these movements proceeding with such secrecy that even the watch-dogs of the vicinity, though vaguely notified of the affair, hesitated to interfere. Though moving by different routes, the various squadrons seemed tending to a common rendezvous (located at a point on the outskirts of the settlement), a fact which was made further apparent by the constant recruits which were being added to each, at points where the highway was intersected by country-roads and by-paths.

Approaching a dense forest, a sound resembling the hooting of an owl was heard, and, turning their horses’ heads in the direction whence it proceeded, the various companies, as yet unorganized, galloped forward. The Grand Cyclops of Den No. 5, Realm No. 3, accompanied by two of his faithful Night-Hawks (scouts of the body), had been on the ground in advance of his most punctual followers, and when the magic circle had been formed, and the password circulated, that officer presented himself in their midst, and by the use of a monosyllable, whose signification was understood by all, indicated that[Pg 34] the council-fires would not be lighted. Nothing was added, and no word spoken in reply; but so thoroughly had his full meaning been anticipated, that, within thirty minutes from the time this vague proclamation was issued, the weird brotherhood had dispersed, and, in full raiding costume and bearing aloft the banners of the order, were awaiting the commands of their trusted leader at a point two miles distant. The command moved in obedience to signs, and on this occasion, notified by a signal which must have been unintelligible to persons not versed in their strange drill, they wheeled rapidly into line, and instantly broke off from the right of the column in double files, the leaders pushing their horses to a gallop. No word was spoken as the command moved, and so completely had that ghostly spell that attended all the movements of the night-riders fallen upon the weird column, that even the horses trod warily, and beasts of the forest, startled by a glimpse of the dim procession, in vain consulted their organs of hearing for confirmatory sounds.

This body of raiders was that viewed from the sick chamber in the Thorburn mansion, described in the opening of this chapter; and we shall seek at this juncture to present to the reader a pen-picture of the formidable apparition as it passed along the highway, in full view, and within fifty paces of the groups of excited observers who looked out from its windows.

[Pg 35]Perhaps the feature of the pageant that would have been soonest apparent to the beholder was that representing its means of locomotion. The horses of the raid were powerful specimens of their race, and furnished with all those cap-a-pie appointments of K. K. K. regalia that were prominent in other departments of the expedition. Their bodies were completely enveloped in curtains of black cloth, worn under the saddle, and fastened at the neck to a corselet of the same material, the skirts of the former extending below their knees. Over their heads were masks, much of the same description as those worn by their riders, the material being of a dark color, and openings of suitable width having been contrived for the eyes and nostrils. Each steed was decorated also with a white plume, carried vertically above the head; and on the right and left of the housings of black cloth which enveloped their bodies, appeared the mystical letters K. K. K. Their trappings otherwise were army saddles of uniform pattern, and bridles supplied with the regulation bit, used in both armies at the close of the war.

The riders who bestrode these steeds were even more fantastically arrayed, and in the uniforms which they wore the same sacrifice of taste to picturesqueness was to be observed. The most prominent feature of their ghostly toilet was a long black robe, extending from the head to the feet, and decorated with innumerable tin buttons, an inch and a half in[Pg 36] diameter, which, under the influence of the starlight, shone like miniature moons. These robes were slit in front and rear, in order that they might not impede the movements of the rider, and were secured about the waist with scarfs of red silk. Over their faces they wore masks of some heavy material; the apertures for the eyes, nose, and mouth (which were ample for these purposes) being lined with red cloth. The head-dress was even more unique, and consisted of tall black caps, helmet-shaped, and provided with havelocks, resembling those used by the military in the late war. These were also decorated with the regulation button, and, when worn by officers of commissioned rank, supplemented by gorgeous plumes, white, red, or blue, according to rank. Each individual wore about his waist, in addition to the scarf to which we have called attention, a belt supporting two large army pistols, in scabbards; and on the flaps of the latter, embroidered in white characters, appeared the devices of the order—skull and cross-bones, and mystical K. K. K. The banners which were three in number, and carried at intervals in the procession, were of black silk, supporting in the centre two lions rampant on either side of the regulation skull and cross-bones, and on the right, left, and middle, at top, the mystic “K.”

Absolute stillness reigned over the weird column, no man being permitted to speak, even in a whisper, while the large bridle-bits, Texas spurs, and other appendages of a cavalry outfit likely to create alarm[Pg 37] in passing through quiet neighborhoods were carefully muffled. These details completed the unsightly pageant; and of the party who viewed it, as it moved, at funereal pace, through the moonlit precincts of the Thorburn estate, on the evening referred to, no individual ever forgot the scene, or was ever known to whisper an irreverent word concerning the objects, plans, or creed of the festive K. K. K.



[Pg 38]



Impressions after a K. K. K. Raid—Will Morning never come?—Conjectures Regarding the Subject in the Minds of those who should have been Prepared to Render an Opinion—What Superstitious People thought—The Mill Council—Boys and Colored Men—K. K. K. Arraigned on various Charges, and Acquitted for Want of Testimony—The Subject an Enigma—Man a Superstitious Animal—Education the Best and a Poor Antidote.


On the immemorial night referred to Crow Hide slept uneasily, for besides an indefinable something in the air, that brooded over men’s spirits like a spell from the other world, there were strange sounds from without creeping into hallways and banging at the doors of apartments; dogs were disconsolate, and whined incessantly; barn-yard echoes stole in on every breeze; and the moon-beams, falling into windows, and past the forms of sleepers, by their jerky, undecided motion, said, as plainly as words, “We are dissatisfied with ourselves.” Children tossed their arms about wildly as they slept, and when wakened, requested that their couches might be removed from the neighborhood of windows. A weird somnambulism took possession of the forms of men and women, leading them to doors[Pg 39] and windows, and sometimes rents in the wall, where they awoke to find themselves in listening attitudes, and to listen. Horses neighed, cattle lowed, and chains which might have been attached to watch-dogs, but were not, made the circuit of buildings, or were tossed against the boundaries of closes.

Would morning never come? Girls and timid boys revolved this query in their minds, building a faint hope thereon; but when they held their breaths and listened, they found, as their fears had informed them, that the clock pendulums, hammering away at the seconds, made no gap in time. Others, who felt no certain fear, but a boding uneasiness, thought to count the moments on their fingers while the gloom lasted; but so frequently were they interrupted by strange sounds from without, that they found themselves ever recurring to the point where they began. Even the chickens on their roosts were witch-ridden, and crowed lustily for day, when the half-grown moon had not yet passed meridian.

But “the longest lane has its turn,” at one or both ends, and when the shadows slept, and the gray messengers of morn tripped along the eastern hills, the enchanter’s wand was lifted from its hills and valleys, and Crow Hide, unclosing its eyes, gave thanks. Now a breath of peacefulness had come upon its affairs, and so radiant seemed the morning skies, and so innocent of evil the sweet landscapes lying bathed in dew-sparkles, that there were few who looked abroad without being inspired with[Pg 40] doubts of the existence of the latter, even as an abstraction. Even those who had been controlled by the most abject emotions while the terrors of the night lasted, when morning came, stood up boldly for a common sense solution of the mystery. Those who had all their lives been troubled with superstitious fears, and were in danger of becoming imbued with the error in its grosser forms, by the aid of such experiences as that through which they had recently passed, admitted the possibility of this. If, therefore, it did not come as a positive revelation, it was a relief to all to be informed, as they were at an early hour, that the initials of the monster haunt who during the night had managed to reflect as many individualities as there were farm-houses in the district were K. K. K. But though this was accepted as a fact by all, seeing that no other theory was advanced, yet the question remained, did it furnish a satisfactory solution of the mystery, or, indeed, any solution whatever? According to the neighborhood version, the Ku-Klux themselves were about as intangible examples of ghostliness as were ever wrapped in loose-fitting bombazine; and if so, wherein was gossip made the wiser? The very difficulty which the most scholarly person would experience in seeking out the words indexed by the famous K(u) K(lu) K(lan), was enough to evince to the world that there was something radically wrong with its genealogy.

On the morning in question, the chore emissaries (boys and negroes) of the farms for miles around[Pg 41] had assembled at the neighborhood mill, awaiting their turns of grinding, and when rumor brought the subject into the mill council, the conflict of opinion, involving original arguments advanced and the weight of authorities adduced, became truly Brobdignagian. The night raiders had been seen by some of the party, and of this number all had crossed the boundaries of persuasion, and were absolutely convinced regarding some physical (if the term may be used) peculiarity of the ghostly phalanx.

An urchin of twelve summers, who confessed to sub rosa practices while the paternal premises were being raided, but nevertheless claimed to get one eye squarely on them as they rounded a hill, one and three-quarters of a mile distant, was convinced that the heads of the rear files (front not visible) extended above the tops of the trees. This statement was delivered with much earnestness of manner, and at its conclusion all the saints and martyrs in the calendar were invited to give it their indorsement.

Peter Burleson, aged fifteen, who saw the party ride out of the village cemetery (a whim of the raiders, inducing the belief that they had undergone a partial hibernation amid these surroundings), was able to state something as to its numbers in keeping with the above. According to this witness, the weird force was composed of two battalions and a squadron, or about two thousand men and horses, exclusive of a section of artillery, and an indefinite[Pg 42] number of pack-mules. The horses composing the procession were deep black in color, emitted columns of smoke and flame from their nostrils (vide pictorial papers), and varied in height from a lamppost to a telegraph pole. Of the raiders themselves he would say nothing (under the impression, doubtless, that the theme had been exhausted); but as to the “rig” they wore, he was morally certain that an inverted churn constituted the head-dress, a wagon sheet of mammoth pattern the shoulder-garb, and army canteens (probably bisected and thus made to do double duty) the button ornaments.

Observing something at this point in the countenances of his auditors which he did not quite like, he availed himself of their knowledge of dictionary superlatives in an exhortation of some length, and concluded by submitting as his wish that he be “hung, drawn, and quartered,” and such further disposition made of his remains as the skeptics of the crowd might propose.

It is really a subject of regret with the writer to be compelled to state that, notwithstanding the remarkable strength of emphasis employed by this young man, the beautiful consistency of his narrative (its parts we mean), and his apparent desire to anticipate and provide against attacks of this character, that his evidence was discredited in some leading points, if not altogether overthrown, by the testimony of the witness who followed. This was Jerry Stubbs, a mill-boy oracle, and a youth whose antecedents[Pg 43] were otherwise good. His first onset was directed against the figures of his predecessor, which were given a very crooked appearance indeed, when placed against the fact that the entire raid—artillery, baggage-wagons, horse, foot, and buttons—had been self-immured in the paternal horse-lot (80 x 100 feet) of the said Stubbs, for the space of from one to twenty minutes, or considerably more, or a great deal less—could not be exact as to time. He had likewise made a critical examination into the equestrian belongings of the raid, and the horses were not black, but white; and finally, he felt morally assured, despite the confident utterances of those who had preceded him, that the raiders were not mounted, but rode in covered ambulances.

When the witness had concluded, there was a general clamor of dissent; a dozen voices were heard attempting to speak at once; and when, by courtesy of the hearers, each had been allotted a chance at the salient features of his narrative, perhaps no one was better convinced than J. S. himself that he had seen none of the occurrences which he had attempted to relate.

Oliver (colored), the miller, was, perhaps, a more reliable witness than any of those who had preceded him, not simply because he had greater experience of men and things, but his opportunities of informing himself on the occasion referred to had been likewise superior. He had not only seen the raiders, but had actually been interviewed by them. He[Pg 44] slept in the mill, and during the night had been aroused from his sleep could not tell how, nor exactly when, but did not doubt that the agency was supernatural. Proceeding to the door, he saw what he supposed to be “sperrits,” mounted on what he thought resembled horses, though he afterwards satisfied himself of the fallacy of the latter conclusion. He could not take observations with any degree of system, however, as he was kept busy carrying water from the tank to the “thirsty sperrits,” who had made this call, it thus seems, with a selfish end in view. One of the party, after having replenished his boilers to the tune of a bucketful, loosened his belt and called for more, remarking aside to him, and apparently in extenuation of the act, that it was the first he had quaffed since being condemned to death by fate and the enemy’s bullets at Shiloh.

He confessed to having become somewhat alarmed at this; but when, a moment later, another individual of the party, mistaking him for the mill owner, offered sympathies in view of the fact, as he alleged, that the party had drank the creek in two, at a point a few miles nearer its source, his courage failed him, and here his narrative suddenly breaks off.

This witness was sharply cross-questioned by the attorneys, who had by this time volunteered on both sides of the controversy, but could not be prevailed on to amend or otherwise detract from the material allegations set forth in his examination. Neither would he add anything thereto—a healthy sign[Pg 45] which the defence did not fail to appropriate and magnify. One other witness remained to be examined, and while his testimony possessed that trait which shone so conspicuously in the allegations of all those who had preceded him, viz., a tendency to found his own airy fabric on the spot he had rendered untenable for that of his predecessor, it was in the main reliable; and if, as was urged against it, its facts were produced at a late hour, it was altogether attributable to the witness’s modesty, and the fact—which was now elicited for the first time—that, notwithstanding he had been standing on his head (metaphorically) for the opportunity, and his well-known dexterity in wielding syntactical figures of speech, he had been unable to explode his items fast enough to anticipate those who had occupied the time.

This boy, Dick Shuttail (white), age not known to self or parents, had obtained a view of the Kluxes from the airy depths of the family rag-box, situated in the rear garret, and he was, therefore, able to speak with emphasis on certain points which had been barely touched upon by less-favored observers. He testified that the raiders were mounted on elephants or camels; could not distinguish certainly, but his bias led him to say the former, and that these beasts were branded on the side with three corn-droppers (K. K. K.), or, more probably (as suggested by a hearer), one corn-dropper three times. The raiders were veritable spooks, as, in the place where eyes, mouth, and nose should have been[Pg 46] roundly visible, the crows had supped, and instead of hair, they were driven to a subterfuge which closely resembled an inferior article of mosquito bar, worn, however, a la pompadour. Their saddle-bags, loaded, most probably, with munitions of war, were borne in front of them, and their uniforms were ornamented not with buttons, but spangles of bright hue and extraordinary size.

He was going on to relate that the horses they rode were neither black nor white, but br——, when he was interrupted by hisses from his audience,—a circumstance which either aided memory, or sharpened his introspective organs, for almost immediately afterwards he hung his head, and, covering by this movement a very sour expression of countenance, retired from view.

To say, notwithstanding, the beautiful start he made, and the high dramatic turn he was giving the events of his narrative up to the fatal moment of collapse, that this witness’s testimony went absolutely for nothing, and that his explanation, tendered at some length and supported by all those texts of mill-boy verity which had been successfully adduced by his rivals respectively, was rejected by an indignant auditory, is to anticipate the reader.

When, at length, the mill-wheel had performed its last revolution, and the mill boys, astride their sacks of flour, dispersed to their homes, it was with the solemn conviction that some great mystery had dawned upon their young lives, to whose after[Pg 47] developments they must look for that rational sequel which had thus far been denied them. Hundreds there were in this and other localities of the South who, while they rejected the idea of a Ku-Klux phantom, were equally slow in accepting the current theories which dissociated them and their plans from all preternatural agencies.

In every man’s breast there is more or less of that mysterious element which, under proper conditions of time and place, sees ghosts in shadows, and hears them in the faintest echo. These attributes (if the term be admissible) implanted in the breast of the child at its birth, though weeded with ever so careful a hand during the years of training, still retain some tendril hold, which no process of metaphysics can uproot, and which in the future years send out fruit-bearing branches that make and unmake human destiny. Of the majority of human kind, it may be said that their lives and possible achievements are covered under a great incubus of superstitious thought and feeling. And if, at some late period of existence they take the tide at a favorable turn and struggle up into the pure surroundings of an honest life, the effort frequently comes too late, for they see in this change only some postponed dispensation of luck in their favor, and so are worse bondmen than before.

Some men there are who will even confess to you that they are governed by these strange impulses in what they term the “trifling details of life,” but as[Pg 48] men who admit “trifling details” into their lives rarely attain to a higher life than is constituted by the sum of these, their admission covers a greater scope than they probably intended. Others, equally candid, adopt a different mode of imparting the same confidence, and naively tell you that in “the more important concerns of life” they are indebted for guidance to an unseen agency. But as these men wholly mistake the meaning of the adjective they use, adjusting it to such retail considerations as flow from their daily business or dwell at the bottom of their post-prandial cup, we must take their confession to include both froth and sediment, the top and bottom of so many human lives.

After having devoted much thought to this subject, and made many empirical journeys along the route which leads to men’s confidences, without being suspected of any such deep-laid treason as that which we here confess in the light of a laudable undertaking, it is our candid opinion that if the unsuperstitious of earth were doomed to fall by the knife of some avenging Elijah, the bodies of the slain would no more constitute a Waterloo than fifty swallows would make a tolerable month of July. So that when we say this Ku-Klux breeze blew consternation to many timid hearts, both young and old, great and small, in Crow Hide, we only state in a small way what might have been true, under slightly amended conditions, of the best educated of the oi polloi of the largest cities of the greatest republics.



[Pg 49]



A Train which brought Welcome Passengers—Caucusing in the Open Air a Dangerous Proceeding—Correct Surmises—An Old Church, Bequeathed from Generation to Generation, and Liable to many Uses—Brothers and Sisters all—The L. L. in full Bloom—Storm succeeded by a Calm—Weird Visitors—What they left behind them—Dummy Constructed of Cow-bones, and Habited in full Ku-Klux Regalia—Height, Ten Feet—Sudden Panic—The Rally—Still in Doubt—The Chairman’s Stratagem—How it didn’t Work—Despondent Leaguers taught to Act for Themselves—Finale.


On the day preceding the evening to which the fates referred the K. K. K. demonstration, as aforesaid, a crowd of sable politicians might have been seen lounging in the neighborhood of the village depot; and a few moments later, as the train drew up, edging their way through the crowd to the vicinity of two small dark objects, which, though partially concealed by the crowd, undoubtedly constituted a part of it, as they were seen to wave above the heads of the tallest what could hardly have been mistaken for anything less startlingly suggestive than two glazed carpet-bags.

When the tumult subsided, and the crowd, after[Pg 50] hovering for an instant in the neighborhood of this pantomime, melted away as depot assemblages are wont to do, it was plainly to be seen that the sable electors had been in search of the two men with the glazed carpet-bags, and the two men with the glazed carpet-bags in search of the sable electors; for these elements of the crowd had now amalgamated (so to speak) in a loving embrace.

The ceremony of greeting, as witnessed from a distance by the villagers, extended to a thousand little personal liberties, which white men would no more tolerate from each other than would the more dignified of the beasts of the forest. And when its honey had been extracted by the parties respectively, they were seen to place their upper extremities near together in consultation. Some observation of amazing pithiness ran the gauntlet of woolly crowns; and immediately afterwards a burly politician withdrew from the caucus, followed by all eyes, and at a point not far distant drew a diagram on the platform with his cane. Completing the demonstration, and using, the same weapon, he smote upon the echoing timbers with loud emphasis, and immediately the olfactory charm was renewed around the quadrilateral wonder, which, having been viewed by the crowd with the air of savants, became at once the subject of animated discussion; and then, as suddenly, of perfect agreement and harmonious handshaking.

This seemed a favorable moment for dispersion;[Pg 51] and, indeed, the latter movement must have had partial reference thereto, for instantly the crowd developed as many moral agents as it had possessed caucusing elements, who, adopting their several courses, looked neither to the right nor left, but pushed for the interior with all commendable speed.

This cloud, “no bigger than a man’s hand,” but nevertheless boding a political shower of no mean consequence to dwellers thereabouts had been viewed, as we have anticipated, by a number of persons, who, in their anxiety to conceal impressions, did not linger in the vicinity after being informed, by a glance, of its ominous character. The horseman whom we have seen in another chapter speeding through the neighborhood on courier duty, took his cue from a friendly sun-glint shot from the glazed surface of one of the carpet-bags; and, indeed, all the details of preparation culminating in the forest meeting of the weird brotherhood, which we have described, and those events connected therewith, which will demand our attention as we proceed, were suspended on one of those mere accidents of discovery which frequently have so much to do with the fate of communities in times of political disquiet.

In a retired forest grove, distant from any settlement, was a dismantled church building, which had been resigned by the white settlers of Crow Hide to the slave population of the township in ante bellum times, and the title to which, in obedience to a policy of non-interference on the part of lawful[Pg 52] claimants, had survived to their descendants in the golden era of freedom. This building performed innumerable offices for the foundlings of emancipation in those parts—marriages, funerals, revival meetings, society gatherings, etc., occupying it in turn, and even once in a while the dark-lantern fiend invading its precincts. From its sacred desk, battered with age and apostolic blows, and warped by the sunbeams of three generations, the venerable “parson” was wont to deliver castigations to the erring of his people on holy days, and anon, to receive from the High Tycoon of the League—enthroned on the same heights—the most bitter denunciations of his political shortcomings. Here, the firstlings of the flock were dedicated to the higher life of Christian rectitude in the holy rite of baptism. And here, too, the candidate for political preferment was made to feel the responsibilities of the step by being dipped seven times in the “witches’ cauldron” ere he was referred for those special services which constitute the “heated gridiron,” the most beautifully suggestive of the ritualistic conditions of League membership. Here sisters and brothers, giving way to their better instincts, harmonized on meeting days; and here, brothers and sisters, with a broader display of those principles which govern human nature—if with less consistency—refused to harmonize on League days. Here, shouting and singing constituted the mercurial forces “jurin de roasen ’ere and kant meetin’”[Pg 53] solstice, and here (in hoc signo) broken heads and scattered fragments of benches marked the political temperature, when the League machine held right on its course, over those sensitive members of the brotherhood, which it might not be proper to denominate “sore tails” without this circumlocution.

It was on this spot, and amid these venerable surroundings, contemporaneously with the Ku-Klux demonstration to which attention has been directed, that a scene was enacted which fills an excruciating passage in our narrative, and which we have only been debarred from presenting to the reader by the obtrusion of details which could not be excerpted from the latter without injuring its consistency.

To say that the L. L. was in full bloom, and moving unflinchingly forward in the discharge of the numerous obligations which devolved upon it as a member of society, would be to depose facts that will be brought nearer to the comprehension of the reader, if we explain that three of its ablest-(bodied) speakers were coquetting for the favors of the chair, and denouncing each other in the most incendiary language—despite the remonstrance of the chair—in the same breath; that the speaker was hammering on his desk with a vehemence born of despair, and occasionally interlarding this performance with scowls that would have made his fortune in the lion-taming business; that the house had risen to its feet for the third time in a solid vote of remonstrance; and, finally, that two other members had felt themselves[Pg 54] called upon to explain to the rebellious trio aforesaid the treasonable quality of their offence, the positive madness of their course, and, when called to order by the speaker, had flown in the face of that functionary with some very defiant language regarding their rights as citizens of a free country.

Maddened by a sense of the cold-blooded contempt aimed at him through this repeated disregard of his most cherished prerogative, the speaker (a white man) arose to his feet, and was in the act of aiming an inkstand at the pyramid of wool which served one of the malefactors the double purpose of a crown of glory and emblem of loyalty, when, lo! there was a crash, a mighty upheaval of moral forces, so to speak, a thunderous resurge of the waves of faction, and presto! the scene changes.

Now the echoes have gone to rest, and a palpable hush reigns over the assembly. Instead of those savage principles—war and rebellion—how emphatic the terms of contrast; meek-eyed peace sits enthroned on every brow. What means that half-suppressed sigh, that groan smothered in parturition? But hold! “’Sdeath” A creeping dread moves along the serried benches, laying its hand on the pulse-beat, invading the pants’ legs, and nestling close to the seat of life of the tableaux vivantes who await destiny (horrible reflection) on the ragged edge of “unfinished business.” Where late stood those mentors of the scene—shaken by the impulse of “thoughts that breathe,” and[Pg 55] bandying hot invectives with unsparing wrath—how changed, alas! the forms of cringing suppliants whose counterparts might have been spaded from the Theban catacombs any day for a thousand years. At yonder extremity of the building, surrounded by the insignia of more than despotic rule, where towered the “thunderer of the scene,” transfixed in articulo jactanti, lo! an Ajax defying the lightning.

And now what weird forms from the “night’s Plutonian shore” are those which, joined in close procession, invade the folding doors, and with thunderous steps—matched in echo—storm down the quaking aisles? Doomed spirits, or ministers of heaven’s delayed vengeance, it matters little; and ’neath such a materialized spell from the echoless lands, who could doubt, or doubting, live? On they come, looking neither to the right nor left, neither mending their gait nor halting, until they have plunged in medias res, when, with a scarcely perceptible pause—those ponderous boot-heels, describing a half circle, smite the puncheon floor—every limb is adjusted to the most graceful of company manœuvres; and turning on their march, they move with the same echoing tread down the aisles, out at the folding-doors and into the darkness—away—away.

But stop, ha! that sigh of relief springing to a hundred throats was premature—the fiend hath but dismissed his attendants, himself remains. Standing ten feet in his boots, and clad in full Ku-Klux regalia (described in a previous chapter), an embodiment[Pg 56] of rank ghostliness, he now occupied the centre of the building, and if anything was wanting to that “ghastly, grim, ungainly” ideal, which those who placed it there were seeking to embody, it was supplied in the most threatening of tragic postures, and a gesture whose very fixedness was not its least eloquent feature. This latter described a horizontal line from the shoulder to the finger-tips, and, horribile dictu, the index-finger was pointed squarely at the anatomy of the august personage who was—had been, we should say—presiding over the deliberations of the body. For about twenty seconds that individual had been viewing the landscape from the de mortuis standpoint; but being recalled to animation by the excessive personality of this proceeding, he executed three handslings and a somersault, and was at rest for the time being in a pile of superannuated furniture at the far end of the hall. Then there was a rush from the “third person” element, who could but feel that the grammatical situation was getting momentarily worse. Benches and desks were overturned; stoves and stove furniture came tumbling about their heads; a pillar, swept from its moorings by the human wave, fell with a boom like cannon at sea, and, hark! louder still, and rising above the din, a human voice hoarsely bawling, “Take him out!”

Who is there that has not witnessed examples of fell panic converted into a gallant defence, or brave onset, by the most seemingly trivial [Pg 57]occurrence? It was so on the present occasion. A section of stove-pipe being projected against the uplifted arm of the ghostly personage,—who had, perhaps, contributed more than any other being to the tumult by which he was surrounded,—that member fell to the floor with a crash, and this movement having been witnessed by one of the refugees, his emotions took that form of expression which perhaps was best adapted to arrest the panic, if not to restore confidence.

The flying Leaguers turning their heads to discover the author of this seeming sacrilege, beheld, instead, the accident which inspired it, and instantly faced about with changed resolution. The individual who first sounded the alarm, though, evidently, still frightened by the tones of his voice, repeated it in the same words; and this second reminder was followed by a feeble rally, directed at the rear of the speaker’s body. While this manœuvre was in course of evolution, a voice from the rear files shouted, “Forward!” but the effect of the command was so visible in widening the distance between the assaulting column and the object of attack, that a dead silence fell on the assembly, and, for the space of several minutes, each was busy for himself examining the salient points of the enemy’s position.

The gallant chairman having recovered his legs by this time, and seeing, by the spasmodic movement in the crowd, answering to that muscular feat, that something was expected of him, proceeded [Pg 58]instantly to measures. Wearing a severe countenance, he called the house to order, and, looking around upon the assembly, announced a committee of five (greatly to the relief of the remaining threescore), whose duty it should be to rid the camp of the fell intruder. Why this had not been thought of before is one of the unsolved conundrums, and why it ever was thought of, the committee aforesaid are not yet prepared with a reply. Neither is there any good reason for the state of things which immediately followed, as a dead calm fell upon the assembly, which probably would not have been disturbed until this moment, if another of those fortunate occurrences, which seemed made to order for the occasion, had not reached the tide of League affairs at its swell.

Whether the machine was an eight-day affair, and had accomplished the moments of its destiny, or simply a piece of mechanism poorly planned, we are quite unable to say. But at the moment when the Quaker period of the aforesaid conference had reached its most eloquent passage, a cracking sound was heard in the vicinity of his ghostship, followed by a rattling explosion, whose fussiness could hardly be resembled to anything but an avalanche of dry bones hurled from some upper region; and, instantly, in obedience to this warning, a desire to forsake present surroundings for some less melancholy region took the form of an inspiration in the breast of each “politishun.” In what way this manœuvre would have been executed, if the chairman had [Pg 59]persisted in the high-tragedy rôle he had assigned himself, by remaining to announce some plan of retreat, is another mystery connected with this event, with which we are not concerned beyond the bare announcement. But it is certain that that individual, taking time by the forelock, had made a successful advance on the rear window, carrying the sash with him, and that his followers were engaged in a very animated game of leap-frog, directed towards similar advantages at other angles of the building. In less time than is consumed by a record of the event, the doors were blocked with a mass of rolling, tumbling, somersaulting Leaguers. The windows had their full quota of struggling, sweating passengers. A large crack in the wall was in labor with three burly forms, and yet a score or more were unaccommodated, and, with heads ducked, were hurling themselves endwise against the retreating columns, with an energy which evinced the strong determination of each to avoid the fate of that hindmost unfortunate, whom Satan, from time immemorial, has exacted for toll.

But, though some confusion waited upon this exodus from the neighborhood of the big haunt, it was conducted with greater dispatch than had characterized any similar movement in the history of the rickety old building, and soon the boss straggler, having eluded the individual on two sticks by pigeon-winging it through a hole in the roof, rolled upon the green sward beneath with a grunt of overpowering relief.

[Pg 60]When the building was completely deserted, and the swallows, half in doubt, had returned to their perch under its eaves, a sound, which could scarcely have been mistaken for aught but the hooting of an owl, broke the stillness of the neighboring forest, and was quickly replied to at the distance of perhaps a furlong in the opposite direction. The echoes awakened by these signals were still busy at hide-and-seek with the shadows in the old building, when two forms, clad in long robes and wearing high-peaked caps, crossed the plateau to its threshold, and giving way to an involuntary chuckle as they gazed first upon the wrecked surroundings, passed to its inner precincts. Perhaps a full minute elapsed before they reappeared at the entrance way, and, being joined here by a companion with two led horses, they placed their bags of cow-bones on the latter, and, mounting, galloped swiftly into the darkness.



[Pg 61]



Contrasted Views of the Organization inspired by its Dealings with the Public—Its Political Bearing—Its Objects not deemed Harmful to Society—New England Transcendentalists, and the Ponderous Science which they put before the World under the Title of “Negropholism”—The Colored Man in the South—Kindly Feeling for the Race cherished by Native Southerners—Households Presided over by Colored Matrons—Superstitious Tendencies of Cuffey—One of the Conditions of his Tropical Nativity—Heathenish Lapses—His Ideas about “Ghosts,” and the Realm which they Inhabit—Interviewing the former—Spook Kinsfolk—He holds them in the highest Veneration—The ideal “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”—Wherein it was a Failure—The “Infantile Sex” and their Greed for Ghost-lore—Fighting their way through Legions of Shadowy Foes to their “Curtained Rest”—Young Professors of the Spiritual Science—Painful Reminiscences—Use to which the Aged Patriarch, or Beldam, as the Case might be, put their Prerogative—Talent for relating Ghost Stories—The Young White Men of the South trained up in this School—Insight into Negro Character obtained therefrom—K. K. K. Affectation of the Supernatural based upon the latter.


The two preceding chapters may occur to those who were not informed of the nature and degree of the excitement which waited upon the movements of these secret organizations in obscure and uninformed neighborhoods, and among the negroes in various localities, as partaking of the hypercritical in narrative. But those who, by reason of residence[Pg 62] or other accident, were made conversant with such scenes almost every week in the year, and who were not unfrequently drawn away from the contemplation of social misdemeanors or crimes of the most serious import to split their sides over some ludicrous faux pas, or intended farce, of the perpetrators, will not be slow to discover their basis of fact, nor accord to the author that honesty of purpose to which he lays claim in the conduct of these pages. It was stated in a previous chapter that the secret organization known as the Ku Klux Klan was a political movement intended to offset what was known as the Loyal League, an order whose draft was taken from the negro population, but which was controlled by, and in the interest of, a class of political harpies known as carpet-baggers. The latter element, by means of this political engine, dominated the politics of the South for a period of more than five years, and while its power may not have been broken by the influences set in motion by the counter movement, and though the latter must be condemned on general principles, yet among the people where it had its origin, and stripped of the analogies which the imaginations of fault-finders would be apt to supply, its objects were not deemed harmful to society. As to its wisdom, there can be no doubt that it was aimed at the most salient of the enemy’s weak points.

In treating this proposition, we shall seek to avoid that ponderous science which that branch of [Pg 63]transcendentalists who acknowledge Mr. Wendell Phillips as their leader put before the world under the title of Negropholism, and deal with the article as we find it—so much on the greasy surface of the native that the temptation of the carpet-bagger to use it for base ends must be regarded an uncommon one.

[The people of the South, young and old, who were brought up under that social regimen which embodied the negro as a prominent and necessary feature, will appreciate the feelings of the writer when he states that he has not, and never can have, any feeling of enmity towards this race. Some of the tenderest passages in his heart history he is glad to refer to that period when negroes were not only admitted en famille among the whites, but in innumerable instances given absolute control over the household affairs of their masters. He numbers among his cultured acquaintance scores of young men and maidens who never knew any other parentage, and who can never admit a dearer relation than their adopted paternity. The negroes, if vicious and mean, owe it to that cruel divorcement from the Southern social plan effected by their political leaders, and to the life of vagabondage to which they are doomed under the new system; they are not more so by nature than other men. If, therefore, the writer is tempted to speak of their weaknesses, it is in no irreverential sense, and with a laudable object in view, to which this policy will be seen to be strictly antecedent.]

[Pg 64]That the negro is by nature grossly superstitious, no one who has had even tolerable means of information will deny. In another chapter we have prevised something on general principles concerning the superstition of mankind, but the comparison to be drawn between the negro and all other branches of the Adamic tree, as to this particular fruitage, is so unequal, that we shall ask the reader to accept the former as a very modified presentation of a theory that was made to order for the crown of Cuffey. And however much this may be untrue with regard to other animals, this faculty of the individual under discussion has nothing whatever to do with his æsthetical being. It does not in any sense enlist that high poetic principle which is one of the conditions of his tropical nativity. Left to himself, with all the appliances of civilization and the encouragement of its examples about him, his superstition will subject him, in the short space of a twelvemonth, to heathenish lapses which the weak-headed Mongolian, under the same outward conditions, has resisted for a period of six thousand years. Voudooism is, perhaps, the weakest form of heathen worship which this moral condition has developed, and, despite the few occasions admitted by the structure of our laws, it is strictly a native product. Those who contend that it is an African transplant, or borrowed from the congeners of the race on those shores, are surely not guided by convictions derived from an examination into its [Pg 65]philosophy. But it is a very radical form of savagism in worship, including human sacrifices among its rites, and as we have anticipated that it had its birth in the rice- and cotton-fields of the South, further remark on this division of the argument is deemed unnecessary.

In contrast with other races of beings, the world of shadows is to the imagination of the black man a thing of gloom. The existences who people this realm are hobgoblins, and the standard of the latter a mild abridgment of the arch-fiend. He, nevertheless, holds them in the highest veneration, and is prepared to accept their revelations concerning himself, and indeed all other subjects of mundane philosophy, as oracular. He even holds familiar converse with them—when an interview can be contrived without endangering those barriers of etiquette which preserve to either a fair start in a foot-race—and calculates with tolerable accuracy that the churchyard spawn who affect this characterization are counterfeits. On the latter subject he has doubts, however, which on occasion might be turned to his disadvantage.

Whether it is affectation with him, or a kind of prescience with which he is gifted in view of his moral structure, we do not pretend to decide; but he boasts a knowledge of the private affairs of his spook kinsfolk (they are invariably uncles, aunts, grand relations, etc.) which would be considered sacrilege in another being. If he deems you worthy[Pg 66] of such confidence, he will describe to you the ghostly raiment they wear, diversified in other particulars, but always sombre-hued, and in no recorded instance cut bias. He is rarely at fault in assigning the period of antiquity from which they date, and if opportunity served, could lead you to the exact spot where their archæological remains “smell sweet.” He can give, with that emphasis of detail which grows out of perfect familiarity with his subject, their occupations—ranging from yacht-building, horse-culture, and other of the fine arts, all the way down to book-making. And finally, if pressed for information, can state some astonishing facts with regard to their phrenological development. With him these essences are always evil spirits, and though he views them in the constant performance of deeds that would quickly promote them to the hangman’s offices if enterprised in the flesh, yet his philosophy so confounds the means and extremes relating to the transaction, that he can see no way out of the difficulty but to respect the latter as proceeding from the former.

Though they cherish a causeless animosity against himself and his kind, and war on the latter with a chronic wastefulness of the vital spark, which could only proceed from a want of appreciation of this blessing inseparable from their standpoint, yet he cannot go behind his apotheosis to find fault with the system of government upon which it proceeds. In fact, though he avoids the “ghoul-haunted” [Pg 67]precincts with which his neighborhood abounds, and trembles when he recites the deeds of valor performed by some warlike example against fleshly hosts, yet when he has taken his distance, and duly calculated the chances in his favor, he delights, above all things, to gather about himself the philosophic weaklings of his race, and, having launched upon his theme, observe the absolute failure of the kink in the woolly crown of each as a thing to be depended on in time of emergency.

The ideal “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” had very little of the ghost element in its construction. In this respect, as in some others, it was a miserable failure. The real structure was a ghost’s palace, where they came and went at pleasure, and not unfrequently took up their abode. To this habitation, in ante bellum times, presided over by Uncle Dick or Aunt Rachel, it mattered little—for both were magicians of no mean order—the juveniles of both races flocked after nightfall for supplies of ghost-lore; and to say that they were accommodated will but faintly describe, we fear, that anguished state of soul (what Southern boy or man does not drop a tear on this reminiscence?) with which, a few hours later, they passed out into the darkness and fought their way through legions of shadowy foes to their “curtained rest.”

These ghost stories, which always resulted disastrously for flesh and blood, and had a churchyard twang about them that came with peculiar relish to the youngster under a strong glare of[Pg 68] candle- or fire light, were the very apple-pie of farm-life to the “infantile sex,” despite the after-piece, which, after all, was a contingency that might be disposed of at will by the philanthropic source of the mischief. How often have we observed a circle of these young professors of the spiritual science defiantly “lean back” in their proclivities when the crooning narration began, and the great fireplace sent out effulgent rays, suddenly alter their manner for one of marked deference as the ghost-character came on with stately tread and took its place in the forefront of thrilling reminiscence; and then, as the rays of firelight went to sleep with the embers one by one, hitch up their seats within the margin that remained, getting nearer by degrees, until at length, as the story grew towards its denouement and the fire hung over its ashy tomb, crowding from all quarters, they threatened to overturn the narrator—so great was the terror inspired by the shadows which lay behind them.

But to no one had these performances such constant and deep relish as the aged patriarch or beldam, as the case might be, who was elevated by their young suffragans to the post of mentor for the time being. They revelled in this employment, first, because it suited their talents; and second, because it was perfectly adapted to their emotional nature. An African, moreover, is gratified beyond expression by the knowledge that he possesses authority, no matter how brief or weak in extent, which may be exercised[Pg 69] over his fellows; and there is not, we believe, a living party to such a bequest of social right and liberty over conscience as that to which we have referred, who was not a sufferer under the arrangement to an extent which he rarely admits to stranger confidences. But this improvement of the occasion which came to him on the part of the fiction-vender was not always done in mere wantonness. Not unfrequently the result achieved was without design, and when the contrary was true, the design was quite an intelligent one. When he acted intelligently, the object kept in view was to gain such an ascendency over the minds of his young auditory that he might reap either present benefits, or call it up to advantage in the future; and when we reflect that his audiences were largely composed of his young masters and mistresses, whose influence was great at head-quarters, and who would one day succeed to the estate, the wisdom of his conclusions must be conceded.

Trained up in this school, and knowing by their later experience of men the precise extent to which the plantation darkey was controlled by the superstitious notions which he disseminated (for he was no hypocrite), the young white men of the South were at no loss in adopting countervailing forces when the Loyal League storm burst upon the country. The superstition of the negro was not a weakness, but a ruling characteristic; and at this central idea of his being the Ku-Klux movement was directed.[Pg 70] Being thus addressed to his fears, it will be seen, by any one wishing information on the subject, that the latter was designed to whip him into obedience to what was then thought, but is now known, to be the ruling element in Southern politics. We do not assert that it was a just expedient; we cannot believe, in view of later developments in our local politics, that it was a wise one; but its transactions have passed into history, and it is with them that we are concerned.



[Pg 71]



A Band of Regulators whose Force at this time numbered a Half Million well-organized and perfectly Drilled Men—Who composed its Draft—Considerations which recommended it to the Better Classes of Society—Its Haunts—Oath-bound Covenant, and Penalties attached—Panoply of Lower Regions—Its Raiding Rendezvous—Galloping forth to Predestined Conquest—It proceeded under a rigid Constitutional System—Territorial Subdivisions—Empire—Realm—Province—Den—Grand Wizard and his Cabinet—Grand Giant—The Commander of a Den—Grand Cyclops—Night-Hawks, etc.—Recruiting Agents—How Members were Initiated—Proposed Initiates might Retire if Displeased with the Conditions of Membership—How far the Klan was “Rebel” in its Draft—Members of State Legislatures, Congressmen, and Governors of States, took its Vows upon them—Its Political Suffrages—Compelling Ignorant Colored Men to relinquish the Franchise—K. K. K. Placards—Empty Coffins containing Ukase of Banishment Carted to the Doors of Obnoxious White Citizens—Its Ideas of Social Decorum.


The mystic order of K. K. K. had scarcely emerged from its swaddling-clothes, as things go in the material universe, ere it had developed into a giant that filled the Southern zodiac, as effectually as the almanac dummy comprehends in his physical outlines the cardinal points of the seasons. Moving from county to county, and from one State[Pg 72] to another, it invaded the most remote communities—until within three months from the time that the slogan call had been sounded on the eastern shore of the Mississippi, its bannerets formed a cordon around the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, and its dominion over the Trans-Mississippi country was undisputed. A band of regulators, whose force at this time numbered a half million well-organized and perfectly drilled men, it aimed at nothing less than the subjection of the pending elements in the Southern State governments, and as a means thereto, the total overthrow and dispersion of all secret subsidiary agencies. In its ranks all conditions of white society in the South were represented—attracted partly by the weighty political considerations upon which the movement rested, and in not a few instances by its outside of novelty and vague promise of sensation. Proceeding under an oath-bound covenant, it invoked, seemingly—by adopting the emblems of their rule—the powers of darkness to assume the protectorate over its affairs, and levied on the code of pirates for a rule of discipline that should awe the stoutest hearts into meek submissiveness. To break the least of its commandments was esteemed a crime for which death would be a weak expiation, and to retreat from its enterprises, good or evil, bold or weak, was to be exposed to a fate more horrible than the chain and vulture. Their periodical gatherings, or dark seances, were held in caves in the bowels of the earth, where they[Pg 73] were surrounded by what might be aptly termed the panoply of the lower regions—rows of skulls, coffins and their furniture, human skeletons, ominous pictures copied from the darkest passages of the Inferno or Paradise Lost; and, brooding over all, that spell-like mystery which waited ever as an inspiration from the tomb upon the movements of the weird brotherhood. Here, habited in full regalia, and seated in alignment on raised benches, the members of the Order were wont to receive trembling initiates, commune together about affairs of government, and plan midnight raids against mortal enemies. Frequently these conferences were brief, but the fires were always lighted, in order that the still inspiration of the scene might not be wanting to the business of the evening—the ever-recurring raid on jail, or state-house, or Forest League. Gowned and helmeted, and mounted on strong chargers, invested, as far as possible, with the character of their riders, the ghostly phalanx galloped forth to predestined conquest, for an invisible host fought at its side, and each man bore a talisman in his outer garb which might have affrighted the armies of an empire from the field.

The government of the Klan proceeded under a rigid constitutional system that was rarely or never amended. Its chief officer, or ruler of what was known as the Empire, was elected to an unlimited term of office, and entrusted with the means of despotic rule. His official title was Grand Wizard,[Pg 74] and he was, by virtue of his first appointment, commander-in-chief of the army or military force constituted under the Empire. The officers under the latter held their appointment from him, and composed his counsel, or cabinet. The Grand Division, or Empire, was subdivided into Realms, Provinces, and Dens. The geographical boundaries of the Realm corresponded with those of the congressional districts in the several States under Klan dominion, and hence were equal in number. The chief officer of a Realm was distinguished by the title of Grand Vizier. His territory, as we have indicated, was subdivided into Provinces, whose territorial limits were identical with those of counties in the same location. The ruler of a Province was termed a Grand Giant. Under Provinces, Dens were organized, which, so far as territorial dominion is concerned, had only a neighborhood signification. But they were really the executive force, and through them, as individuals, all the work was accomplished. The commander of a Den, contradistinguished from those of Realms and Provinces, owed his rank and authority to the suffrages of those whom he immediately ruled. He was entitled Grand Cyclops, and under him was an officer known as Exchequer, whose duties had a twofold signification, and applied to the administration of the treasury and recording secretaryship. There were from four to six scouts belonging to the Den, who performed courier duty, and to whom was applied the titular distinction of[Pg 75] Night-Hawks; and in addition to these, and also in the non-commissioned rank, each thoroughly organized Den had its Conductors and Guardians, who were local, and the tenor of whose duties is sufficiently indicated by their titles respectively.

The Dens were the recruiting agencies, and the officers to whom was assigned this duty conducted the work with the utmost secrecy and caution. No individual was approached who was not known by his voluntary avowals to be in sympathy with the movement. When such a confession (which must have been made in public) was reported to the Den Council, if no objection was alleged against the individual, a committee was appointed to canvass the subject and report at some future day. Afterwards, if no local disqualifications were still urged, recruiting agents were sent to interview the candidate, who proceeded with such circumspection that they rarely failed to obtain a reply to the inquiries they brought without committing themselves or their cause. A candidate for membership who had been approved was conducted to the Den Council in the night season and by circuitous and unknown routes. He was also securely blindfolded, and the Conductors (officers of escort) were forbidden to communicate with him, until their destination had been reached. Arriving in some sequestered forest grove, he was commanded to dismount, and with eyes still bandaged, and the former policy of secrecy maintained in all particulars, was conducted into the presence of the[Pg 76] council. Here, without being permitted to ask questions, he was requested to give heed to what was about to be said, and when the Cyclops, or some individual commissioned by him, had revealed to him the objects and polity of the organization known as K. K. K., and the quality of allegiance exacted from those who entered its ranks, he was requested to state whether he still wished to carry out his original design of connecting himself with the Order. If this interrogatory was replied to in the negative, some very positive oaths and threats enjoining secrecy as to what had transpired were delivered to him, and he was permitted to retire. [This policy was invariably pursued by the Klan, and it is not probable that its vows were ever committed to an individual who had not obtained the full consent of his mind to the concessions he was required to make.] On the contrary, if an affirmative reply was given, the ceremony of initiation was proceeded with,—a formula which we shall not describe in this place, further than to say that the vows, which were delivered in a kneeling posture, were of the most approved iron-clad pattern, and that to each was attached a string of penalties, categorically presented, which aimed at nothing less than the annihilation of the transgressor.

It is wrong to infer, as many have done, that because the political views maintained by the Klan corresponded to those which were avowedly held by ex-Confederate soldiers at that period, that the[Pg 77] former was recruited from the latter in large measure, or, as the enemies of both were apt to suggest, as an entirety. Though occupying the territory in which they were domiciled, it is improbable that one-half the available force which the former boasted was derived from the latter source, and it is certain that a majority of the latter did not give their sanction nor countenance to the measures adopted by the Klan in seeking redress for alleged political wrongs. But a very large number of ex-Confederates entered its ranks, and, perhaps for prudential (not political) reasons, the administration of Klan affairs was, in a large measure, committed to this element. Its force, as has been anticipated, was recruited from the entire white population of the States which it occupied; and it certainly was not wanting in that respect for which such movements are almost wholly dependent on the character of their constituency. Members of State legislatures, congressmen, and governors of States, took its vows upon them, and were not unfrequently to be found at its midnight gatherings. In all National and State elections the Klan gave its political suffrages to members of the Order, or known sympathizers. Indeed, to effect its political ends (which were the ends of its organization), there were few extremes of contumacious conduct which it did not practise towards the existing State governments. Not only did it throw the weight of its suffrages in behalf of favorites—it forbade others the exercise[Pg 78] of this privilege. Freedmen who were deemed too ignorant to cast an intelligent ballot were visited at their homes in the small hours of the night, and by measures of intimidation, which not unfrequently included the lash, were driven to accept an oath of lengthy abstinence from the League and the polls. White men, who were obnoxious because of their too active instrumentality in League affairs, or their excessive fondness for the class of society which they encountered at its meetings, were equally unfortunate. During the quiet hours of the night ghostly placards, bearing the caption K. K. K. in large letters, and inscribed with the escutcheon of the Order (skull and cross-bones), were posted on their doors, commanding them to “skip out” (a technicality invented by the Klan), or expect the utmost vengeance of the Order. Where the rank of the offender required that some more dignified means of notification be employed, or where the individual was deemed to represent very obdurate qualities of soul, instead of the ordinary method aforesaid, an empty coffin was carted to his door, and in this horrible symbol of its anathemas was placed the order of ejectment.

The social system was sought to be renovated in the use of the same summary methods, and upon crimes of this nature the severest examples of Klan disfavor were constantly visited. The carpet-bag element recently introduced into the country suffered most frequently in this category; and it is not[Pg 79] too much to say, that the strict construction placed upon the social laws of the country, and upon social decorum as an abstraction, by the weird fraternity, was to this class one of the most intolerable burdens of Southern exile. To miscegenate was quite bad enough (and a privilege which the State laws denied them), but to be permitted to go a step further, and “conglomerate,” was not to be thought of, and Klan discipline was brought to bear—one of its few acts which has received the unconditional endorsement of both Northern and Southern society.



[Pg 80]



The Klan never did its Work by Halves—How General Orders were Transmitted—Form of General Order—Its Imbroglios with the League—Avoided Conflict with United States Troops—Ku-Klux Prosecutions a Weakness of the Courts—League Informers—K. K. K. Intimidation of Witnesses—Memento Mori—Crusade of the Ermined Ranks—Misdirected Prosecutions—Obligation to Disregard Judicial Oaths when they Conflicted with the Plans and Policy of the Order—No Patch-spots in its System of Government—Weird Drill—Absenteeism not one of the Strong Points of the Brotherhood—The Klan a Bitter Enemy of those Unorganized Parties of Ruffians who made War on their kind in the former’s Name—Its Right to Borrow Sympathy on this Exchange a Grave Question of Doubt—Vendettas Conducted against the “Shams.”


The Klan never did its work by halves, nor never pronounced a meaningless threat. If an individual was warned to leave the country at a certain date, there was no help for it, neither were there any extensions of time or modifications of original orders. Had members of the Order been incarcerated in a county prison for Klan offences, and a rescue been planned, the bars must yield at a certain hour. If some poor wretch was doomed by order of the Council to suffer under its laws of extradition, the weird scout was “over the borders[Pg 81] and away” ere its absence could be noted, or electric messages sent to notify the authorities of the impending outrage.

When the Grand Wizard wished to promulgate an order, the newspapers were the medium commonly sought. His commands in the use of this means were delivered to the next in rank, and by him transmitted to the Grand Giant of the province named, an officer who maintained constant communications with the Den system. No Den was required to execute a general order within the territory which it occupied, and in but rare instances did it proceed to enforce its own local measures. This force was, in almost every instance, employed beyond its own boundaries, and not unfrequently crossed the borders of the province, and even the realm to which it belonged, in the execution of raiding commands. The territorial subdivisions of the Order were each numbered according to class, a precaution which was found to be indispensable in the transmission of “general orders.” The latter were usually in the following form:

To the Grand Cyclops of Den No. 5, Province No. 4, Realm No. 3.

Greeting: You are hereby commanded to report with your entire command to the Grand Giant of your province for duty in D. 6, P. 5, R. 4.

Speed.                 G. W.

These titles were not always employed in the[Pg 82] published orders; but where they were omitted, some descriptive term equally well understood was substituted.

The raiding force always moved in the night season, and members of the Order never exhibited themselves in the Ku-Klux rôle in the daytime. When the cock crew, no churchyard edition of the animal ever sought the friendly shadow of the daisies with greater precipitancy than did the individual K. K. K. the inner chambers of the Den.

Their imbroglios were in almost all cases with the organization known as the Loyal League; but though they bore arms, and waged a campaign whose avowed object was the annihilation of this hated enemy, yet in their dealings with its members their ultimatum rarely bore an emphasis strong enough to excite the opposition of the local authorities. And to their credit it must likewise be said (a fact that was considered by the State authorities at a recent date in promulgating pardons to members of the Klan), that they avoided collisions with the United States troops, and in no instance, though frequently pursued, and sometimes driven to the wall by the exertions of the latter when employed in behalf of their enemies, were they ever known to burn powder against their country’s armed servitors. Neither did they interfere with the courts of the country in administering the laws from a national standpoint, though in some instances criminals were taken from the county jails before “oyer” had been pronounced in their cases.

[Pg 83]Members of the Order did not, nor could not, according to their construction of Klan government, belong to the jurisdiction of the courts, more especially the Federal courts. And though trials were never interfered with until their officers had satisfied themselves that it would be impossible to convict one of its members on a charge of complicity in its affairs, yet in the event of an unfavorable verdict and attempted sentence, it is certain that resistance of some character would have been offered. Ku-Klux trials were one of the weaknesses of the courts at this period, and while numbers were arraigned on this charge who were guilty, and merited discipline, it may be safely estimated that a majority of these prosecutions were conducted against persons who were not only innocent of collusion in its affairs, but who execrated the Klan as heartily as did their over zealous inquisitors. Members of the League were the informers, and not unfrequently the only witnesses in these trials; and when it is remembered that their zeal for justice, as the blind goddess was viewed by them, burned with about equal warmth against that portion of the white population who were symbolized in this way and those who were not, the farcical nature of these proceedings in numberless instances will be understood. But when it was known that testimony had been suborned against members of the Order, the Klan proceeded to extreme lengths in construing the statute for perjury, and in visiting its penalties on the offender. Not[Pg 84] only so, but on the eve of these judicial examinations, the Dens, as well as individual members thereof, were particularly active in the work of destroying testimony by intimidating witnesses, a common form of the threats employed being the words memento mori written plainly on a blank sheet of paper, and clandestinely conveyed to the suspected party. To ignorant persons, the mystery of this latter proceeding alone went not a little way towards accomplishing the object in view.

While such precautions were taken, and no doubt proved of vast service in enabling the Order to resist that crusade of the ermined ranks to which we have referred, the leaders of the K. K. K. succeeded in obtaining, from the membership at large, a very important concession in morals affecting this subject, and one which we believe has been hitherto resisted by the draft of secret societies on this continent, viz., an obligation to disregard judicial oaths where they conflicted with the plans and policy of the Order. To illustrate this point, a leading form of the interrogatory propounded to witnesses in these trials was: “Are you aware of the existence of a secret political organization known as the Ku Klux Klan?” and though parties thus addressed were often possessed of the most incontestable evidence of the truth sought to be elicited, it was not deemed dishonest, nor in any sense immoral, to reply negatively. The oath of secrecy which members (voluntarily) took upon themselves when they entered[Pg 85] the Klan was supposed to extinguish the guilt of this transaction, though we are not told precisely in what way the double entendres and tricks of evasion, practised by such witnesses at subsequent stages of the trial, were to be construed.

But as we shall have occasion to refer to this topic from time to time, as the work progresses, we will not at present allude further to the subject of Ku-Klux trials and their furniture of fiction.

The Klan was thoroughly organized. There were no patch-spots in its system of government. Its tactics of drill were in some sense peculiar, but it sufficiently resembled that adopted by the cavalry branch of the United States army to be mistaken for it in all the leading manœuvres. The men were perfect in company drill, and were required to attend all Den meetings, or be assessed onerous fines or other penalties. Absenteeism was not, however, one of the strong points of the brotherhood; and a Den rarely moved towards raiding territory without its full quota of men. The raids moved with astonishing celerity—a circumstance which was rendered necessary to the most perfect secrecy of these movements, and was also imperative in view of the long distances to be traversed. The hours between twilight in the evening and dawn, according to a Medean law of the K. K. K., as we have anticipated, could only be appropriated to this labor; and when it is explained that companies of men frequently left the Den rendezvous for raiding objectives forty[Pg 86] miles distant, and returned to the former point without dismounting, our conclusion above will be seen to be authorized.

The Grand Cyclops was not only the chief of the Den Council and an absolutist in authority as to its domestic affairs, but was also the chief officer in command of a raid, and must have been looked to for all special directions regarding its conduct. The Exchequer possessed a similar prerogative, and became the orderly or adjutant on the march.

The Klan was the bitter enemy of those unorganized parties of ruffians who made war on their kind in the former’s name, and the sum of whose villanies never failed to be debited in this way. Hardly a week passed, during the excitement which gave rise to both, and which they, in turn, converted into a reign of terror whose strong points the Duke of Alva might have studied to advantage, in which the secret organization was not made to suffer under some such confidence arrangement; and to say that its adipose suffered under this bereavement of men’s regards which it could so illy spare, will not, we fear, adequately present the situation. It, however, had placed itself in a position by which its motives were liable to be misinterpreted; and as one of its professed foibles was its ability to cover up its tracks in the least mysterious of its transactions; and, as during the French Renaissance, times analogous to these, to wear a mask was esteemed a crime from which all other crimes might be inferred, we doubt[Pg 87] whether its right to borrow sympathy on this exchange could be logically maintained.

But while the Klan was doomed to nurse its woes of this character in not a few instances, they proved immedicable wounds; and where the perpetrators became known, or even suspected, it conducted a vendetta against the individual conspirators which proved far more effective than all the organized efforts of the “best government.”



[Pg 88]



Misgovernment in Tennessee—The Loyal League and the State Administration—The K. K. K. an Outgrowth of the Conditions which the former Inspired—Rapid Development of the Order on Tennessee Soil—Its Purposes of Revenge—Legislation on the Subject—A Governor’s Proclamation—Militia called out and Detectives Employed—The State pronounced a Ku-Klux Barracks—The Loyal League in various Localities Succumbing to the New Element of Conquest—A State Council of the League Summoned to meet at Nashville—The Governor to Preside—The Secret out, and Counter Measures Resolved upon by the Rival Party—Spies sent to Nashville—League Places of Rendezvous throughout the State subjected to Espionage—A War of Extermination against the Latter—A Simultaneous Uprising of the K. K. K. throughout the State and Concerted Raids against the L. L. Rendezvous in various Neighborhoods—Military Accomplishments of the Grand Wizard—Subcommanders in Charge of the Expedition—Capture of Secret Papers—Ku-Klux Hollow-square—Oath administered to Captives—Success of the Undertaking—Shifting of Conditions.


As early as the spring of 1866, the head of the Order announced that the recruiting-books for the State of Tennessee showed a force of eighty thousand men; and it was here, and about this date, that some of the most eventful scenes connected with the history of the K. K. K. were enacted. This State had been committed to League control early[Pg 89] after peace was declared by the general government, and the bitter proscription at once inaugurated against the white race, under the combined patronage of the League and the existing State government, not only excited the strenuous opposition of all those who anchored their faith to the Conservative idea in politics throughout this and neighboring States, but called forth a warm protest from those disinterested partisans at the North who had recently been erected into what is known as the moderate Republican or Independent party. Disfranchisement, in its most radical form, excluded the intelligent voters of the State from all participation in its affairs; tax laws came up for amendment at each session of the State legislature, and in connection with other expenses of government (for such they had become), were sextupled in the end; the most quiet and law-abiding neighborhoods were placed under military surveillance, or driven to suffer the penalty of confiscation acts whose terms might have included the entire race of mankind; and finally, every device of ignorant and intemperate legislation applied, whose effect would be to render the government unsuited to the wants of the people, and convert the latter into a body of malcontents. This end appears, indeed, to have been contemplated by the League faction at that stage of its supremacy when its attainment seemed most improbable; but when the reality, or something which very much resembled it, came upon them, they disowned the abortion, and invited their friends at the[Pg 90] North to behold with what consistency the old rebel stump was putting forth green shoots of disunion.

We shall not express a preference for either of these bad extremes of the politics of that period, but in order to a proper understanding of the question, we deem it no impropriety to state that it was a fact well known, and illustrated elsewhere, that wheresoever the League animal deposited its spawn, with due regard for atmospheric conditions, the K. K. K. insect would shortly drop its chrysalis.

In looking over the history of those times in Tennessee, the student need be at no loss in seeking out the exact causes of the Ku-Klux movement as it existed on her soil, nor of finding its dimensions from this given mean. As large as was the Klan force, it probably did not exceed the League in numbers, and had many disadvantages to meet which the latter, helped forward by its government patronage, did not regard as impediments. But it had injuries to redress, burning wrongs to avenge, and cherishing these incentives, it laughed at legislative penalties, and burned to join battle with those dispensers of Ku-Klux halters who dealt in this and like judicial pleasantries at their expense.

Having had its birth in the western district of the State, where the elements of a rapid growth were found, it was quickly communicated to the central counties and the neighborhood of the capital, and finding its way thence over the Cumberland Mountains—before its presence was even suspected in that[Pg 91] loyal quarter—developed a shamrock growth on the soil of East Tennessee. Within three months from the time the first Den was organized on her territory, the K. K. K. had reached its highest growth in numbers and strength of resources, and announced itself ready and anxious to meet the army in buckram, whom it asserted represented the cause of misgovernment on Tennessee soil. Its plans were quickly developed, and the destruction of a half dozen or more dark-lantern societies, which lay more on the surface of things than was thought to be polite, alarmed the State functionaries, and called attention to their proceedings in a form quite as disagreeable as the most ultra of the party could have desired. The subject first came before the legislature, and steps were taken which it was presumed would “put a head on the monster” (to literally quote one of the Buncombe addresses before that august body), but the indescribable nonchalance of the proceedings, which seemed directed at a child’s toy-house rather than a nest of boa constrictors, only excited the K.’s to new activity. A Governor’s proclamation was next called for; soon afterwards secret measures were instituted looking to the employment of a force of detectives; and finally, the militia were summoned to assemble, but, despite all, the crooked wonder grew, and the more industrious the efforts put forth to curtail its existence the more it grew and the greater the occasion it saw for this exertion.

In the summer of this year, the members of the[Pg 92] legislature of Tennessee, in council assembled, pronounced the State a Ku-Klux barracks, and resolved themselves unsafe in their granite citadel at Nashville. The League head-quarters in various parts of the State were succumbing one by one to the new element of conquest, and, indeed, the State seemed on the eve of a revolution, by which, if no more serious results were attained, its territory would be rendered untenable for that class of its population which was known to its enemies as the dark-lantern faction. In this emergency, the leaders of the L. L. resolved to call a State council of the Order, over whose deliberations the Governor should preside, and whose object would be to devise ways and means for the destruction of their troublesome enemies. Great preparations were made accordingly, and without divulging their plans, it was resolved, at the conclusion of the secret proceedings, to hold a mass meeting at the capital which should review the whole subject. This body assembled at the specified date, but not before the rival party had become fully acquainted with its plans and purposes, and in convention assembled resolved upon counter measures.

On the very evening which the Council had set apart for its introductory proceedings (in the city of Nashville), the indefatigable K.’s had issued commands throughout the State requiring every member of the Order to report at his Den head-quarters for special service. A force of spies was dispatched[Pg 93] to the neighborhood of the League Council, and the brief period which was to elapse before the Solons would arrive and enter upon the solemn business in hand was appropriated by these secret agents, and their co-conspirators in other neighborhoods, to the work of obtaining information from deserters, chance prisoners, etc., as to the exact location and surroundings of the League places of rendezvous throughout the State. Indeed, while the League had busied itself with a very red conflagration devoted to the Ku-Klux fat, whensoever they should overtake that slippery substance, the much persecuted “krookeds” had doubled back on them, and only awaited a fair wind to convert their little game into a “double reversible,” quite as complicated as any that had dawned upon the patent-machine mind previous to that date.

A war of extermination against the League had been resolved upon months before by the leaders of the Klan, but a favorable moment for a decisive blow, or the emergency requiring it, had not arrived, until both were visible in the proposed State council of the Order and the objects it would consider. Now, destiny seemed rushing upon them, and the time almost too brief to make an intelligent feint on the enemy’s front. But promptness of stratagem, and rapid development of passing advantages, was perhaps the strongest point in the military character of the distinguished leader of this movement, for where others halted, awed by the proportions of an undertaking, or the suddenness of combinations[Pg 94] effected in their front, he only felt an inspiration to go forward. The force which participated in the attack on the evening of —— 19th, 1866, did not fall far short of one hundred thousand men, and yet, thirty-six hours previous to this time, the occasion had not presented itself to the mind of the veteran who planned the attack as suitable therefor. A well organized and lightly-equipped force proved unquestionably a sine qua non in rendering the dispositions of the commander successful; but we doubt if it would be fair to subtract this circumstance from the glory of the undertaking, if the reader is informed that it had been developed from the same ingenious source with special reference thereto.

In the attack which followed, each Den constituted an independent force, and was under the immediate command of the Grand Cyclops. Indeed, no other officer was known on the field, though it was sufficiently apparent, at the time, that each had received his allotted task from a superior, and it was afterwards divulged that they had acted under written orders. At ten o’clock precisely, the commands moved (from the various points of rendezvous selected), and were allotted one hour to each ten miles of distance to be traversed. They were in full uniform, and though they carried arms, were commanded not to fire, nor to return a fire, except under orders. En route they avoided public roads and dense settlements, and on approaching their destination changed the order of march (by twos) to close column by fours, when the command was[Pg 95] “charge.” After the building, which formed the object of attack, came in view, no time was to be lost, and its investment completed as rapidly as possible. Attempted refugees were to be forced back within the walls, and in no event was an escape to be permitted. A party of six resolute men were detached from each squadron for special duty, in securing the papers, books, and other written documents of the League meeting, and this movement was so far pivotal in its character, that their comrades were commanded to keep their proceedings in view, and be ready at a signal to render them assistance. After a thorough search of the premises had been accomplished, the dismounted men without were commanded to take their station within the building, and form the hollow-square of the order.

As so much has been said concerning this feature of their drill, and so little really known, we give the exact figure in the cut below. It may be imitated by arranging two letters K with their backs to each other, and doubtless originated from this device.

Ku-Klux Hollow-square.

This ghostly evolution having been performed, and the trembling Leaguers finding themselves invested at every point, the Grand Cyclops had orders to ascend the rostrum, and from that elevated position deliver to the (constructive) culprits an oath whose[Pg 96] principal features were as follows: To forever abjure all allegiance to the secret organization known as the Loyal League; to cease to employ the elective franchise as an instrument of oppression against the white population of the State; to forsake the acquaintance of all men, irrespective of party, who sought to profit by their votes; and finally, to abstain, under pain of the severest penalties; from all efforts to investigate or otherwise disturb the mystical beings who stood before them, and who, at some future time, if deemed expedient, would accord them further and more convincing proofs of their ghostly genealogy. This command having been executed, the lights were to be blown out at a signal, and the parties, disappearing by the most secret routes possible, to hasten forward to a point of rendezvous one mile distant.

Such was the plan of campaign resolved upon by the Grand Wizard and his advisers; and that it was successful in every particular is a fact which we need hardly repeat, in view of the numerous hints conveyed in the written history of those times. While the State Council of the Loyal League was guessing itself dry over the great “konundrum,” and, at the same time, making such a sine die disposition of its remains as was rendered feasible by broadsides of eloquence and sixthlies of courageous resolve, that lively “korps(e)” had frisked from its abode, and with the alacrity of a “monkey on a trapeze-bar” (in the language of the oil-regions) “went through them.”



[Pg 97]



Speech of Hon. Bones Button before the State Council of the Loyal League—What followed—Amusing Contretemps.


Mr. Cheermon, and Gemmens: Der crisis am upon us. I repeats, surs, and wishes dat dis obserwashun should sink down into de conclusibness ob ebery individooal who heers me. Der Ku—crisis am upon us. As a member of dis spectifle body, I am de las’ pusson who would wish to use my perfesshun to cover up dis sollum trufe. We is stannin’, Mr. Cheermon, upon de ragged confouns ob de bloody kazzum; and I repeats, dat de question for us to solve dis ebenin’ is: Shall we go fowards, or be pushed fowards. [Sensation.] Fur be it frum me to “sing de song ob de sirum” when de liberties ob de black man am inwaded, and de nasshumal honor is bein’ piled in de dust by de rabble (rebel) asstocracy. But, surs, lookin’ up to de umbragus folds ob dat spar-strangled banner, I is impressed with anoder conclushun, and it is in dese wurds follerin, to wit: We is occupyin’ de ticklish edge ob a dillemmer, in de lite ob which de man who crossed de Rubimcom am but a faint epistle. Yes,[Pg 98] my spectifle feller-bredren, to use a catephoricle flower ob de tropics, we have arriv’ at a tite spot. We am obfusticated, so to speak. [Assenting groans throughout the assembly.] Den de riddle for us to read dis ebenin’, in de light ob dese distressin’ surkumstances, is: What ar’ to be did? In addressin’ de collectiv’ wisdum of dis orguss resemblage, I axes, is we to go fowards? Is we to wait till de nex’ ebenin’ or de nex’ year? Is we to fold our hans behind our bax, and hole our bref suspinely until de Klu-Krux animile has squatted hisself squar’ down on our liberties? Is we, I ax, to bump down in de middle ob dat rode whar’ de Klu-Krux Juggernox goes tootin’ majestercally along over de dethroned carcasses ob de black man, and whar you may holler peace! peace! but you can’t be heard; and you wouldn’t be notissed if you was.

But, Mr. Cheermon, before perceedin’ fudder wid de docturnal pints of dis discusshun, I shall have sumfin to say in respex to Klu-Krux-Klam from a scienticular pint of obserwashun. How is dis, I ax? Whar is de gettin’ out place, de tail, so to speak, of dis conundrum? [A pause, during which several members are observed to scratch their heads meditatively.] Dar am a proverb which says, “Ketch a Klu-Krux before you puts him to def,” or words to dat effec. Dat feature of de bizness I disposes to ten’ to in pusson, Mr. Cheermon, and if I can git de contention of de brilyunt dissembly what sits in judgment upon dis and oder topics dis ebenin’, I will[Pg 99] open de merits of dis opinyun to de verymost chile in understandin’. Sposen dat we takes dese wurds, “Klu Krux Klam,” as dey ’peers in de original Greek, and transplants dem into de original Inglish. Take de word Klu, dat wurd about which dare has been so much unsiantickle sputin, and what is dare in it? Is dare an individooal under de soun’ of my voice who duzzent know de orfograthy of a wurd of three monysimples? Is dare, I axes, in dis orguss body, a pusson who is sich a babe in understandin’ dat he duzzent know dat b-a-k-e-r spells baccer? Den I say to my spectifle feller-sitterzens, dat if you will take de wurd Klu, and hang its ole fashyun’d Inglish close on it, dat it will spell “clew,” and if dat is so, what fudder clew could you have to dis whole subjec’? [A member here rose to a point of order, objecting to the “orfograthy” of the Hon. Bones’ premise, and claiming that the word under discussion was not “klu,” but “ku.” There is no telling what this might have resulted in, if the individual had been provided with documentary proof of his statement; but as he was not, he was compelled to retire amid the jeers of the audience and the loud taunts of the speaker, who elevated himself on a bench in order that his rhetoric in this instance might have its full effect.] Den, my feller-sitterzens, if de wurd “klu” means what it says it duz, de wurd “krux” means krux, and de wurd “klam” means klam—dat is to say, if the wurd klu means clew, neither of dese wurds means nuffin’. Dat[Pg 100] pint is suffishuntly clur to a man up a tree, and no doubt is understood by de gemmen who spells “klu” widout a l.

But, cummin’ back to de merits of de discushun, I disposes now, Mr. Cheermon, to angeline de word klu, which, as I has before tuk occashun to say, is de clew to dis whole mystery. Let us taik de consummant k, which is de indecks letter, and pints to what follers. Duz dis letter have any siggerfication apart from its connectin’ links in dis wurd, or duz it hav such a siggerfication? I beleevs dat de intellumgence of every pusson in dis orgunce, if I may except one individooal, will bar me out dat it duz. Dat pint bein’ settled in a excloosive way, which, I may sugges’, is much de smallest part of de wurk, we must now perceed to find de siggerfication aforesed, and de logickle delusions upon which it rests. What, may I ax, duz de letter k stan’ fur? Duz it stan’ for cow? Is dare a pusson in dis orgunce, who will lif’ his head and dissert that k stans for cow? Wall, if it duzzent stan’ for cow, is it a far prejux for crow? Would a cup set on its flatness, Mr. Cheermon, with rich a handle as k to it? Will the gemmen who spells klu widout a l, pertend to spell cat widout a c? I persoom not. Wall, then, my feller-sitterzens, if k duzzent stan’ for cow; if it is too crooked for cup; if it wooldn’t spell crow widout bein’ turned wrong side foremos’; if it duzzent suit the gemmen’s noshuns of cat; an’ is too crooked and not crooked enough for “crooked,” den what, may I[Pg 101] ax, duz dis unekest of alfybetic frenonymongs outline wid de adumkate purpyscruity. If it am eber used as de forefix fur knife, knot, knob, knock-under, and sich like, it ar’ bekase its crookedness let it out’n de rite paf, and not ’kase it felt called on in de way of tendin’ to its own bizness.

But no diffunce if it do fail in oder respex, my feller-sitterzens, it won’t do to say dat dis consummant k am a failure, and ostrumsize it from de langwidge. I am not one ob dose dat am committed to de beleef dat it am a bow-legged nonjuscrip, a onaccountable freak of de English alfybet, an’ good for nuffin but to lean up agin more spectifle consummants, and thow de lines out’n shape.

An’ if dat be de sollum trufe, I pauses once more to ax whar is de stitch in de temple of langwidge dat dis alfumbettycle beformity was made to order to fit into, so to speak. What ar’ its mishun in de worl’, and how is we to arrive at dat pint. In diggin’ about de roots of dis boss conundrum, Mr. Cheermon, we wants to have nuffin to do wid scientifficle reductions, nor logickle abscraptions, as we understans de metumsquizzicle bearin’ ob dose terms; but, on de oder han’, if the court am exquainted wid her own diktum, and she think she do, we feels bemooved to argify strate to de pint in hand. Now, in respex to de consummant beforesed, I taiks de hi groun’ dat if dere is any offis dat it can fill better than any oder consummant, dat, dat am its mishun. Or to miscomterpret my persac[Pg 102] meanin’ wid more purpyscruity, if dare is enny spot in de presinks of de langwidge dat can’t navumgate widout it, and dat it can’t navumgate widout, dat, dat am de shoo fur it to war. Havin’ adjostled dat pint to de weakes’ understandin’, we nex’ inquire if dere is enny wurd in de dickshummary dat can’t be spelt into a syllumble widout de ade of dis consummant. I taix it upon miself to say, Mr. Cheermon, dat dere is such a word, and widout enny furder surcumloscrution, or bein’ too pertickler about de orrytorrycal effec of mere metumsquorricle figgurs of speech, I will perceed to denounce it in your heerin’. (Sotto voce.) Kill. (A pause, followed by a lumbering sound and the disappearance of two woolly crowns.)

I trus’, Mr. Cheermon, dat dis am considered no interbumption, an’ if enny oder brudder should feel discomposed to roll off de bench jurin de fudder discontinuance of dese remarks, it won’t be tuk as no mark of misrespex to the gemmen who has de floor. But, to rejerk to de subjec’ in ban’. De bes’ excepted, and de only excepted, siggerfication of de consummant k, am de mistickle wurd just denounced in your hearin’, and I shall ax you to squeeze dat pint, while I maix a rapid sarch over dickshummary groun’ for de indecks belongins of de rejineder part of dis word klu, dat is, de consummant l, and de avowal u. In respex to de consummant l, I would wish to say in de fust place, fustly, dat the mixtur’ of learned doubts enterin’[Pg 103] into its conjugation am not near so obfusticatin’ as de las’ beforesed, an’ dat havin’ obtaned de persac fractional squantum of de befogoin, we can, as it wur, look fowards to subsumquent revolutions of de topic. Darfore, widout enterin’ into de rejux system of argyfyin fudder dan to appli de rools dat was foun’ to wurk so hamboniously in respex to de las’ named, we arrives at de delusion dat de mos’ acceptumble renderation of de consummant l is to be foun’ in de mistickle terms lick, licks, and “lick ’em,” or de las’ beforesed in purtickler, or all three in purpentickler. Now, if enny brudder whose sperience and obserwashun am purtickler sensitiv on dis pint, feels cauled upon to say dat de most pinted complication of dis consummant is to be foun’ in de word “lam,” or dat it was made to order for de word “lash,” or was put into de alfumbet wid special reffermence to de wurd “larrup,” or was made out’n whole clof as a prehitch for “lambaste,” I will ’low him dat privumlege, and widout been outdone in dishonorableness, will give him de floor when I discludes.

In pointrefax, Mr. Cheermon, when we looks at all de crosses and dotses of dis argyment, when we sees all its pros and cros, de delusion am forced upon us, roles bolus (nolens volens), so to speak, and in de langwidge of one of our country’s most illustrious poicks, “Dat do settle it.”

Havin’ foun’ den, my feller-sitterzens, by jiggernometrical injuction, de persac valyer of de quantitums[Pg 104] k and l in de trombonial k-l-u, we will now perceed to exburden our conshusness of sum thoughts havin’ reffermence to de avowal u. If dat which needs no splainin’ may be made de subjec’ of splainatory logic, widout on de oder han’ rejucin’ de speaker to de distressin’ condishun of hyperbolus, I shall, in a brefe space of time, more or less, egshibit to dis orgunce de close anallumgy dat exists betwixt de avowal u, and de pussonal pronoun “you.” I takes it for granted, Mr. Cheermon, dat every individooal dat has a place in dis orguss resemblage, am fermilliar, either by “hearsay” or “theysay,” wid dat principul of de Common Law dat purvides dat whar wurds are to be miscomterpreted, dat de meanin’ is to be fastened onto um what am neares’ at han’, and dat if dey am already purvided wid a resonably far siggerfication, dat it shall be onlawful to prowl off in sarch of one what soots yer better. Dat pint bein’ settled, I will not do enny gemmen in dis orgunce de misrespex to persoom dat if a Klu-Krux wur to pint a six-bar’l blunderbuss under his oil-factory of smell, and say “you,” as loud and suddint as a clap of armytillery, dat he would disclude dat he meant sum odder feller, and fail to locomoshy in de odder direction. Takin’ den, my feller-sitterzens, de consummants k and l in de trombonial (trinomial) k-l-u, and it will be seen dat dey have close refermence to de avowal u, and visum versum, and dat in dese three alfumbettycle cosines, and de mistickle siggerfication detached to each, ar’[Pg 105] de whole substanshuation of de mystiffercation of de Klu-Krux-Klam.

Den, Mr. Cheermon and feller-sitterzens, if dese be de mos’ obdurous intenshuns of dose ruffumlians, duz it not, let me ax, bemoove this loil body to take immejit steps to surcumvalidate, deturrimerate, homswogglemerate, and murder-r-r— [This expression stuck in the speaker’s throat, for, being attracted from the up-stairs of his eloquence by what he at first mistook for an outburst of enthusiasm on the part of his hearers, but was afterwards induced to believe proceeded from some more serious cause, he looked around him upon great waves of panic that lashed the building from side to side—at first converting all obstacles into a causeway for their terror, but at length flowing into currents that beat strongest where the drifts of wrecked and storm-tossed furniture formed artificial banks. Having the organ of comparison well developed among the other faculties, the brain of the statesman took in the situation at once; for, observing with what success doors and windows were swept from their moorings at the heads of the retreating columns, he saw the twenty or more ghostly embodiments that occupied his rear in imagination only, and, hesitating for one instant, he joined the assault on the “imminent breach,” ballasting his flight with cries that bore a marvellous resemblance to the changes of which the last word of the “befogoin” is susceptible. Reaching a neighboring window at the end[Pg 106] of two vigorous jumps, he passed out into the night—a distance of “eighteen foot in the clur,” as he afterwards testified—and regaining his feet and the top of his bent simultaneously, “the startled ear of outer darkness” heard something like the report “murder,” at brief intervals of time accommodated to long intervals of space, for about the period employed by an Erie express train in exhausting a winter horizon.]



[Pg 107]



Excitement throughout the State—Scenes at the Capitol—Metropolitan Arrests resisted—Secret Police—Government Officials Notified of the Extent of the Disaster—A Quorum of the Legislative or Judicial Bodies not Attainable—No Departures from the City—The K. K. K. Cabal Receiving that Attention from Caucusing Legislators which its Importance Demanded—What the State Judiciary Demanded—A Mob at the State-House—At Sunset the Situation Unchanged—A Sortie from the Capitol—Mobs along the Route—Seeking Refuge from the Excited Populace—Out of Danger—The New Situation—Governor Brownlow Escaping from the Temporary Fortress by an Alley-way—An Ugly Specimen of the Genus Ku-Klux—The Governor Recovers from the Attitude of a Suppliant—An Amusing Episode—“But how many suns, O Man, would look upon the Deed Unavenged?”—A Canard which Grew out of this Affair.


On the day following the grand coup de main of the Klan to which we have directed attention in the previous chapters, and which, in bringing depression to League affairs, sent the former’s mercury to a feverish height, great excitement prevailed throughout the State; and at the business centres, and more especially the capital, something like a popular demonstration greeted the arrival of news from provincial quarters. The wires had been buzzing with intelligence of the disaster since early[Pg 108] dawn, and yet the news and telegraph offices found it impossible to throw off the steaming bulletins giving additional particulars, or summing up the history of the exploit in localities already heard from, with sufficient speed to meet the cravings of the multitude. The streets of the capital were filled with passengers, who, with white faces and lips compressed, seemed as firmly intent on reaching some point of general rendezvous as it was indubitably certain that they had nothing definite in view, but were tossed to and fro by a burning thirst for news that must and would not be satisfied. Occasionally, as the crowd kept this frantic pace, individuals would suffer themselves buttonholed, and made the subjects of lengthy confidences, but rarely, as one man’s property in the commodity of the hour was something which all might share at the bulletin-board; and so all day long the human tides ebbed and flowed along the news-channels, never manifesting impatience, but ever quickening their speed to keep pace with the now fairly excited messengers. Merchants and shop-keepers stood in their doors wearing prurient countenances, and anon, sending would-be purchasers away with curt replies; for since the sun rose on that eventful morn, had not traffic grown out of fashion? Women and children kept within doors without commands to that effect, for there was something in the very air of the crowds without that not only did not invite confidence, but positively frowned upon all advances thereto. The Metropolitan[Pg 109] guards, who had special instructions, and whose force had been doubled since morning, moved along their beats wearing grave countenances, and occasionally scanning the faces of the crowd with furtive stare, as if in search of some secret which they half suspected lay hidden there. Once they ventured upon an arrest, being guided by their suspicions only, as was evident from their embarrassed movements; but though they employed a strong guard, and sought out the most thinly peopled avenues in making away with their prisoner, they had not proceeded above two blocks before they were set upon by the crowd, and compelled not only to relinquish their charge, but to seek safety in flight. It was even whispered that there was a secret police force abroad, deriving its authority from the opposition element in politics; but this was industriously denied in quarters where the facts should have been known, and after it became a rumor, every effort was made to quell suspicion. But, however that may have been, after the unsuccessful feint to which we have called attention, no further effort was made to interfere with the calm-faced crowds which, looking neither to the right nor left, persevered in that unvarying procession which led them to and from the news centres. A K. K. K. placard, which had been posted at a popular street corner during the previous night, and which, for contrasted reasons, had been given a wide berth by the rival factions, became, as the evening wore along, the one subject which[Pg 110] seemed to possess sufficient interest to attract the regards of passers-by, and it is probable that its importance (like some sentient wonders that we wot of) was derived from the circumstance of its connection with weightier subjects.

It was probably past the hour of noon before the extent of the Ku-Klux raid was certainly known to the State authorities, and to say that the intelligence cast a palpable gloom over the various departments of government, would hardly particularize the situation with that definiteness which the curiosity of the reader may demand. After the noon recess it was found impossible to assemble a quorum of either the legislative or judicial functionaries, and when visitors sought individuals belonging to these branches, with a view to conference on private topics, they were, oftener than not, sent away with the intelligence that they had left the city. But this was scarcely true in any case, for not only was there no hegira of State officers from the scene of their labors on this day, but out-bound trains flew along the landscapes with hardly any reasonable ballast in the way of passengers. The secret of the whole business, as revealed soon after, showed that some very extensive caucusing was being done, and that the K. K. K. cabal, for the first time in its history, was receiving that attention from the government authorities which its importance demanded. It is not known with certainty what was resolved upon at these meetings, but it may be guessed, with tolerable[Pg 111] assurance, that those bold measures soon afterwards instituted in the House (though enterprised too late for any practical use) received their inspiration from this excited period. And it was soon after published as an item of news, that the judiciary demanded of their law-making colleagues some immediate legislation that would enable them to grapple with the new problem in jurisprudence which the movement presented.

About the middle of the afternoon there was a popular demonstration in the neighborhood of the capitol, the crowds lounging in that direction in an objectless kind of way, but when, finding themselves under the shadow of the great building, developing a sudden enthusiasm for something, or some individual, they scarce knew what. For more than an hour they besieged the State functionaries with loud huzzahs, and only when they saw that the demonstration had been misunderstood, or that they would be given the cold shoulder, in any event, did they relinquish the purpose of hearing some report from their law-givers, and being heard in return. But when the countermarch movement began, very little time was consumed by the crowd in transporting itself out of sight and hearing—individuals, and especially those who had been conspicuous in the movement, walking hurriedly, and with their heads down, as if to conceal an expression of chagrin that lurked in their countenances.

At sunset the situation was unchanged, the main[Pg 112] streets emptying themselves of their human currents, in obedience to some suburban attraction at intervals, only to be filled next hour with the chaffering multitudes, who resumed their fatuous pursuit of the unknown quantity in the news-problem with the same heat that it had been undertaken in the early portion of the day. It was at this precise hour that the Governor was observed to leave the State-house, accompanied by two gentlemen of his staff, and walk hurriedly along Cedar Street, in the direction of the public square. The crowds seemed determined to place their own interpretation on this movement, and having assembled in large force at the point where College street intersects that along which the party were passing, loud hootings were indulged in, and in forcing a passage through the crowd, the obnoxious individuals subjected to rougher jostling than was thought to be required by the emergency. Turning to reply to some taunt volunteered from the crowd, one of the gentlemen lost his hat by a blow from behind, and was deprived of the gratification which he might otherwise have received upon relieving himself of a few sentences of eloquent invective, by a storm of derisive cheers, which drowned every other sound. At the next crossing the demonstration was equally as large, if not so aggressive, and when the official trio reached a neighboring building, and immured themselves within its walls, they doubtless looked back upon the reminiscence with feelings of relief.[Pg 113] But from after developments, it may be inferred that they had no sooner felt themselves exempt from the perils which had lately beset them, than they entered upon a conference to devise ways and means of escape from their temporary fortress (for such the building in which they had taken refuge proved to be). This would not have been difficult of accomplishment, in any event, and the tactics resolved upon by the besieged rendered it comparatively easy of attainment.

In less than ten minutes the throngs, who had assembled with no more serious object in view than to gratify an idle curiosity, and express their unfriendliness to their taskmasters by the methods usually adopted, had been taken up by the absorbent elements of the crowd flowing newsward, and were no more. If the Governor’s party had expected resistance of this character, they were to be deceived, for by the time the lamps were lighted, almost a calm pervaded that quarter; and when, a few moments later, the first of the party (who proved to be Governor Brownlow) left the building by a postern-gate in the rear, he was seen by none but the spies who had been set to watch. Hurrying along an alleyway, the honorable refugee had crossed two squares ere he emerged upon the broad street which led across an unfrequented portion of the city, to the vicinity of the mansion which he occupied. Halting here to reconnoitre and indulge a moment of quiet reflection, after the exciting events through which he had passed, he[Pg 114] was suddenly encountered by a form of the peril from which he was seeking to escape that had more than once been suggested to his fancy, but which now presented itself in such palpable outline, and with an attitude so positively menacing, that his courage forsook him for the moment, and he recovered from the manner of a suppliant just in time to save himself from a very humiliating scene. The thing in question was an ugly and even frightful embodiment of the genus Ku-Klux, which, having been successful in its contemplated surprise, was very naturally disposed to dictate terms to its victim. As no violence was intended, it had time, however, for but a few tragic sentences, adopted from a repertory prepared for the occasion, before the frightened official had recovered his wits and his Greek.

Raising himself to his full stature, the Governor denied the assumed ghostliness of his interlocutor in these precise words: “Do you not know, fiend, that I possess the authority to have you shot or hung, and that I am strongly persuaded to exercise it?”

To which the “fiend” retorted in the following laconism “But how many suns, O man! would look upon the deed unavenged?” and realizing that they were quits, the parties to this amusing by-comedy went their respective ways.

The report of this transaction reaching the public ear via the sensation-mongers, a few hours later, it was taken up in its amended form and bandied about the coffee houses and street-corner gatherings until[Pg 115] it finally lost all proportions, and at nine o’clock, precisely, was guilty of sending an old gentleman to bed, on the outskirts of the city, under the conviction that Governor Brownlow had been murdered by the Ku-Klux.

But though for twenty hours her streets had flowed with lava tides of that wild element of which mobs are made, and whatsoever was leonine in her temperament had been appealed to by rumors of war, that rode past on every breeze, somewhere in the “wee sma’ hours ayont the twal,” the last star had paled in the news’ firmament without witnessing anything more tragical than may be found among the occurrences related in this chapter, and the tired city slept.



[Pg 116]



The Klan Outlawed—A Price set upon the Heads of its Membership—A Rash Act of one of its Dens—Strong Provocations—Negro Insurrectionists Placed in the Jail at Trenton—Prisoners Wrested from the County Authorities by Two Hundred Men Disguised as Ku-Klux—Subsequent Massacre—Detectives in Pursuit—Members of the Order Indicted—Efforts to Convict the Accused—Failure of Prosecution—Affair in Obion—Why these Horrors are Classed as Twin Editions—Description of Madrid Bend—K. K. K. Transactions in this Remote Quarter—Planters’ Jealousy—Message from Mr. J. to the Leaders of the Party—Cool Treatment it Received—The K.’s Declare their Intention of Punishing one of the Laborers on J.’s Farm—His Defiance—Arming the Blacks—A Fierce Skirmish—J.’s Flight—Massacre of Fleeing Blacks—Eight Colored Men taken from the County Jail at Troy—Their Fate a Mystery.


In Tennessee, where the Klan took the form of a political party, which bitterly antagonized the Brownlow administration in every issue of government, the principles which it supported (despite the bad qualities inherent in its organization) gave it a success altogether unproportioned to the means employed. Notwithstanding it was outlawed by act of the Legislature, and a price set upon the heads of its membership, it continued to flourish long after Brownlowism had ceased to be an element in the[Pg 117] politics of the State. But, after a comparatively uneventful history during the years which intervened, in the summer of 1874 a rash act of one of its Dens, located in Gibson county, in the western portion of the State, operated such a loss of influence to the body throughout the State, that it at once became ineffective; and here, in the autumn of this year, the latest remnant of the organization on Southern soil fell into disintegration, and ceased to exist.

A brief history of this transaction may prove not uninteresting to the reader, as it was one of the most daring and venal of all the acts of these regulators, and influenced national affairs as has no other local event within the present century. In a remote settlement in the eastern portion of this county, a party of negroes had organized themselves into a military company, which not only conducted night drills and made occasional raids into the surrounding settlements, but threatened that at no distant day they would devastate the neighboring country, and prove the heralds of an insurrection that would give the Southern country into the hands of their race. The whites in the immediate vicinity bore their midnight levies with tolerable resignation, and would, doubtless, have dismissed their taunts as meaningless, if these had not been supported by acts which left no doubt as to the warlike quality of their designs. They had proceeded so far as to procure arms and ammunition, and nominate a day for the threatened outbreak before any interference was attempted, and[Pg 118] when this was finally resolved upon, it was effected quietly by arresting some of the more prominent conspirators at their homes. These parties were incarcerated in the county jail at Trenton, and though the feeling of indignation ran high in every portion of the county, it is believed that a resolution to drop the subject here, or submit to such meagre satisfaction as it was in the power of the courts to render in such cases, was general. Such peaceful and eminently wise counsels were not to prevail, however, and on the night succeeding that upon which these prisoners had been committed to the county authorities for safe keeping, a large body of men (estimated at from two to three hundred), disguised as Ku-Klux, rode into the town, and laying siege to the jail, soon effected their object of taking from thence the alleged insurrectionists. In view of the formidable force employed, no resistance was offered, and the prisoners, being tied securely on horses, which had been provided for that purpose, were placed at the head of the column and conducted six miles from Trenton in an easterly direction. Here a parley was called, and some dispute arising as to what disposition should be made of the prisoners, they were commanded to make their escape, and at the same instant fired upon, the volley being repeated twice. Of the company of ten who were commended to this terrible fate, two were killed outright, two were badly wounded, and the remainder (disappointing the wishes of their captors,[Pg 119] it is thought), made good their escape. The news of this event spread rapidly, and as it met with almost universal condemnation, a vigorous pursuit was organized, and every effort which a thoroughly aroused and indignant community would be likely to employ, undertaken to discover and arrest the perpetrators. Knowing that disaffection had existed among the raiders, and a large portion, if not a majority of their number, had refused to participate in the massacre, this clew was adopted by the authorities, and a detective force employed, which it was thought could not fail of success. Several days were consumed in the pursuit and investigation, and at the end of that time it was announced that one of the party had become “State’s witness,” and that a full expose of the affair would follow.

The faith that was reposed in this story shows how unequal was the estimate which the State authorities placed upon the resources and influence of their secret enemy, and how illy adapted to the ends in view was the machinery of prosecution employed by the courts in this and similar causes. The party who had professed a willingness to betray his associates in this affair could only be prevailed upon to embrace a very small number in the accusations he made, and, at the subsequent trial, completely failed to sustain the points of the indictment which had been founded on his sworn admissions.

The arrests were made, however, and after a long and tedious contest between the State and Federal[Pg 120] courts, regarding the subject of their jurisdiction—which could not fail to prove advantageous to the accused—the trial, or something which bore a resemblance thereto, was proceeded with. Viewing the resources of the two parties to the presentment, and the efforts put forth by each, it could not have been a success on any terms, and, under the existing conditions, proved a judicial farce of the first magnitude. The negroes who had made their escape from the scene of the massacre, and who had held out promises that they could identify their would-be lynchers, failed to meet the tests which were imposed at the trial; and the State’s witness, mainly relied upon, either could not, or would not, criminate his associates beyond a few general statements, that would not have justified even a partial verdict. After a lengthy trial, pending which the State authorities put forth their utmost exertions to establish the guilt of the accused, it was announced that an alibi had been proven in each case; and so ended the Gibson county horror.

In Obion, a county adjoining Gibson on the west, the details of even a bloodier affair than that recounted above were given to the public a few years earlier, but which, for some reason, never found its way into the courts. We give the outlines in this place, because these horrors, in view of the locus in quo, will always be classed as twin editions in future histories of the Ku-Klux riots.

In what is known as Madrid Bend, a peninsular territory formed by a curve in the Mississippi River[Pg 121] at its junction with Reelfoot Lake (which occupies the rear of the district), are situated a number of large farms, supporting hundreds of negro laborers, and here, as might have been expected, that doctrine of cause and effect, inversely applied, to which we have referred in a previous chapter, had its perfect work. On such soil the K. K. K. vine could not fail to prosper; and accordingly, at an early day, a Den was organized, which soon afterwards took upon itself the duty of regulating the affairs of the little kingdom. Loyal League meetings were broken up; carpet-baggers were requested to skip on brief notice; the enfranchised masses were not permitted to vote too early, nor too often; but, what is sincerely to be regretted by the honest historian, called upon to chronicle these events, and the law-loving public at large, matters did not stop here. The weird brotherhood went further still, in enforcing their ideas of good government, and were wont, at those periods of the “calm, still night” when the queen of its realm did not exercise her beams too freely, to visit the neighboring farms, and, at the end of the lash, administer lessons in morals, social polity, etc. The “man and brother” was not permitted to offend in too palpable breaches of morals, even on his own territory, and certain home duties were strictly enjoined upon him. These ex cathedra performances proceeded in fact to great lengths, and naturally gave dissatisfaction to the controllers of the farming interests in the Bend.

[Pg 122]One of these, whom we shall designate as Mr. J., a large proprietor, who felt himself particularly outraged, in view of the fact that his farm had been several times visited in this clandestine manner, finally protested, and signified to those whom he regarded as the leaders of the movement his perfect ability to control his own affairs. No reply was made at the time, but not long after this one of the negro laborers on J.’s farm had the misfortune to commit a misdemeanor amenable to severe punishment under the K. K. K. code, and it soon after became apparent that the neighborhood Den would adopt the usual plan in meting out justice to the offender. Upon receiving this intelligence, J., seeing that his authority was not only set at nought, but defied, became enraged, and notified the parties that they must proceed at their peril, as he would arm the negroes on his plantation, and lead them in an effort to resist the proposed attack. Unawed by this proclamation, the Klan made its dispositions, and at about twelve o’clock on the night designated, appeared on the scene. A fierce skirmish ensued, as was to have been expected. The negroes had not only been fully equipped, as their employer had threatened, but were stationed behind barricades, with which their wooden houses were lined, and hence fought to the best advantage. The attacking party, on the other hand, was compelled to occupy open ground, and so far from being shielded by the darkness, the relative situation of the parties adjudged that circumstance favorable to the enemy.[Pg 123] The combat was a brief one, and under the conditions which they were forced to accept, could not have resulted favorably to the besiegers. They finally withdrew, having had one man killed and three wounded in this ill-advised affair. The negroes, on their part, suffered no loss whatever.

But the end was not yet, and while fortune favored the cause of the resisting faction in the skirmish of which we have given brief particulars, they must have realized, from their knowledge of their surroundings, that the blood which had been shed would be required at their hands. The scene, moreover, was remote from any garrisoned point whence they might have received aid from government troops in the event that the attack was renewed.

The news of the affair, as was to have been expected, spread rapidly, and as great excitement ensued, J., feeling the insecurity of his position, fled by steamer to Memphis, at the same time counselling the negroes to place themselves under the protection of the authorities. Troy, the seat of justice of Obion, was distant from the scene of rencontre about twenty miles, and thither, at an early hour of the day, the negroes, adopting by-paths and unfrequented routes, turned their steps. But despite the precautions against discovery which they adopted, their movements were closely spied, and before they had proceeded many miles a large force of their enemies was in pursuit. Riding at a break-neck speed, the pursuing party gained on them rapidly, and as they kept out flankers, in order[Pg 124] that none of the party might be overran and thus suffered to escape, ten of the refugees were overtaken and put to death ere the raiders were warned that they were trespassing too far on neutral territory.

Eight of the eighteen succeeded in reaching Troy, and at their request were placed in jail, and a strong guard detailed for their protection. Even these extraordinary precautions, however, proved unavailing, and on the first night of their incarceration a large force of disguised men invested the prison, and having intimidated the guard, carried them away prisoners. Further than this, no report has ever been given of the affair, but it may be guessed, with tolerable assurance, that they shared the fate of their companions.

This affair created a profound sensation throughout the entire country, and to it, as much as any other single deed of the night-riders, are due those prompt measures on the part of the general and State governments which operated as such an emphatic check on their movements. Soon after this the Congress of the United States passed a law virtually outlawing the body; and later, in view of certain phases of the subject which best adapted it to the special legislation of which they were capable, relegated the question to the State governments, reserving only the right to adjudicate such causes where States were indisposed to afford their citizens adequate protection.



[Pg 125]



Any person, under color of law, etc., of any State, depriving another of any rights, etc., secured by the Constitution of the United States, made liable to the party injured, 7034—Penalty for conspiring, by force, to put down the government of the United States, etc., 7035—Conspirator’s doing, etc., any act in furtherance of the object of the conspiracy, and injuring another, liable to damages therefor, 7035—What to be deemed a denial by any State to any class of its people of their equal protection under the laws, 7036—What unlawful combination to be deemed a rebellion against the government of the United States (obsolete), 7037—Certain persons not to be jurors in certain cases, 7038—Jurors to take oath; false swearing, in taking this oath, to be perjury, 7038—Any person knowing that certain wrongs are about to be done, and having power to prevent, etc., neglects so to do, and any such wrong is done, is made liable for all damages caused thereby, 7039.


Act of the Congress of the United States. An Act to enforce the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and for other purposes.

Art. 7034. [1.] Any person, who, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any State, shall subject, or cause to be subjected, any person within the jurisdiction of the United States, to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities, secured by the Constitution of[Pg 126] the United States, shall, any such law, statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of the State to the contrary, notwithstanding, be liable to the party injured in any action at law, suit in equity, or other proceeding for redress; such proceeding to be prosecuted in the several district or circuit courts of the United States, with, and subject to the same rights of appeal, review upon error, and other remedies provided in like cases, in such courts under the provisions of the Act of the 9th of April, eighteen hundred and sixty-six, entitled “An Act to protect all persons in the United States in their civil rights, and to furnish the means of their vindication,” and the other remedial laws of the United States which are, in their nature, applicable in such cases.

Art. 7035. [2.] (1.) If two or more persons within any State or Territory of the United States, shall conspire together to overthrow, or to put down, or to destroy by force the government of the United States, or to levy war against the United States, or to oppose, by force, the authority of the government of the United States, or by force, intimidation, or threat, to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States, contrary to the authority thereof, or by force, intimidation, or threat, to prevent any person from accepting or holding any office of trust, or place of confidence, under the United States, or from discharging the duties thereof, or by force, intimidation,[Pg 127] or threat, to induce any officer of the United States to leave any State, district, or place where his duties, as such officer might lawfully be performed, or to injure him in his person or property on account of his lawful discharge of the duties of his office, or to injure his person while engaged in the lawful discharge of the duties of his office, or to injure his property, so as to molest, interrupt, hinder, or impede him in the discharge of his official duty, or by force, intimidation, or threat, to deter any party or witness in any court of the United States from attending such court, or from testifying in any matter pending in such court, fully, freely, and truthfully, or to injure any such party or witness, in his person or property, on account of his so having attended or testified, or by force, intimidation, or threat to influence the verdict, presentment, or indictment of any juror or grand juror, in any court of the United States, or to injure such juror in his person or property, on account of any verdict, presentment, or indictment, lawfully assented to by him, or on account of his being or having been such juror, or shall conspire together, or go in disguise upon the public highway, or upon the premises of another for the purpose, either directly or indirectly, of depriving any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws, or of equal privileges or immunities under the laws, or for the purpose of preventing or hindering the constituted authorities of any State from giving or securing to all persons[Pg 128] within such State the equal protection of the laws, or shall conspire together for the purpose of in any manner impeding, obstructing, hindering, or defeating the due course of justice in any State or Territory, with intent to deny to any citizen of the United States the due and equal protection of the laws, or to injure any person in his person or property for lawfully enforcing the right of any person or class of persons to the equal protection of the laws, or by force, intimidation, or threat, to prevent any citizen of the United States lawfully entitled to vote from giving his support or advocacy, in a lawful manner, towards or in favor of the election of any lawfully qualified person as an elector of president or vice-president of the United States, or as a member of the congress of the United States, or to injure any such person in his person or property, on account of such support or advocacy: each, and every person so offending, shall be deemed guilty of a high crime, and upon conviction thereof, in any district or circuit court of the United States, or district or supreme court of any Territory of the United States, having jurisdiction of similar offences, shall be punished by a fine not less than five hundred nor more than five thousand dollars, or by imprisonment, with or without hard labor, as the court may determine, for a period not less than six months, nor more than six years, as the court may determine, or by both such fine and imprisonment, as the court shall determine. (2.) And if any one or more persons[Pg 129] engaged in any such conspiracy shall do, or cause to be done, any act in furtherance of the object of such conspiracy, whereby any person shall be injured in his person or property, or deprived of having and exercising any right or privilege of a citizen of the United States, the person so injured or deprived of such rights and privileges may have and maintain an action for the recovery of damages, occasioned by such injury or deprivation of rights and privileges against any one or more of the persons engaged in such conspiracy, such action to be prosecuted in the proper district or circuit of the United States, with and subject to the same rights of appeal, review upon error, and other remedies provided in like cases in such courts under the provisions of the Act of April ninth, eighteen hundred and sixty-six, entitled “An Act to protect all persons in the United States in their civil rights, and to furnish the means of their vindication.”

Art. 7036. [3.] In all cases where insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combinations or conspiracies in any State shall so obstruct or hinder the execution of the laws thereof, and of the United States, so as to deprive any portion or class of the people of such State of the rights, privileges, immunities, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by this act, and the constituted authorities of such State shall either be unable to protect, or shall from any cause fail in or refuse protection of the people in such rights, such facts shall be deemed[Pg 130] a denial by such State of equal protection of the laws of the United States, to which they are entitled under the Constitution of the United States; and in all such cases; or whenever any such insurrection, violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy shall oppose or obstruct the laws of the United States, or the due execution thereof, or impede, or obstruct the due course of justice under the same, it shall be lawful for the President, and it shall be his duty, to take such measures, by the employment of the militia or the land and naval forces of the United States, or of either, or by other means, as he may deem necessary for the suppression of such insurrection, domestic violence, or combinations; and any person who shall be arrested under the provisions of this and the preceding section, shall be delivered to the marshal of the proper district, to be dealt with according to law.

Art. 7037. [4.] Whenever in any State, or part of a State, the unlawful combinations named in the preceding section of this act shall be organized and armed, and so numerous and powerful as to be able by violence to either overthrow or set at defiance the constituted authorities of such State and of the United States, within such States, or when the constituted authorities are in complicity with or shall connive at the unlawful purposes of such powerful and armed combinations; and whenever, by reason of either or all of the causes aforesaid, the conviction of such offenders and the preservation of the public[Pg 131] safety shall become in such district impracticable, in every such case such combinations shall be deemed a rebellion against the government of the United States, and during the continuance of such rebellion, and within the limits of the district which shall be so under the sway thereof, such limits to be prescribed by proclamation, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, when in his judgment the public safety shall require it, to suspend the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus, to the end that such rebellion may be overthrown. Provided, That all the privileges of the second section of an act entitled “An Act relating to habeas corpus, and regulating judicial proceedings in certain cases,” approved March third, eighteen hundred and sixty-three, which relates to the discharge of prisoners other than prisoners of war, and to the penalty for refusing to obey the orders of the court, shall be in full force, so far as the same are applicable to the provisions of this section. Provided, further, That the President shall first have made proclamation, as now provided by law, commanding such insurgents to disperse. And provided, also, That the provisions of this section shall not be enforced after the end of the next regular session of Congress.

1872. The foregoing section was re-enacted in the Senate (1872) but it failed in the House. Hence, by limitation, it became obsolete June 10th, 1872. Action was taken under it by President Grant in several counties in South Carolina while the law was in force.

[Pg 132]Art. 7038. [5.] No person shall be a grand or petit juror in any court of the United States upon any inquiry, hearing, or trial of any suit, proceeding, or prosecution based upon or arising under the provisions of this act who shall, in the judgment of the court, be in complicity with any such combination or conspiracy; and every such juror shall, before entering upon any such inquiry, hearing, or trial, take and subscribe an oath in open court that he has never, directly or indirectly, counselled, advised, or voluntarily aided any such combination or conspiracy; and each and every person who shall take this oath, and shall therein swear falsely, shall be guilty of perjury, and shall be subject to the laws and penalties declared against that crime; and the first section of the article entitled “An Act defining additional causes of challenge, and prescribing an additional oath for grand and petit juries in the United States’ courts,” approved June 17th, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, be, and the same is hereby repealed.

Art. 7039. [6.] Any person or persons having knowledge that any of the wrongs conspired to be done and mentioned in the second section of this act are about to be committed, and having power to prevent or aid in preventing the same, shall neglect or refuse so to do, and such wrongful act shall be committed, such person or persons shall be liable to the person injured, or his legal representatives, for all damages caused by any such wrongful act, which first-named person or persons by reasonable [Pg 133]diligence could have prevented; and such damages may be recovered in an action on the case in the proper circuit court of the United States, and any number of persons guilty of such wrongful neglect or refusal may be joined as defendants in such action. Provided, That such action shall be commenced within one year after such cause of action shall have occurred; and if the death of any person shall be caused by any such wrongful act and neglect, the legal representative of such deceased person shall have such action therefor, and may recover not exceeding five thousand dollars’ damages therein, for the benefit of the widow of such deceased person, if any there be, or if there be no widow, for the benefit of the next of kin of such deceased person.

Art. 7040. [7.] Nothing herein contained shall be construed to supersede or repeal any former act or law, except so far as the same may be repugnant thereto; and any offences heretofore committed against the tenor of any former act shall be prosecuted; and any proceeding already commenced for the prosecution thereof, shall be continued and completed, the same as if this act had not been passed, except so far as the provisions of this act may go to sustain and validate such proceedings.



[Pg 134]



Adventists—How they Practised on the Parasitical Blacks—A Little Power is a Dangerous Thing—The Political Situation in ’67—Whites Refraining from Participation in Election Campaigns—The State Press—The Order of K. K. K. in Louisiana—When the Government Officials were first Notified of its Presence—The Feeling in Grant Parish, a Shire Division of the State created for Political Purposes—Riot Growing out of a Personal Difficulty—Blacks Entrenched in the Court-House at Colfax—Besieged by a Force of from Three Hundred to Four Hundred Men—Parley—Negroes Refuse to Surrender—A Second Defiance—Building Fired—Massacre and Termination of the Bloody Affair—Statistics of Losses in the Fight—Who were Responsible—The White League or Camelias—Occupied the K. K. K. Basis in Externals—New Orleans Riots—Their Effect on the Returning Boards—Coushatta—K. K. K. in Texas—Border History Uneventful—Texas Legislature Interferes.


In the States of Louisiana and South Carolina the war between the K.’s and Loyal League waged fiercest, and was longest protracted, for here the fires of political proscription were earliest lighted, and the boundaries of party maintained with the greatest fortitude. In the former State, a party of men, who were known in certain quarters by the derisive title of “Adventists,” had assumed to control its affairs, not so much in the interest of, as by[Pg 135] the use of, as a means, the negro element of its population. Practising upon the credulity of this unenlightened class, it is not too much to say that they effected their object; and for a period of more than seven years around these central suns of the political firmament the parasitical blacks fluttered. Governors, congressmen, and legislators were created from this material without any reference whatever to the legal attainments or other qualifications of the aspirants, and with a view only to such class legislation as could be made available to the negro rings, and destructive to the people’s interests in that quarter.

Placed in control of affairs, these men, having suffered under the dispensation which the poet sought to describe in the words, “A little learning is a dangerous thing, etc.,” and suspecting, moreover, that his meaning had not been fully brought out in that expressive stanza, astonished even their followers with an example which said “a little power is a dangerous thing.” Legislating, mainly, with a view to continuance in authority, and arbitrarily seizing the elective machinery of the State, they had, independently of the League, under the existing conditions, an unlimited lease of the State administration. Nor did they fail to realize the advantages that came to them under the system of government which they had adopted. Having found a precedent for the most pronounced transgressions of a written law in the acts of their co-conspirators in other[Pg 136] States, and an excuse in the resistance which they inspired, they proceeded to lengths of usurpation which those interested for the cause of liberty on those shores viewed with surprise and dismay. The fullest use was made of every prerogative, and in innumerable instances they were subjected to that stretching process which has been commonly found so destructive to the article.

So rapid was the transition from the war period to that of political anarchy, which followed in obedience to these conditions, that as early as the year 1867 the State was hopelessly committed to an ignorant and unprincipled minority, and in every portion thereof the white masses refrained from even attending the polls, so well assured were they that the fair majorities which they could score would be displaced by the most barefaced fictions. The opposition or conservative press, on the other hand, never ceased to perform its whole duty, representing to the people the true condition of affairs at the capital, the constant abuses of the legislative functions, the enormous treasury shortages, judicial tyrannies, etc., etc.; though, as was indicated by their course subsequently, to the more intelligent of those whom were addressed, this seemed but a citation of evils that were remediless; and where plans of relief were suggested, of remedies that were placed hopelessly beyond their reach. Even in the city of New Orleans, where these exhortations were most frequently heard, the municipal elections not [Pg 137]unoften went by default to the minority representatives; and multitudes (who have since testified their devotion to the cause of right), attracted by the patronage of the winning power, while refusing to give them aid, tendered them congratulations.

Others to whom these philippics came, and who in their country homes had been subjected to the intolerable rigors of League politics, took the appeals even more seriously than they were intended, and began that secret warfare on the agents of oppression in their midst, which, however effectual it may have proven in the end, must always be deprecated on the ground of those inequalities of principle which it represented, and of means it employed.

The first secret political organization enterprised against the Radical power in Louisiana was unquestionably that edition of the K. K. K. which we have been treating, and which proved so effective in disestablishing the various isms of the party in other sections; but it is no less certain that, at no advanced stage of its existence on Louisiana soil, it underwent a very positive metempsychosis, and became, thereafter, the White League, or White Camelias as sometimes addressed representatively. But no matter by what appellative known, nor under what constitutional emendations proceeding, the idea was nowhere more aggressively employed in the work of uprooting the Radical succession, and rendering Southern hospitality, as applicable to its agents, a thing of unmitigated terror. For a year or more[Pg 138] after its organization had been completed, little was done apparently, but during this time the League in all its departments had been subjected to a rigid espionage, and the communications of the former with the transactions of government at the capital, established by the same means.

A slight difficulty in one of the Northern parishes, growing out of an election issue, was perhaps the first intimation conveyed to the Louisiana State authorities that they were to encounter opposition of this character. It, however, was local in its belongings, and though widely published by the organs of the League at the North, was not deemed worthy of attention by the State press. In Grant Parish, a new shire division of the State, created with a view to political ends, the quarrel of the factions assumed a serious shape at an early day, and here eventually transpired one of the most fearful tragedies of this bloody epoch. A remarkable feature of this affair was that it grew out of a purely personal matter, if we may except the contrast of races involved. The details of the private quarrel would of course be uninteresting, and the bloody particulars which followed may be recited in a few words.

An issue of races having been distinctly made, the two parties assembled in force; the blacks, after some preliminary manœuvring, entrenching themselves in the court-house at Colfax, and bidding defiance to their enemies. They were at once closely besieged by a force equalling, or possibly barely exceeding,[Pg 139] their own (three hundred to four hundred men), and, after some parleying, an unconditional surrender demanded. This was resisted on the expressed condition that the entrenched force, though in the minority, were “able to defend themselves,” and would do so at every hazard. An irregular skirmish followed, pending which no advantage resulted to the attacking party, and seeing which, the leaders of the movement resolved on bolder measures: The blacks were again notified that they must vacate their quarters, or submit to the torch, as the besiegers were fully resolved upon dispossessing them of that stronghold. This they seem to have regarded as a mere threat, impossible of execution, and continued to throw out defiances and fire an occasional shot into the enemy’s ranks. The whites, on the other hand, unawed by their manner, and fully decided to adopt this measure as a dernier ressort, sent forward parties commissioned for the dangerous service. It is not known what resistance, if any, was offered to this stratagem, but very soon the building was in flames from pillar to turret, and the terrified blacks rushing forth in mad haste, to encounter a fate scarcely less terrible than that of being roasted in the flames. As they emerged from the burning building, the attacking columns threw themselves on their flanks, and poured volley after volley into their now fairly stampeded ranks. Scores fell under the first deadly assault, and as they passed on in their flight they were intercepted or overtaken by their infuriated pursuers, the massacre[Pg 140] continuing a full hour after the terrified rout had begun to issue from the building.

The statistics of the loss on either side in this engagement have never been given with accuracy, and there is good reason to believe that many of the approximations that have gone to the world have embodied intentional errors. From those who were participating in the affair, and represented the hostile factions in about equal proportion, we obtain the following estimate of their respective losses: Blacks killed, ninety; wounded, twenty-five. Whites killed, five; wounded, three. In the skirmish but few of the whites wore masks, and this affair has generally been regarded the fruit of a popular uprising, and not strictly chargeable to any secret organization, or body of men banded together for political purposes. It occurred, moreover, at a time when partisan feeling in that section had reached a strong ebb, and men were incensed against each other as they rarely become in the light of such incentives. That the Klan was officially represented in the affair was generally conceded.

It was about this time, or a little previously, that the famous White League came into existence, occupying the K. K. K. basis as to politics, and in all essentials of its organization formulated upon the same model. This society assumed the duty of regulating the political affairs of the State, and that it succeeded to some extent in purifying the constitutions of the Returning Boards, those monster[Pg 141] instrumentalities of fraud belonging to the Radical elective system here, there can be no doubt. It was, however, open to many objections, and on equitable grounds must have been defeated by the same testimony that in some instances was made available against the Klan. It was responsible for the New Orleans riots of December 1874, in which hundreds of lives were sacrificed, and which subjected the party which it assumed to represent to a manifest loss of influence. The Kellogg, or Radical faction, however, received severe punishment at their hands, and made many valuable concessions under the election issues, from which the troubles grew; and it was in this affair, likewise, that the Returning Boards, above mentioned, were made to feel their power, and “by the same sign” induced to amend their ways. A bloody affair at Coushatta, in the Red River country, followed in the succeeding year; but as the transactions of this body are not strictly within the purview of the present work, we refrain from a statement of the particulars.

The Klan, finding its services no longer available here, in obedience to its nomadic instincts crossed the Texas border, and for a year or two following [Davis, Radical, being at that time Governor], assisted in the administration of Texas affairs. But while it proved a factor of no mean consequence in almost every political measure which agitated the Border mind, and numerous local raids were reported by the State journals, its frontier history was made[Pg 142] up of unimportant details, whose want of adaptation to the plan of this volume must be our excuse for omitting them. The following statute, referring to the subject, was enacted by the Texas Legislature of contemporaneous date:

Unlawfully appearing in disguise as Ku-Klux, White Camelias, and other Deviltry, punished.

Art. 6508. [1.] The penal code for the State of Texas shall be amended as follows, by inserting after Act 363 the following: [363] a If the purpose of the unlawful assembly be to alarm and frighten any person, or persons, by appearing in disguise, so that the real persons so acting and assembling can not be readily known, and by using language or gestures calculated to produce in such person or persons the fear of bodily harm, all persons engaged therein shall be punished by fine not less than one hundred, nor more than one thousand dollars each; and if such unlawful assembly shall take place at any time of the night—that is, between sunset and sunrise—the fine shall be doubled; and if three or more persons are found together disguised and armed with deadly weapons, the same shall be primâ facie evidence of the guilty purpose of such persons, as above described; and if any other unlawful assembly, mentioned in this chapter, consist in whole or in part of persons disguised and armed with deadly weapons, the fine to be assessed upon each person so offending shall be double the penalty hereinbefore described.



[Pg 143]



The Situation in Georgia—Bullock Usurpation—Some Things which may be Explained—Negro Criminals—Taking Refuge in the Ocmulgee Swamps—A Brutal Murder—Ku-Klux Ambushed—A Terrible Oath—Uncle Jack B.—A Brief Memoir—“Nigger Dogs” in the “Goober State”—Uncle Jack Interviewed by the Ku-Klux—What came of it—Getting Ready for the Chase—A Pack of “Negro Dogs” described—In the Swamps—The Opening Chorus—A Warm Trail—Swimming the Ocmulgee—Disappointment—The Lull is Past—The Cheering Notes of the Chase—Blood of the Martyrs! can it be?—A Last Effort—Another Crime added to the Calendar—A fresh Start—Baffled Again—At Bay—Tragical Scene.


As the K. K. K. influence was not felt in the politics of the south-west after the events which we have narrated, and the scope of this work forbids our entering into such details as comprised the Chicot county affair in Arkansas, and the Vicksburg (Miss.) emeute, which was unquestionably due in part to other influences, we yield to the eccentricities of our theme, and find ourselves under the shadow of that towering usurpation—the Bullock administration in Georgia. The organization of the Klan in this State was perhaps more extensive and efficient than elsewhere on Southern soil,—proving a [Pg 144]complete offset to the Loyal League in the important work of influencing party discipline, and, after a time, effecting its other aim—of rendering it physically hors du combat. We shall not pretend, however, to follow it through the various stages of its development on Georgia soil, nor give what might be deemed a correct history of its movements, as we are concerned rather with the issues which grew out of the latter, and that which will prove far more interesting to the reader—the modus of its operations.

A single feature of the campaign in this region we will endeavor to make prominent, without a design of saddling its individuality on this State, or insinuating that that branch of the pet institution vulgarly known as “nigger dogs” was not as widely diffused as its popular derivative, and far too fossilized in its structure to submit to any merely sentimental changes in types of government. So far as that phase of the subject may tend to obtrude difficulties upon the reader, the writer will volunteer the information that he was recently placed by accident at a point where his sensorium covered three large well-trained kennels of these brutes; and that it has been his good fortune, on more occasions than one, since liberty resumed its old-time inheritance in the “land we love,” to follow the panting “Ketch,” where none dare go before, along the redolent trail of the criminal—black or white. Nor is there anything more remarkable about the circumstance that the body of men known as Ku-Klux should, upon certain [Pg 145]contingencies, avail themselves of the services of this sagacious brute, than that the same men, by accident or otherwise, should be employed on a righteous mission like the following:

In the year 1862, in that portion of Telfair county where the Elk river has its confluence with the Ocmulgee, a larger stream, a negro slave of Mr. —— committed a brutal rape on one of his master’s household, and fled to the neighboring wilderness. He was not pursued at the time, as, in view of the recent conscript levies and the unsettled state of the country, there were no available means at hand; and, aided by individuals of his own color, whose race prejudices at this time had reached a state of savage excitement, he found safe harborage and a precarious livelihood in the river-swamps during the entire period of the war. Pending his exile, and soon after it began, he was joined by an only brother, a brother-criminal likewise, who had been forced to fly the settlements; and, having formed an alliance—sun and ek—the predatory excursions of this twain became thereafter the special terror of dwellers in that exposed region. Nothing, however, particularly worthy of mention marked their exploits until the year following the close of hostilities, when they emerged from their fastnesses, and having made their way to a neighboring settlement, occupied by an old gentleman and an only son, a youth of twelve years, put them both to death with every circumstance of horrible detail. This affair occurred in[Pg 146] the latter part of the year 1865, and, as was to have been expected, created a wide-spread sensation.

Within a few hours after the deed had been committed, a well-equipped party of horsemen started in pursuit, and for more than a week conducted a thorough campaign through that division of the Ocmulgee swamps that was supposed to have furnished a retreat to the murderers. They did not succeed, however, further than to obtain a view of the refugees, and salute them with a volley at long range; and seeing that their efforts would prove fruitless, returned to their homes. Here the matter rested until the following spring, when a party of Ku-Klux, raiding in that vicinity, were fired upon from the brush, and one of their number killed, by two men who were positively recognized as the swamp-ruffians. Having buried their dead companion, in obedience to the strange ceremonies in vogue with them, the members of the Klan assembled around his grave, and recorded an oath “never to relent from their purpose of revenge, nor cease the pursuit of his murderers, while the Ocmulgee contained water, and the region fertilized by it and its tributaries supported an inch of unexplored territory.”

Not far from the scene of the last occurrence lived Uncle Jack B——, a character in the neighborhood prior to Sherman’s raid and reconstruction, but who, since those events, in view of a somewhat disproportioned record, had been singing exceedingly small. In ante bellum times, this old gentleman had been looked up to, by both whites and[Pg 147] blacks of his vicinity, as in some sense the reigning monarch of the locality, and one between whose smiles and frowns lay considerations that might engage the attention of much weightier personages than any whom the countryside supported. In brief, Uncle Jack had been the proud proprietor of the largest and best known pack of “nigger dogs” in the “Goober State,” with all that that implied in the language of the reconstructionists; and if he did not still possess that distinction, it was altogether attributable to the circumstance that the office which it involved had ceased to be a sinecure, and the property in question was no longer quoted among commercial values. But though the old man and his beasts bowed their heads under the in terrorem of the new order of things, they well knew that this dies iræ could not last always, and were, moreover, fully persuaded of the truth of the old proverb which insures to every well-behaved canine a “dish” in passing events. That they were not sophists in this matter will be sufficiently demonstrated by the remaining events of this chapter.

At precisely twelve o’clock on the night succeeding that which witnessed the tragical event last narrated above, Uncle Jack held a long conference, at the outer gate of his premises, with three mounted men, and shortly thereafter might have been observed to visit his stable and dog-kennel, lingering for some time in the vicinity of each. A half-hour or more was consumed by the details of a preparation from which it was plain to be seen some mystery[Pg 148] was in course of evolution, and the old man, mounted on his now full-rigged hunter, and swept forward in a tempest of dolorous howlings, turned an angle of the close, and joined his weird visitors.

It will hardly be necessary to inform the reader that these men were K. K. K. emissaries, who had been dispatched to secure the hunter and his dogs to aid them in the difficult enterprise which they had undertaken; and looking from one to the other of the new levies, he would have no hesitancy in making up his mind that “Barkis was willin’,” and the “yaller beauties,” as he was wont to term them, “spilin’” for nigger meat. These latter were composed of a dozen brace of the best Florida breed of the hybrid blood- and sleuth-hound, fat and frolicsome, wearing sleek coats of yellow, and as to size, if put to the test, the runtiest of the runts would have kicked the beam at fifty pounds. Leashed in couples, they made rapid circuits around the now galloping horsemen, filling the night with the music of their weird chorus, and falling to an indiscriminate and discordant baying whenever hog or cow or other animate thing, startled from their covert, stood still to guess at the intrusion. Three miles from the point of starting, the main company was reached, and soon afterwards, passing into the edge of the bottom, the dogs were released from their slips, and at a word from the hunter, and directing a premonitory sniff at their surroundings, sped into the darkness. For an hour or more the hunters pressed their way through the pitchy swamps, now following a scarcely[Pg 149] distinguishable stock trail, now lightened upon by a gleam of starlight from above, and not unfrequently committed for guidance to the instincts of the animals they bestrode, without other report from the excited yelpers than was too timidly given to be accounted much worth, or called forth the response from some guttural cavity of the forest, “a lie.” Reaching the banks of the river, at a point five miles below the swamp line at which their road had intersected the bottom, a halt was called, and the company sat peering into the darkness, for the first time doubtful of their enterprise, when lo! within ten feet of the rearmost file a welcome sound broke the stillness—at first low and doubtful, but gaining in volume and flowing into blended notes—one—two—three—and then a stunning, Wagnerian chorus, that lifted every horseman from his stirrups, and sent the wood echoes rolling in sonorous waves along the breast of the forest. A loud hurrah from the hunters attested their equal joy, and hue and cry being joined, the panic of pursuit began. Straight up the river bank the roaring pack held on their course, not once veering to the right nor left, nor never slackening speed, and timid horsemen, that erst had shivered if their steeds but stumbled in the darkness, now rode abreast of the panting “leader,” swelling the volume of sound with their loud halloos, and leaping branch and inlet sound with the agility of the frightened deer that sped before. Even the “Ketch,” usually sedate and disallowing confidences,[Pg 150] had been momentarily thawed by the all-pervading enthusiasm, and joining the pack just where the fun grew furious, howled a dismal accompaniment to the cheering notes of the chase. On, on, into the darkness beyond, sped the tempest of pursuit—now wedged into narrow passes and involved in a hundred confused knots, now unravelling on the open plains beyond and flowing on in currents bold and free as those that kissed the shore beneath them, now leaping brake and fell, now skirting hazardous banks, now hugging obtrusive shores, and hark! at a sharp signal from the “leader” all sounds are hushed,—followed by a plunging boom, and, churned into a thousand eddies, the bold Ocmulgee supports the rout of panting men and beasts, who have no sooner recovered from the chilling baptism than each bends forward in a mad struggle to reach first the yonder shore and herald this clamorous invasion to its phantoms of darkness. But so close on the heels of the dripping “leader” pressed the frantic crew—who owed him fealty come life or death—that his opening chorus was echoed by a hundred lesser sounds that were not echoes, and with a mighty effort the panting “Ketch,” leaping sheer from the waves to the upper bank, was not too late with his base variation. And now the wild pursuit is begun anew, for the tardiest horseman is spurring into the depth of the forest beyond, and skurrying out of sight and hearing if that were possible—the wailing wood notes have a story to whisper to the deserted shore.

[Pg 151]But “the best laid plans of mice and men aft gang aglee,” and not above a half mile from their watery exodus the puzzled yelpers vary their chorus and slacken speed, and, warned by a ringing blast on the huntsman’s horn, the whole company of baffled pursuers double on their track, and by twos, and threes, and then in larger squads, rejoin their river base. Here the huntsmen consult together, and the pack renew their frenzy, frisking along the river shore, scouring the woods, and soon afterwards, indicating by a yelping chorus far down the stream that the stratagem of the refugees led them that way. The impatient horsemen soon gallop at their heels, and after one or two dissentient howls from the aged skeptics of the pack, they one and all run full upon the warm scent, with a clamor that causes the woods to “ring again,” and sends the vital current tingling along the veins of the coldest-blooded horseman. And now the lull is past, and the thunder of pursuit once more greets the forest echoes. Away, away, distancing the swamp tracts and riding into the region of the morning, for its first beams, striking through the tree-boughs, sprinkle their forms and play in feathered jets along the bosom of the forest. Away, away, riding neck and neck with the fleet-footed swamp-hare, and crossing the hurricane’s track with a rush and sound that might have been its refrain. Away, away, emerging upon the broad plateau, and yelling, yelping, whooping, cursing, but never slackening speed. Away, away, vanishing[Pg 152] through lanes, disappearing over hill-tops, and clattering through the valleys beyond, with a mighty hubbub that jars the base of the hills, and sends the round echoes careering at their backs.

Blood of the martyrs! can it be? Just at the apex of yonder rise which the feet of the pursuers take hold upon, lives an unprotected widow and her daughter, and with ominous precision of stride the hue and cry points that way.

The instincts of both men and beasts instantly acquaint them with the situation, and, bending forward in one last despairing effort, they emulate the rush of the tornado as they bear down the enclosures and sweep up the incline, just in time to witness the most piteous spectacle that men with emotions were ever invited to commiserate. The panting pack, first on the scene, leap on the frightened and weeping women with furious growls, licking their faces and hands, sniffing at their forms, and baying from all quarters, until, driven from thence, they rush into the single apartment, leap on the beds, drag them to the floor, and falling to, with the fury of wild beasts disappointed of their prey, tear them into shreds.[A] Being expelled from thence, the hunters hear the dolorous narrative of the women, cross-question them as to particulars which may aid them in the pursuit, and having lost but little time, follow the now[Pg 153] furious hounds in a noisy detour around the little farm. Again and again this is repeated, and men and dogs are fairly baffled. The former dismount and examine the ground for visible signs, but are unrewarded, and seem ready to despair, when one of the pack, having leaped to the close fence, follows it for some distance, and finally breaks forth into that ominous bark which criminal never heard undaunted. Instantly he is joined by his impatient companions, and the welkin rings with their loud acclaim. The hunters follow, but almost too late, as the sequel proves; for having invaded the barn, a few rods distant, and discovered there the objects of their rage, the excited pack had well-nigh ended this series of tragedies. The mangled remains of one of the criminals was dragged forth a lifeless corpse, and his associate, defending himself with a clubbed gun, had disabled half the number of his assailants when he in turn was overpowered, and but for the intervention of his pursuers must have suffered a like fate.

But the rescue proved ill-timed, in one sense at least, for no sooner had the ruffian been disengaged from his dilemma and lifted from the building, than a shot was heard from behind, and, bleeding from twenty wounds, he rolled lifeless on the sward.

Looking in the direction whence the report came, the hunters saw the form of the girl who, a little while ago, had engaged their attention as a pale and woe-begone Lucrece, now expanded into a Hebe, and, still unrevenged, levelling her smoking weapon at the form of the African.



[Pg 154]



The Klan in South Carolina—Officious Interference in Politics—Atrocious Performances of Men in Masks—The “Shams,” or Counterfeit Editions of K. K. K.—How Organized—Purposes of the Organization—Their Vocabulary of Crime—South Carolina Fanatics—How the “Sham” Movement Affected the K. K. K.—Parodied out of the Field—A Resolution of sine die Adjournment—K. K. K. Horrors on the Increase—The “Shams” were Opposed in their Movements not only by the Party who had formerly Upheld the K. K. K., etc.—Rotten-Egg Battalions—Citizens sometimes took the Execution of the Law into their Own Hands—A Case in Point.


While the K. K. K. influence was bad enough, in all conscience, and the K. K. K. embodiment a trifle worse, it had imitators in both these elements of its being who cherished even Satanic designs, and we doubt if so much could be written of the former. That the Klan was organized on South Carolina soil, and did much mischief to the Conservative party and influence there by assuming to be its exponent on the most untoward occasions, and at the moment when its services were least desired, is something which is admitted in the former case, and its stupidity heartily cursed with in the latter. But it is equally true that many of the atrocious[Pg 155] performances of men in masks which invariably fell to the K. K. K. score were bastardies, and unless, for the sake of imaginative persons, it is admitted that Satan was involved in the fatherhood of both, it may be doubted if even the claim of illegitimate kinship could be sustained.

The “sham,” or counterfeit edition of the K. K. K., had no organized existence in either of the remaining Southern States; but here it not only possessed this groundwork of system, but possessed it to advantage, and in numbers and influence (if political rank can bestow the latter) probably excelled the body which they affected to parody, and, giving the joke a serious turn, did injure. Their plan embodied as many of the K. K. K. secrets as they could contrive to capture, and scorning illiberality even in outward things, prescribed the regalia and mask feature, with an expansiveness of detail that must have affected the cotton-market. Its chief place of rendezvous was the capital of the State, and it is believed by many that His Excellency, the Governor, was, if not its visible head, at least its trusted adviser and friend. Their object was the aggrandizement of party; and this they proposed to accomplish by rendering the State a revolutionary hell, tenantable only for soldiers, black militia, and that currish type of the politician then in vogue, and who had been found, by actual experience, best adapted to these elements. If a county, State, or general election were to be held, these men, getting [Pg 156]themselves up in approved Ku-Klux toilet, went forth to lay their knives at the throats of a sufficient number of innocents to afford a text for bloody-shirt invectives, and straightway the political sky rained soldiers enough to garrison the polls of a small empire. Murder, arson, rape, robbery, etc., all had a place in their vocabulary, not indeed as we would speak of them in the abstract, but with all those horrible belongings of sentimentality which attach to each when enterprised wilfully, cheerfully, and with scarcely a selfish end in view. Warring against women and children was a foible of the society, which they carried to such a state of development that it became first an attribute, and then a furious passion; insomuch that, if a faithful history of their exploits were written, the noble patriots of Maine and Massachusetts would execrate them, as they do not, could not, those secret enemies who war against social virtue in their midst, and the book could have no other title than “Murderers of the Innocents.”

But, in exposing the wrongs of this people, we do not become their champion, nor even so much as pretend to assume that they possessed rights. If fanaticism, or, to use a stronger term, transcendentalism, morally speaking, or radicalism in politics, exists in the South (and we leave this problem to the Science Monthly), it has its fullest development on South Carolina soil. Her people have always shown themselves jealous of individual rights, and disposed to clannishness, where concessions affecting these[Pg 157] have been made. They have attempted to secede from the Union on two occasions, and the latter of these became the political herald of the great civil war, whose incidents are remembered with tears by every patriot. The K. K. K. found her climate congenial, and from the first her people were mad against reconstruction; and while the writer may express no opinion on the subject, these things are spoken of to her disadvantage. But admitting that they were true, and that she occupies that revolutionary extreme in politics assigned her by the most reliable histories of the period, could that justify the course of her domestic enemies towards her, and should it chain the expression of the undissembling chronicler of such events?

We need hardly state that this emetic proved too much for the K. K. K. animal, and that all its movements thereafter indicated not only a badly disordered stomach, but moral functions so much impaired that it was constantly ruled by a tendency to ask everybody pardon for sustaining this relation to society, and to accuse itself of crimes for which it could only assign somnambulistic causes. Indeed, about the year 1871, it was completely parodied out of the field, and if Ku-Klux horrors were far more frequent in this State after that period than previously, the reader, with the lights before him, is asked to assume the responsibility of the seeming paradox. It not only had no government patronage at its back, but, on the other hand, viewed[Pg 158] a brilliant perspective of government halters, and seeing how unequal the rivalry must prove in more respects than one, wisely concluded to retire from business. A resolution of sine die adjournment was actually passed, and the members having exchanged sad farewells and wept on each other’s necks in view of the gloomy prospect before them, the “Shams,” as they were derisively called, became masters of the situation. (If we except the Hamburg affair in the summer of 1876, and one other occurrence of merely local import, the white element of South Carolina has been guilty of no overt act since the period named implying contumacy towards the State government or the constitutional rights of the citizen.)

The “Shams” were opposed in their movements not only by the party who had formerly upheld the K. K. K. idea as an alleged necessity of the times, but by that more conservative influence which, though maintaining the same political views as the latter, contemned the use of all secret agencies in politics. When it was possible to anticipate their raids, rotten-egg battalions were formed, which, in their efforts to deter them from their purpose, employed every character of violence that did not involve the commission of crime. Not unfrequently their places of meeting were discovered, and when this was the case, a descent was planned, and the subject of “unfinished business” rendered one of lively interest to its membership. But, frequently,[Pg 159] organized resistance, from the very nature of the case, was out of the question, and where citizens were placed at the mercy of their raids, they sometimes took the execution of the law into their own hands. An instance in point, which has been given to the public in different forms, but never correctly, has been related to the writer.

In the western portion of the State lived a farmer who had so frequently suffered from the incursions of these gentry, that he resolved on retaliatory measures, and loading his shot-gun lay in waiting. The corn-crib seemed to have been a favorite objective with them, and as he had stationed himself where his gun commanded the approaches thereto, he quietly bided the moments. His calculations were well taken, for in a brief time a party of five men, gowned and otherwise disguised, rode to the neighborhood of his concealment, and taking sacks from their saddles proceeded to the crib. Here their movements were guided by a plan that was unique if not original. Obtaining a rail from a neighboring fence, one end thereof was inserted under the corner of the building, and their combined strength applied to the other; a leverage which easily gave a sufficient aperture to admit their bodies. One of their number was now stationed on the end of the improvised lever as a teetering weight, and the party proceeded to business.

While matters were progressing thus favorably for the marauders, our hero’s feelings may be better[Pg 160] imagined than described, and observing with what a saucy air the individual who balanced the fulcrum performed his other duty of sentinelcy, he took steady aim and fired.

The result, as ascertained some hours afterwards, was truly wonderful, and deserves, if it has not received, a place in the archives of the Moses’ administration. The bodies of four dead negroes were found, one pierced with bullets, and the remainder having their necks broken. We will not offend against good taste by giving further details, and especially desire that the plausibility of this story may be seen in the readiness with which the reader comprehends the mystery of their deaths respectively.

It is needless to state that this affair was heralded to the world as a Ku-Klux murder, and as the parties wore uniforms, and affected the characterization, some doubt touching the integrity of the announcement may have existed in the minds of those best acquainted with the facts.



[Pg 161]



A Problem for the Phrenologists—“Self-Preservation is [said to be] the First Law of Life”—A Mooted Question put at Rest—Experiments in Metaphysics—An Anecdote Dealing with the Characteristics of some People—Another—Peculiarities of the Caucasian—Ditto of the African—An “Awakening” among the Children of the New Abrahamic Covenant—“Brudder Jones’s Preechin’”—What it Wrought—Unpleasant Truths—Sins of Omission and Commission—The Pale-Faced Settlers in Distress—An “Artifice” of Retrenchment—Eloquent Discourse—Nineteenthly, and what followed—K. K. K. redivivus—“Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys are Marching, etc.”—A Break for Tall Timber—The Best Time on Record.


Whether it is located in the brain, or has its seat in that sentient organ of the body which physiologists indicate as the seat of life, we are left to conjecture; but it is certain that there exists somewhere in the anatomy of man an essence, or attribute, which, under certain outward conditions, becomes the tyrant of his movements, and renders the disposition to cultivate acquaintance with other vistas a passion too strong to be resisted. Philosophers tell us that “self-preservation is the first law of life,” but their efforts to connect this postulate with some rational conclusion deduced[Pg 162] from the organism of the animal under discussion, is so egregiously wanting in the elements of a sound syllogism, that we are led to believe that it has no foundation in fact, and that they only meant to say that where the emotion denominated fear assumes the reigns of physical government, an open road and fair play are all that is required to render the proposed achievement a success. It is useless to tell us that men, adopting the improved modes of destroying life which this Christian age has developed, stand up to explode missiles at each other under the persuasion that they are doing something that will tend to preserve life; or, if that were not false doctrine, who that ever attended one of these tournaments of bad shooting is unable to testify to the overpowering conviction that the parties thereto would have enjoyed themselves better in a free exercise of their limbs—

“Over the meadows and far away.”

Having examined into the philosophy of this question, with a view solely of removing certain doubts inherited from the professions of a warlike ancestry, and, predisposed to err in the opposite direction, we have arrived at the conclusion, once for all, that the “git up and git” tendencies of mankind, when the proper incentives are at hand, are as absolutely irresistible as the water-fall at Niagara, and as necessary to the happiness of the subject as the barriers that separate him from his mother-in-law.[Pg 163] Having solved this problem, and satisfied ourselves of the universality of its conditions, it next occurred to us to examine its terms as applicable to the different races of men. And here we found that while all races are equally gifted in this respect, yet its elementary conditions are not always the same in different branches of the Adamic tree. Taking the extremes in color as the representatives of a fair contrast in other respects, we have confined our investigations to the white and black races,—and with a view to our own profit, and to being fully comprehended by the reader,—these races as they exist on our own shores. Without any reference whatever to the vain science known as metaphysics, our conclusions are as follows: With the white man this element of his being is less on the surface, and he wears it uneasily, as though it were foreign to his genius, and at the same time a curb on his actions. With the other it is a loose-fitting garment, worn on the outside, and he seems rather pleased than otherwise that he is thus rendered a spectacle to his fellow-men. The white man attempts to conceal it, and above all would persuade himself that it is an illusion of the fancy. The black, contrariwise, has no qualms of conscience on the subject, and if pressed for argument, might adduce it as a crowning evidence of his homogeneity.

Two incidents have come under our notice which set forth this distinction more forcibly than any form of words we could employ. A farmer living in the[Pg 164] back country, near the city of Shreveport, brought his son—a youth whose adolescency would hardly have escaped the notice of strangers—to that thriving burg to view the sights. The steamboat feature was down in the programme, of course, and reaching the wharf, the youngster was commissioned to go aboard and obtain the exact “geography” of “the thing.” This he proceeded to do with all haste, exploring the quarter-deck, rummaging through the cabins, and finally bringing up before the engine with a manner that said as plainly as words, “the thing is inconceivable.” The engineer, standing not far off, observed this movement, and, probably without contemplating such serious results, stepped briskly forward and touched the safety-valve. Startled beyond all “fancy fathoms” by the earthquake of sound, “country” accomplished a rapid retrograde movement, which soon involved him in conflict with the waves, whence, floundering and spluttering, after the fashion of a porpoise, and having absorbed a barrel or more of river water, he was with difficulty rescued. Being dragged ashore, and before the agonies of drowning had fairly relinquished his frame, a sympathizing bystander asked if he had been much scared. His reply was characteristic of the Caucasian blood, “No-o-o (splutter); I’ve (splutter) seen the critters afore.”

Not many hundred miles north of the city of Galveston, while the Texas Central Railroad was in course of construction, and at a little town which[Pg 165] formed its northern terminus for the time being, occurred the following:

Two individuals of African lineage, hailing from the upper districts of the State, who had never seen an “ingine,” but had long promised themselves that felicity, stood at the depôt awaiting with some impatience the arrival of the evening train. Standing hand in hand, and conversing excitedly on the topic uppermost in their minds, their outre appearance, coupled with the exceeding verdancy of some of their observations, became the subject of attention, and then of amused remark from the bystanders. This they were unable to appreciate for various reasons, and soon the appearance of the winged monster around a neighboring curve, with appalling and most unpreconceived suddenness, took away their breaths and rocked their bodies with shivers of dread. Their first impulse was to dismiss their corner of the meeting and pass to the rear; but, looking around upon the broadly smiling crowd, they were reassured for the moment, and each grasping the other’s horny palm with a grip which evinced their respective determinations not to be left, whatever might happen, they stood hearkening to the thunderous echoes, and noting with special wonder the cow-catching and other aggressive features of the steadily approaching monster. It had now stolen by slow degrees to within twenty feet of the spot which they occupied, and the whistle breaking into a peculiarly loud accompaniment to the huff—huff—huff of the bellowing[Pg 166] engine, the expression, “Dar, she’s busted!” startled even the man of iron at the throttle-valve, and prefacing the exertion with a ten-feet leap into the air, the panic-stricken darkies broke across the landscape with a yearning desire for tall timber that was eloquently depicted on every motion of the supple limbs, and in each sway of the backward leant and pendulous cerebellums. The cheers of the crowd, and a few extra flourishes on the big horn, served to augment their weight of conviction, and buckling to their labor with saw-mill regularity of stroke, and a settled determination not to be overtaken by slower time, they soon blended with the verge of the horizon, and took that leap into space which rescues them from all further connection with this narrative.

So thin is the partition wall that separates the real from the ideal with these beings, that they continually advertise themselves for a scare, and should they by any accident be deprived of their weekly supply of the element, loss of appetite and other serious bodily symptoms would undoubtedly ensue.

We have volunteered these remarks and illustrations, pertaining to the philosophy of this question, with a view of introducing the following occurrence:

In that portion of the State of Mississippi where the pumpkins grow largest, and the mosquitoes are supplied with blood-letting apparatus at both extremities, and at about that period of post bellum history when the K. K. K. rabies had taken strongest hold upon the chivalry of the neighboring hills and [Pg 167]valleys, a great “awakening” occurred among the children of the new Abrahamic covenant. In other words, and to quote the language of one of the communicants, “a ole fashyun’d whoopin’, bumpin’, jumpin,’ tumblin,’ rousation of de dry bones had superseemed froo de inscroomentality of Brudder Jones’s preechin’.” For a period of six weeks the lame, halt, and blind of the neighboring plantations had been led into the troubled waters with manifestations of relief that the most skeptical would hardly question, and still, to quote further, “Zion was a wavin’, and de onregenerate milyums flockin’ abode of de ‘gospil car.’” Indeed, the “orfumdoxeky of de new doctorin’” was having its effect everywhere, and old soggy timber that had resisted the improvements in wedges for half a century went to atoms under the vigorous mauling of “Brudder Jones.” No sooner had one squad of penitents been “bumped” through and converted into stools for the sisters, than the raw material for another and larger was at hand, and “swingin’, whoopin’, rollin’,” the “thing” held right on its course over the rheumatic toes of the aged and infirm, and into the combative “buzzums” of the young, vigorous, and “kick-him-hard-and-let-him-go.”

But though nothing could be more delightful to the writer than to continue the narrative in this strain, recording only the triumphs of “suvverin grace,” and concerning himself most with the æsthetic beauties of its “sperimental terms,” yet duty compels him to state that while Brother Jones[Pg 168] and his militant hosts were pressing hard upon the enemy from their entrenched position, their campaign was far from embodying all the gospel conditions. Though we could wish the sentence blotted out after we had written it, it behooves us to say, in plain words, that sins both of omission and commission soiled their robes, and wrought, or should have done so, a languishing effect on their hosannas. The grassy cotton-fields and rioting pumpkin vines testified to the former, while the commission department of the offence, with such a paraphrase of that word as may be effected by a slight transposition of accent, was directed with most fatal precision of aim at the henneries and “piggeries” of the neighboring white trash. So constant and regular were their visits to the haunts of the feathered domestics, that the fashion of noting absentees from roll-call became obsolete; and a full chorus of grunts was so foreign to the morning habits of the pig-pen, that such an outburst in that quarter must have affected the nerves of the strongest. Indeed, that division of the pale-faced settlers whose springtime felicity depended largely on this class of commissaries, had arrived at such a desperate strait that, in convention assembled, it was resolved to retrench, and, if we must write it, their “artifice” of retrenchment was levelled at Brother Jones and his “band of robbers,” as they were politely termed. The scheme “hit upon,” and the success which followed it, may be gathered from the following scene:

[Pg 169]That period of the night equally removed from the departed and the coming day, had accomplished its fiftieth revolution, and now hung fire over the eighteenthly of the most eloquent discourse that was ever flattened out over the crowns of an equal proportion of unsuspecting listeners for the same number of times. The cries of the stricken arose from every quarter of the vast audience, and hundreds of the slain had submitted to that elongating process by which their contorted frames were made to do duty for the greatest number of “squatter sovereigns.” One brother arose to testify, in a series of whoops, to the pungency of “de brudder’s doctorin’,” and immediately went to bed to a mass of excruciating hurts on the outskirts of the assembly. A sister, racked by the “alloverishes,” and knowing the penalty for interrupting the services at this interesting stage, screamed out in affright, and reaching that point over a causeway of the best Boston built brogans, was content to embrace her toes around a neighboring sycamore. Nineteenthly stood up for duty,—arranged its cravat,—tip-toed,—and lo! instead of a chorus of grunts, a chorus of gasps, full-chested, deep drawn, and suffocating. There he stood, or rather towered, just where the rays of light fell strongest, garbed in funereal black, and full twelve feet from crown to sole.[B] Steadying [Pg 170]himself after an awkward, but ghostlily impressive bow, there issued from that portion of his corporeal frame which might be supposed to represent the mean in a mathematical estimate of his inches, the following announcement: “I am a Ku-Klux!” and then from the upper extreme the following confirmation of this report: “I have just forded the Tallahatchie River, and am the advance guard of the old original whoopers, surnamed K. K. K.;” and then from mean and extreme, in dismal chorus, “Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are marching, etc.”

Nothing could be further from our purpose than to injure that excellent person, either in the eyes of his contemporaries or of that posterity which he was wont to invoke so confidently from the more thrilling promontories of his discourse; but a decent regard for the “proprieties” of this narrative compels us to state that the reverend orator observing, or fancying that he observed, something mandatory, and withal personal in the terms of this refrain, at once inaugurated the “tramp” exercise over the heads of the assembly, and reaching terra firma, one mile from the point of embarkation, and seeing nothing in the homogeneity of a mob particularly attractive to a man of genius, proceeded to divest himself of his surroundings in the best executed “lonesome” since the days of Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok. This movement, moreover, possessed a striking appropriateness, inasmuch as it rendered him practically the leader of his flock, and perhaps[Pg 171] on no former occasion of his extended ministry did he ever discharge the duties of the “relation” with the same yearning solicitude for the success of the issue, even admitting, in extenuation of the past, that the most lukewarm of his constituency did their whole duty on this memorable occasion. As the writer has never been successful at equating distances since he was gobbled by the greyhound in connection with his more legitimate prey in the good old days of “academicia,” he declines to state just how many furlongs the panic-stricken multitude had traversed, when a gloaming of red in the east warned them that they had nothing further to fear from the “nocturnal beasts,” who had obtruded their heathenish “doxullumgy” on the late exercises, and will not commit himself as to the sequel, further than to say that the results of the “great awakening” were soon after visible in a certain rejoicing tendency of the cotton plant and pumpkin vine of that fertile region.



[Pg 172]



Late Announcement of the Earl of Beaconsfield before an Assembly of Englishmen—The Secret Societies of Europe—Men of Influence in the Southern States Disclaim the alleged Good Offices of the Klan in the Work of Southern Redemption—Its True Status with Regard to Current Politics—Combining the Offices of Regulator and Vigilante with that of Politician—An Absolutist in all Society Matters—Many who advance the Idea that that Complete Renovation of the Social System Effected through its Means could not have been Accomplished in the Use of less Radical Measures—Inhuman Butcheries, etc., Figments of the Scalawag Imagination—Many of its Acts were Lawless, etc.—A Logical Presentation of the True Theory—How it Injured the Common Cause—Its Generical Belongings—Few Friends Unconnected with its Patronage—Negative Issue which it Introduced into the Great Campaign—Occupying a Voice in Southern Counsels—Unprincipled Plagiaries—Dangerous Sentimentalism Awakened at the North—What the Imaginative Prose of the News-Reporter was Calculated to Do—How it (K. K. K.) Prolonged the “Carpet-Bag” Reign of Terror.


The late announcement of the Earl of Beaconsfield (Mr. D’Israeli), before an assembly of Englishmen, that the pending war against Turkey was the war of the secret societies of Europe, conducted through Prince Milan, as their agent, may induce incredulous persons to give greater heed to the statement which we here make that the movement[Pg 173] inaugurated by the secret order known as the Ku-Klux-Klan was a war against radicalism as it formerly existed in the Southern States, waged through its ... allies. If the English premier speaks truth, there is a strong probability that the secret purveyors to whom he refers will achieve their aim, and be crowned with the same reflected glory that has availed to cover a multitude of sins in the instance of the American order, though reflecting people, who take into account the incentives to such measures, can but regard them as intermeddlers of a very base stamp. The cause of religious liberty on the Turkish frontier will not be benefited by this revelation; and, continuing the analogy, there are few men of influence in the Southern States who do not make it a point, whenever occasion offers, to disclaim the alleged good offices of the Klan in the work of Southern redemption.

We have before intimated that, in one of these States, the cause of the allied Democrats and Republicans did receive essential aid from this source, and while we shall not enter into any such exegesis of the question as would show just how far the common cause was aided or retarded by the secret measure, we must be permitted to record a belief that its influence was commonly hurtful.

Every secret society, enterprised with a political end in view, must, in the nature of the case, prove unpopular with the masses of those who wield the franchise, and in not unfrequent instances, as we[Pg 174] have anticipated, be deprehended by the very individuals, or parties of individuals, whom they seek to succor. In the instance of the Klan, these conditions were felt with peculiar weight; inasmuch as the people among whom it was domiciled cherished, beside this common feeling, a natural aversion to such influences in politics, derived from their ante bellum experience; and the people of the North, unacquainted with its aims, and grossly unenlightened as to its materiel and claims to social rank, wrote it down a very monster of sedition. It was denounced in public, scoffed at in private, declared to be an outlaw by the legislatures, interpreted as the very essence of crookedness in morals by the courts, fulminated against by the national and State executives, and how, under these severe conditions, it contrived to even exist, is, and must remain, one of the unsolved problems of the “gilded age.”

But, aside from any inherited odium of the quality which we have been discussing, the Klan had obliquities of its own, and a record compiled therefrom which could not fail to photograph it to the world in a very disagreeable light, and obtain for it enemies (and sometimes potential enemies), where it would not otherwise have possessed them. Even its interference in politics was of an illegitimate and unnatural kind, and called forth the constant criticisms of such unprejudiced judges as those who were to reap the benefits of their enterprises would likely prove.

But it did not stop here, and combined the offices[Pg 175] of regulator and vigilante with that of politician. It was an absolutist in all society matters, and those who offended in this regard could rarely base a hope of immunity from visitation upon any well-defined precedents to be found among its Domus Dei records. [We have seen, in the various sketches of incidents connected with the Order, and based on its history, which have been given in the progress of this work, the idea of its officiousness in such details rendered prominent, and this has been done, in every instance, with a view to subserve the intelligent aim upon which the work is based: in a word, to render it a true reflector of the K. K. K. idea, as it has existed in Southern society and politics.] But, leaving out of the estimate the cruel measures sometimes resorted to in executing its plans, there will be found many who advance the opinion that that complete renovation of the social system accomplished through its means was a necessity of the times which would hardly have been effected so quickly and so thoroughly in the use of less radical measures.

And in this connection, it may not be deemed digressive to say, that the many inhuman butcheries with which it was debited by a not too discriminative public, never in reality occurred (in no instance unless through accident or mistake), and were pure figments of the scalawag imagination—an imperent element of Southern politics, whose acts had provoked the reign of terror which it took this dishonest means of deprecating.

[Pg 176]But as nothing could be further from our purpose than to become the champion of this secret movement—which might be inferred from a too ready condemnation of its enemies—we hasten to add our conviction that many of its acts were lawless, many of its correctives applied to social maladies improportioned in severity, and its entire administration, social and political, an incontinent abuse of usurped prerogative. We have said that in politics its influence was hurtful to those in whose behalf it was officiously employed, and we wish to verify this statement in a logical manner. Assuming that our position is fully understood by the reader, the information may be volunteered in its support, that the rank and file of the Order comprised the radical element in Southern politics (native), Democrats and Republicans (and not a few of the latter), a force, which it was reasonable to presume, would enterprise radical measures only in support of its aims. The organization, then, standing alone, and segregated from any influences which itself may have set in motion, could not have failed of ungracious treatment from those domestic surroundings which it had ignored, but upon which it was confessedly dependent. The great party from which it had seceded, controlled by a rigid system of morals in politics, viewed from habit all such movements with suspicion; and as there was nothing in either the manners or the policy of this departure calculated to remove the antipathies of the prejudiced, or[Pg 177] to win the affections of the disengaged, reflector of opinion, it failed altogether to secure discriminations in its favor, which would have placed it above such considerations. From this standpoint (i. e., its individuality) it conciliated nobody, for even its externals were forbidding; and the ignorant and educated classes alike—though perhaps from diverse considerations—cherished a suppressed sentiment unfavorable to its affectation of the supernatural, and its partiality for the shadowy in nature.

But while it lost popularity where it should have gained it,—through generical belongings which, possibly, could not have been rendered more in harmony with the public fancy,—there was certainly nothing reassuring to its fellow-citizens in the record which it put before the world. While, as we have said, there was nothing monstrous, nor even designedly criminal in its acts, there was so much that offended against propriety, and required explanation withal, that those who had not been estranged before, as well as those who had, became hopelessly so. It had not been in existence a twelvemonth, before its name, in the localities which it frequented most, became a by-word signifying something very forbidding and disagreeable, if not actually criminal. In the dozen States or more whence its force was recruited, it had not half a hundred friends unconnected with its patronage, and these could hardly have been induced to have made a public profession of their preference.

[Pg 178]Its influence on Southern politics, then, could not have been favorable; and having said so much as to the positive effect wrought, we shall briefly examine the negative issue which it introduced into the great campaign. And in doing this, we shall not attempt to penetrate its motives, nor inquire how far it was responsible for acts which but reflected an evil tendency. The reader has, doubtless, anticipated us in the statement that it alienated the political mind of the North, reopened the dead issues of secession and war, and licensed a political persecution which, in extent and malignity of design, has not been equalled since the Roman empire dictated government to its conquered dependencies. Reconstruction, having been inaugurated under favorable auspices, was not to be pretermitted, nor even abated, while this sage Ahithophel occupied a voice in Southern counsels (rendering a war of races possible); and who will affect to say that this policy had no basis of sound reason? The society, a mystery to itself, and sorely misinterpreted by the people among whom it was domesticated, became, of course, a monster of blended secretiveness and iniquity to those who had small means of becoming acquainted with even its aims through unprejudiced sources. Added to this, the most unprincipled plagiaries of its actual history—perpetrated by those local enemies who had most to fear from the movement—found their way constantly into the news mediums of the country, awakening, in the North[Pg 179] at least, that dangerous sentimentalism which, more than politics and religion combined, influences the mind of the nation.

Atrocities of which the body could not have been guilty, even in thought—horrors from which it would have shrunk with the same symptoms of dismay that clouded the brow of the Northern reader at their bare relation—were rescued from the carpet-bagger dialect, and rendered into the imaginative prose of the news-reporter, with the design of securing enemies, not for the Ku-Klux movement, but the cause of Conservatism in the South. Many of these slanders never reached the individuals or communities who would have been authorized to refute them, and when their disclaimers were uttered they were either unheard or unheeded.

We do not, of course, affect to say how long the evils of reconstruction were prolonged in the South by means of this influence, but there can be no doubt that it excited such a tendency, and for a long time proved the forlorn hope of the enemies of good government in this section. Many of the wise and good men who had joined the movement in its inception soon became aware of their mistake, and abandoned all connection therewith. Others followed at a later date, and about the year 1873 a general disbandment ensued, leaving only guerillas in the field.



[Pg 180]



A Popular Fallacy—Karl Konstant Esq.—A Fit Companion for the Wandering Jew—Awaiting Events—The First Visitation—An Intricate Subject for the Hospitals and Doctors—Getting Even with the Latter—Put Away—Yellow Jack on a Raid—K. K. K., Esq., in his Prison Cell—Promoted to the Hospital—An Uncommon Defiance—A Picturesque Outside—Waiting for the End—K. Konstant Kain Struggles back to Shore—“Do not Weep”—A Critical Moment—A New Cast and entire Change of Scenery—“Gruel” did it—Waited upon by a Deputation of Citizens—“Young Man, Go West”—The New Orleans Pest-House—Konfounded, Krooked Konundrum.


Some dealer in those cheap apothegms which commend themselves to the public gullibility, through the public tendency to moralize concerning subjects of which it knows nothing, has rendered himself famous, and the great majority of mankind asses, by the announcement that “everything must have an end.” Without a design of reopening a dead controversy, or so much as mentioning the word “fossil,” we must be permitted to record a belief that the author of this sage prophecy had never heard of the mathematician’s war involving the crookedness of the half circle, and was grossly uninformed on the topic of the great Woman’s Rights[Pg 181] movement and those leaders who have concerned themselves about its temperature for the past two hundred years. And while the cause of orthodoxy might be safely entrusted to two such examples of

“The few immortal things
That were not born to die,”

it is in no sense of triumphing over a fallen adversary that we add the conviction that the beaming countenance of Karl Konstant Kain, the last of the K.’s, had never dawned upon this prophet’s sense of the ridiculous.

We shall introduce him to the reader as he was, and is, and without any reference to a future—that with him is but a name, a fleeting shadow. And in order that this reminiscence may be perfect, it will be needful to relate that he had reached, at this period of his existence, a climax of loneliness and gaunt despair that would have rendered him a fit companion for the “Wandering Jew,” and a most unfit one for anything less ludicrously ideal. Though it had been of his own choosing, a shadow pursued him and would not let him rest: it was the ghost of the murdered K. K. K. He had been with it in its prosperity; had eaten its bread in its adversity; and since above the spot of its interment the daisies were developing into types of its departed beauty, he had given himself to the magnanimous resolve of perpetuating its genius in other climes.

Having chalked a freight car, “Through without[Pg 182] delay,” he deposited his remains on the inside, and four days thereafter found himself at the door of a cheap hashery, in the thriving little city of Columbus, Texas. Here he refreshed the inner man on a promise to pay, rendered subsequent to the meal, and having been damned for a “blister,” and a “cooter,” and a “scorpion,” wandered forth, that image of “blank dismay” which we have already depicted to the reader. Destiny was now begun with him in earnest, and it was only necessary for him to sit still and “administer upon the fluttering pasteboards,” with that resignation of soul which should characterize the man who has given five points in the game, and occupies the losing seat. Mounting a goods-box on a neighboring corner, he adjusted his unshapeliness to its angles in a posture that would have been an easy one for another man, and awaited events. They were not slow in coming. In fact they came in troops, and awaited their turn with a constancy of resolve that would have frightened a less Napoleonic structure. The first visitation comprised two Hibernians of smiling aspect, who, observing this unusual tableau, affected to note a disposition to sneeze in the subject. Instantly our hero accepted the challenge (ad hominem et sine exceptione), and leaping from his perch engaged his persecutors with the desperation of a man who feels that he would be made happier if soundly whipped. Striking right and left, he provoked his adversaries to do their worst, and soon brandishing huge knives,[Pg 183] they made inroads upon his anatomy which left him an intricate subject for the hospitals and doctors. Twenty-two wounds in all had severally penetrated his lungs, severed his carotid artery, atrophied his liver, wasp-nested his umbilicus, riddled his facial parts, and bereft him of five fingers and the arm to which their five fellows were attached,—and yet he would not die, could not see it to his interest to die, felt that it would not be destiny to die,—and four weeks thereafter exhibited himself in public to a goodly number of false prophets, who, excusing him and themselves on the ground of a miracle, tendered him congratulations.

But if Karl Konstant was some the worse for wear, he was none the worse for something to wear, having levied on a full cloth rig and watch, belonging to one of the hospital doctors, as some remuneration for the torturing exercises in surgery which had been directed at his corporosity. Walking the streets with the air of a man whom melancholy has marked for her own, and yet attracting the notice of passers-by through a subdued emphasis of gait and manner, which could hardly have proceeded from a less philosophic cause than good clothes, and a chronometer that would unfailingly chronicle the hash hour, he was next interviewed by two policemen with drawn clubs, who, by virtue of his late condition of mayhem, subjected him to but one-half the regulation mauling, and having divested him of his borrowed plumage, jugged him, and corked him,[Pg 184] and expressed through the bars a wish to kiss him for his mother-in-law.

About this time “Yellow Jack,” in making his decennial tour of the Southern cities of Texas, debarked at Columbus, and for a period of four weeks lent his energies to a most devastating epidemic. Thousands were stricken, hundreds rendered their final account, and the undertakers, protesting that it was an ill-wind, took orders for coffins. Karl Konstant Kain beheld the public dismay through his prison bars, and despaired. He knew that it would come; fate had whispered him that it would come—and feeling this, his anxiety on the subject soon developed into a wish that it might come. He was not disappointed; and when it came and lodged a great pain in his side, and touched up his pulse an half hundred degrees or so, it did not conclude its labors, but promoted him to the hospital and doctors, and bade him look about him for means of offsetting the latter.

But we regret to state that, notwithstanding these small but disinterested attentions, K. K. K., Esq., murmured, and the very day upon which he was transferred to hospital sumptuousness, confronted his yellow-visaged enemy with a challenge to do his worst. That individual hesitated, and objected that the combat would prove an unequal one; but soon seeing that any explanation which might be rendered would be construed into a possible desire to avoid defeat (and becoming the least bit enraged in view of such an uncommon defiance), began his dispositions.

[Pg 185]And now the battle of the giants raged in good earnest; and as there was a kind of Pindaric grotesqueness about it which could not fail to attract observers, it became first the hospital talk, and then the subject of no inconsiderable amount of by-betting, with the odds in favor of “Yellow Jack.” One week from the period of his inoculation, the victim had developed the most picturesque outside that it is possible for any man to possess east or west of the Malayan dominions, and inwardly, a type of the black vomit that would have set an undertaker’s teeth on edge. The doctors, examining their watches at a safe distance, thought that he could not last twenty-four hours, and the subject of the disorder, transferring an abandoned kerchief to the rear of his shirt front, gave himself but half that time. But doctors, though controlling the other features of the business with tolerable accuracy, are not always infallible as to “time when.” It was three days before a coffin was ordered, and pending the half hour required to produce a fair example of pest-house carpentry, Karl Konstant struggled back to shore with the announcement that he had changed his mind, and a sarcastic appeal to his medical attendants “not to weep.” The “box” was found to square the dimensions of a stiff in a neighboring ward, who had accomplished the stormy voyage in forty-eight hours, and into it he was jammed, and committed to the cartman with an injunction to drive fast.

[Pg 186]K. K. K., Esq., was now billed “for five days, only with a new cast and entire change of scenery,” the latter part of this announcement referring to an abandoned hut on the river shore, one mile below the city. The doctors, despairing of the disease, declared that the stench in his body would suffocate him in twenty-four hours (extending the time as above, to avoid accidents), and dismissed him to an aged negress, with instructions to draw on the city for boneyard supplies. Situated in this quiet retreat, our hero could lie “heels uppermost,” and number his waning breaths, or hearken to the death-rattle in his throat, without aught to molest or make him afraid, and controlled by that sweet imperturbability of temper so necessary to perfect rest amid such scenes. He had enjoyed his new lease of happiness two full days before it was thought necessary to apply to his city correspondents, and as there was some delay in forwarding the stipulated articles, it is needless to say that when they arrived the subject had “limbered up,” and the cartman found it necessary to imitate his example, and drive back a sadder man.

Five days came and went, and still Karl Konstant Kain lingered above ground, viewing the shadows go up and down on the pine box destined for his remains (a standing menace of this character now occupied one corner of his apartment), and realizing that his symptoms grew hourly worse. His old friends, the doctors, feeling some anxiety, came to[Pg 187] examine into the matter, but after a careful diagnosis of the patient, they left with very marked abridgments of countenance and their pills. Under the circumstances, they felt that pills would only hasten the sad event. And, indeed, their prognostications seemed not ill-founded. Six hours later, a fearful coma seized his struggling anatomy and held it fast, and in a few minutes, at farthest, the last mournful rites would be in order. The pulse had become quite motionless, the suppressed breathing grew momentarily fainter,—and, aha! hold a light, nurse.

What a moral is pointed in that much quoted sentiment referring to the “fate of men and empires.” ’Twas but a drop of water trickling from the rain-drenched roof, and yet it had power to call a human being to life.

K. K. Kain, Esq., now sat bolt upright in his straw-bed and demanded—shall we write it—would it be politic—in a word, would it be accepted as true? In such an emergency there is no alternative left to the undissembling chronicler of fact, nor do we seek one. K. Konstant Kain demanded gruel, and indeed from this moment conceived such an attachment for gruel, that it was with difficulty that their separation could be accomplished for any considerable portion of his waking moments. Nor can it be denied that gruel aided his convalescence and his complexion as nothing else but tolerably regular doses of Blooming Cereus could have done. (This joke is paid for, and on that ground it is hoped[Pg 188] there will be no objection to it.) In two weeks, time gruel stood him on his two legs and bade him “view, the landscape o’er.” In three it had brought its magician’s art to bear on his sunken cheeks, and converted the yellow rose of Texas into a lively peach bloom. And in the short space of one month it had so far rehabilitated his battered hulk, that he was enabled to receive a deputation of citizens with a purse of Mexican coin, and a “gruel” request to convey himself across that border. It is needless to say that Mr. Kain accepted the doucéur and stood not upon the order of his going.

Arrived in that sun-burnt clime, one of his first acts, according to the Texas journalists, was to involve himself in a railroad smash-up, with a loss of his dexter leg and a head, but as he was shortly afterwards advertised to appear in a Greaser circus combination as a tight-rope performer, it is apprehended that some of the facts were suppressed. Terminating his engagement in debt to the managers, he reached the city of New Orleans by “hook or crook,” or both, and more of the former, and a good deal of the latter, and was last heard of as one of the inmates of the famous pest-house of that city. How he escaped from this institution, and resumed his peripatetic career, would doubtless make a very pretty romance, but we must be pardoned, if we assert that we know no more about this konfounded, krooked konundrum than does the reader, and drop our quill.



[Pg 189]



The Author has no Explanations to Offer—Such as it is, it is—The Chief of Two Reasons for Holding it in Esteem—A Whim that has been Gratified—Mischievous Results of Confiding a Secret to One Female Acquaintance instead of Fifty—Can anything be more Ridiculous than to Suppose that there is a Word of Fiction Connected with the foregoing Chapters?—Lakeside Publishers—The Public Invited to Pocket their Scruples and Read History—Finale.


Positively, we must depart from a time-honored custom of the bookmaker, as we confess with blushes that we have no confidences to exchange with the reader, no explanations to offer to the public, and no fine epigrams to repeat concerning that aged word—farewell. Such as it is, it is, and we have no idea of making it better, by any such supra legem performance. If the reader is satisfied, we are; and if he is not, and will signify that remarkable conclusion to the author, he shall have his money back, together with fair wages for such portion of his valuable time as may have been squandered on its pages. We could not think of taking such a mean advantage of any one’s talent for promiscuous reading, and beg to repeat this announcement as a request.

[Pg 190]If anybody’s party-feeling has been ruffled, it may be taken in some sense as a natural conclusion, for, besides having none ourselves, and treating the subject from all sides, we may have had some such dernier purpose in view. Political tastes are so varied that they can rarely be consulted with success in a literary venture of reasonable magnitude, and where this is true, it can be no more than fair to ignore them.

The work has many imperfections, as all can see—imperfections which cannot be cured, and hence resemble it so much to human nature that we must be pardoned for alleging that circumstance as the chief of two reasons (both disconnected from those philoprogenitive impulsions that we sometimes hear of from mawkish writers) for holding it in esteem. The sun has spots, and we once knew a critic whose grammar was execrable. Lest, however, some persons should officiously infer that we mean to wrong a very excellent class of people, we will state that the analogy between the last-named objects does not cease here.

What we wish to say most in this concluding chapter, is that the work was not written to invite anybody’s pique, nor to avoid it, nor to flatter anybody, nor to parody anybody, but to gratify a whim, and as it has been announced that there would be no explanation, and the completion of the task leaves us in a mood for conundrums, we shall not interfere with the reader’s prerogative of guessing its import. But it was a[Pg 191] mere whim, and now that it has been gratified, we feel better—vastly improved, in fact—so much improved that, in order to reach a superlative that will fit our case precisely, we find it necessary to go beyond the dictionary standard, and adopt the beautiful newsboy euphemism, hunky-dory. And then, too, the author has that self gratulation which could not fail to proceed from the knowledge that, from the beginning, a brave effort was maintained to avoid that notoriety which comes of even remote connection with such labor as he has performed,—and which must have succeeded but for his inadvertence in confiding the secret to one female acquaintance instead of fifty. Now that the mischief has been performed, his partiality for the sex leads him to say that he will be more thoughtful in the future.

An old friend, whose sagacity regarding such subjects is approved, has informed us confidentially that the book will sell, and if it sells, can it be anybody’s business whether it is read or not? After revolving this query in our mind, and inducing a fair analogy between what would be just to the outside world and profitable to ourselves, we are left statu quo until such time as the neighborhood debating society can be heard from.

Can anything be more ridiculous than to suppose that there is a word of fiction connected with the foregoing chapters? A half-wit acquaintance, who plumes himself on the accident which enables him to write M. C. after his name, has obtruded this difficulty[Pg 192] upon the author, and been handsomely objurgated for his pains. Did we not do right? and why is it that these men are permitted to lounge away from their places of confinement at the most dangerous season of the year?

We here make the announcement, boldly and without fear of successful contradiction (this form of expression is copied from J. Billings, with some amendments in spelling), that nobody’s facetiousness is chargeable with one syllable of these sketches; and if they do not suit the public palate, it is altogether attributable to the fact that that organ is in a badly disordered state, and requires stimulants of a nature which the Lakeside publishers will have no difficulty in supplying at the regulation price for compounded drinks. More than this we do not feel at liberty to divulge at present, but we do sincerely trust that those who compromise their doubts far enough to purchase the book, will pocket their scruples and read history.






[A] The reader’s fancy, aided by the hints supplied in the text, has doubtless informed him that these females had fallen victims to the lust of the flying desperadoes; for, perceiving the hand of fate in the impending catastrophe, and having nothing to hope from the indulgence of their pursuers, they realized that this startling crime could only hasten the denouement, not add to their weight of doom.

[B] An individual of the gowned fraternity, six feet six inches in height, borne upon the shoulders of a comrade, who approximated the latter condition.