Hamburg Massacre Monument
The Hamburg Massacre, previously known as the "Hamburg Riot," consisted of an attack by around one hundred white men upon a small company twenty-five to thirty black militiamen in July 1876. White Hamburg residents formed a mob and attacked the black men, killing two before continuing their attack in the days that followed. In total, six black men were killed and many more were wounded. This monument was created by white residents to commemorate the one white attacker who also perished. The conflict began when white residents of Augusta demanded that the black militia of North Augusta be disarmed and disbanded. After retreating into a stone warehouse, that also acted as an armory, a short battle began and quickly ended with two black men being killed during or after their attempt to surrender. One white man, Thomas Meriwether, was killed with six of the militia men being killed later-on and several others wounded. This monument was erected to commemorate Meriwether and more recently, a marker has been created to commemorate all seven of the men who died that day.
Backstory and Context
On July 4th, 1876, two whiter farmers on their way through town and were outraged to find that the road was temporarily obstructed by a group of black militia who were conducting drills on a town street. A heated argument ensued. Several days later, Thomas Butler and Henry Getzen, the two farmers mentioned earlier, brought the mater up in court and charged the militia of obstruction of a public road. More to the point, they and other white residents and demanded that the militia be disbanded.While Augusta was primarily white and had several informal militias and rifle clubs, North Augusta was primarily black and the existence of a militia consisting of black Union veterans upset many white Augusta residents.
By July 8th hundreds of white men, many belonging to various rifle clubs, descended on the small town of Hamburg. Backed into a stone warehouse, that also acted as an armory, 25 militia men along with 15 residents barricaded themselves in. sometime in the afternoon a battle started and a white man and a militia man were killed. Later the rifle club members brought out a cannon and reinforcements from Georgia and waited for the militia to run low on ammunition. Once they were low the white men captured 29 black men with 11 others escaping. Five of the men were determined to be leaders and were killed shortly after. After killing the five men the club members then descended on the small town wrecking it. After the massacre seven men were brought to trial for murder but all seven were acquitted.
This event was used by Wade Hampton, a former Confederate general, as a way to elevate himself and the democratic party as well as a way to warn the white residents of South Carolina of the alleged dangers of biracial and Republican rule. This also prompted white South Carolinian residents to adopt Mississippi’s Shotgun Policy, a means in which white Democrats would use force to intimidate, run off, beat, or even kill Republicans and black residents in order to ensure white rule under the all-white Democratic Party of South Carolina. In the end Hampton did win the election and proceeded as mayor of South Carolina. The Democratic party used this strategy in many other states and eventually gained most southern sates back as democratic states resulting in the ultimate end of the end of Reconstruction in 1877.
The African American Odyssey. 3rd ed., Library of Congress, 1998.
Dapandico. The Hamburg Massacre. Augusta, 20 July 2015.
Folker, James. “Black Victims of 1876 Hamburg Massacre Get Historical Marker.” Savannah Morning News, Savannah Morning News, 6 Mar. 2016, www.savannahnow.com/news/metro/2016-03-06/black-victims-1876-hamburg-massacre-get-historical-marker.