What is now Wade Hampton College was built in 1924 as the first women’s dormitory on campus. It was referred to as the “women’s dormitory” until the Board of Trustees recommended it be named after Confederate general, governor, U.S. senator, and alumnus Wade Hampton III (1818-1902) in 1940. In the original structure, men could only visit the parlor and only at certain hours. In 1958, the building was demolished to construct a larger women’s dormitory. Completed in 1959, it retained the name Wade Hampton. 1 Hampton has no connection to any women’s movement or to women’s education.
Hampton’s connection to South Carolina College, now the University of South Carolina:
- Graduate of the college, 1836
- Trustee of South Carolina College
- Governor of South Carolina, reopened the college after the Civil War
- Was a member of one of the wealthiest slaveowning families in the South and nation
- Enslaved nearly one thousand people
- Served as a Confederate officer during the Civil War
- Paid the bail for suspected Ku Klux Klan members
- As candidate for governor in 1876, was the public face of the “Redeemers” who ended Reconstruction and “saved” South Carolina from “Negro rule”
- Was the public face of the Red Shirts, who used paramilitary violence to suppress Black voters in 1876.
- Numerous monuments in his name were erected in honor of the Confederacy, the Lost Cause, and his actions leading the Red Shirts that “freed” white men from “the despotism of outnumbering aliens” during “the dark times of Reconstruction.”
Wade Hampton III was born on March 28, 1818, to Wade Hampton II and Ann Fitzsimmons Hampton. His grandfather was wealthy plantation owner Wade Hampton. The Hampton family were some of the wealthiest slaveowners in the country. Hampton II managed his father’s lands in Columbia, South Carolina, and Louisiana and purchased “Walnut Ridge,” 2,529 acres in Mississippi. With his sons Wade III and Christopher, Hampton II also bought 2,300 acres in North Carolina. Wade Hampton III would manage the great majority of these landholdings after his father’s death. At the apex of Hampton III’s property owning, he owned nearly one thousand enslaved people and his plantations were producing nearly $200,000 a year, roughly $6 million today.2
Hampton III graduated from South Carolina College, now the University of South Carolina, in 1836. He married Margaret Frances Preston on October 10, 1838 and had five children — Wade Hampton, Thomas Preston Hampton, Sarah Buchanan Haskell, John Preston Hampton, and Harriet Flud Hampton — before her death in 1852. Hampton III 3remarried on January 27, 1858 to Mary Singleton McDuffie. They had four children — George McDuffie Hampton, Mary Singleton Tucker, Alfred Hampton, and Catherine Fisher Hampton. Hampton was also extremely close to his sisters and cared for them financially with the death of his father in 1858. His four sisters never married, as their social prospects were forever damaged when their uncle, James Henry Hammond, sexually assaulted the girls when they were teenagers.4
Though he spent much of his time managing the family plantations, Hampton served as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1852 to 1858, and then in the South Carolina Senate from 1858 to 1861. In 1859 he spoke out against re-opening the slave trade, which he called “that odious traffic,” but notably never spoke out against slavery as an institution or freed any of his slaves during the antebellum period.5 He remained conservative during South Carolina’s secession debates, but ultimately supported the state when it left the union, organizing the Hampton Legion at his own expense.
With no military experience, Hampton enlisted in the South Carolina Militia as a private, but was immediately promoted to colonel at the behest of the governor due to his elite status. By the end of the war, Hampton would become one of three Confederate lieutenant generals that did not attend West Point for training. Hampton proved a skilled cavalry commander and led many successful Confederate raids like the Beefsteak Raid in 1864. He became the commander of the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia in 1864 and mounted a futile defense against General Sherman in South Carolina in early 1865.
In February 1865 Hampton’s Columbia plantations were destroyed and his house at Millwood burned by Sherman’s troops. Without enslaved labor, he declared bankruptcy in 1868. Hampton was slow to accept the Confederacy’s surrender but eventually pivoted to promote the Lost Cause movement. Hampton took particular offense to the use of Black U.S. soldiers during the war, as evidenced in a letter he wrote to President Andrew Johnson:
“The very first act of peace, consisted in pouring into our whole country a horde of barbarians—your brutal negro troops...Every license was allowed to those wretches...Their very presence amongst us at such a time, was felt as a direct and premeditated insult to the whole Southern people...with what perfect impunity the most horrible crimes could be, and were committed by the black devils.”
Hampton took a paternalistic approach to African Americans, both before and after the war. In the same letter he wrote
“The Southern people, amongst whom the negro had lived for generations, naturally imagined that they were fully competent to direct, to instruct, and protect him...The strong, but paternal hand which had controlled him through centuries of slavery, having been suddenly and rudely withdrawn, the only hope of rendering him, either useful, industrious or harmless, was to elevate him in the scale of civilization and to make him appreciate not only the blessings, but duties of freedom...that much more has not been done to carry this sentiment into effect, is due solely to the pernicious and mischievous interferences of that most vicious institution, the Freedman’s Bureau....The negro, whilst he was a slave, was happy, useful, honest and industrious. But his unfortunate association with the Yankee, has corrupted him...While he was ours, we did all in our power to ameliorate his condition, but since he has been withdrawn from our care....we turn him over willingly to those who imported him from Africa, sold him to us, and then stole him to make him free.”6
Hampton found the method of ratifying the 13th Amendment unconstitutional, as many Southern white men could not vote upon its ratification due to their Confederate service. He claimed that the “area of freedom” was “extended by giving liberty to four millions of negroes at the South, but to secure their freedom, eight millions of whites are made slaves!”7 When South Carolina drafted the 1868 Constitution, which provided civil rights and universal male suffrage, as State Democratic Executive Committee Chairman Hampton complained to Congress that “the superior race is to be made subservient to the inferior” and that he would continue to fight “until we have regained the heritage of political control handed down to us by our honored ancestry.”8
Despite his outrage at the “hydra” that was the Freedman’s Bureau, Hampton soon realized
the South needed to take a different tactic: “If we cannot direct the wave it will
overwhelm us. Now how shall we do this? Simply by making the Negro a Southern man,
and if you will, a Democrat, anything but a Radical [Republican].”9 Hampton trusted Black South Carolinians more than “renegades or Yankees” if they
were “respectable.” From 1867 onward Wade Hampton pushed for a “limited” suffrage
that would allow certain Black men to vote and declared it the duty of “every Southern
man” to secure the “good will and confidence of the negro.”10 He endeavored to bring more freedmen into the Democratic party, though he and his
future campaign leaders would differ as to the methods.
Reconstruction and the “Redeemers”
Between 1868 and 1876, Hampton stayed mostly quiet surrounding South Carolina politics, though he did contribute to the bail funds of men suspected of participating in acts of racial violence with the Ku Klux Klan.11 After his pardoning by the U.S. government in 1872, Hampton, due to his military record and reputation, became the face of the South Carolina Democratic Party, often referred to as the Bourbons. He campaigned for governor in 1876.
Since his fiery letter to President Johnson in 1867, Hampton had become more of a moderate, at least publicly. He called for an end to the violence of the KKK, and then the violent Democratic rifle clubs, because he feared further interference in the state by the U.S. government. In his speeches, Hampton pushed for a certain level of racial equality, arguing that Republicans and the U.S. government were merely misleading South Carolina’s Black voters. Hampton’s role in the Democrats’ two-pronged plan was to bring as many Black voters as possible into the Democratic party with visual pageantry and moderate statements, and to publicly scorn political violence.
The second part of the plan, however, was led by key political advisors Martin Gary and Matthew Calbraith Butler, who “implemented a campaign of terror and intimidation designed either to push Black voters into the Democratic column or to keep them home on election day.”12 Gary proposed the “Mississippi” or “Edgefield Plan,” which not only involved Red Shirts guarding polls with guns and disrupting Republican speeches and debates, but also making examples out of Republicans, Black and white, who failed to vote Democrat. Gary’s plan required that each Democrat must find an African American voter and control their vote “by intimidation, purchase, [or] keeping him away.” Gary did not shy from calling for murder: “A dead Radical is very harmless — a threatened Radical . . . is often very troublesome, sometimes dangerous, always vindictive.”13 Gary later claimed that Hampton’s speeches to win Black votes were like “singing Psalms to a dead mule.”14
Many local rifle clubs transformed into local paramilitary Red Shirt groups, which engaged in political intimidation that led to violence and sometimes death. They received their name from Butler’s order that the white mob who executed seven Black militia men during the Hamburg Massacre of 1876, wear a “bloody shirt” during their court appearance.15 All were acquitted. By the end of the election there were 290 paramilitary rifle clubs, with 18,000 members.16 The Red Shirts all supported Hampton and, though Hampton openly decried violence, rode alongside him in the hundreds as he traveled the state to give speeches. Though Hampton never permitted violence from the Red Shirts that traveled with him, they were certainly used as a political intimidation tactic that quelled dissent due to the actions of Red Shirts elsewhere.
Though cases of violent voter fraud and intimidation were rampant, at least some formerly enslaved African Americans seemed to ally themselves with Hampton’s promise that he would end violence in the state while preserving impartial suffrage for Black citizens. Over a dozen Black Democratic Clubs organized in the 1876 campaign, either due to their admiration of Hampton or a lack of faith in the Republican party’s ability to keep them safe. Furthermore, many Black South Carolinians worked for white Democrats and wanted to continue to work and live safely should Hampton win. They were wise to do so—many Republicans were refused work unless they swore to vote Democrat, and some doctors even refused to treat Republicans.17
The election of 1876 was violent and contested, with fraud evident from both Republicans and Democrats. In Edgefield and Laurens, Hampton won because there were 5,000 more votes than there were male residents of the two counties. In Ellenton, a town in Edgefield, one man bragged that all but 21 Black men were prevented from voting.18 This could be in part due to the Ellenton “Riot” earlier in 1876, during which at least 25 Black people and one white person died due to racial violence.19 The Democrats used “tissue ballots” to select a candidate’s name, and then the thin sheets of paper separated when shook to resemble more than one vote.
The final totals, if one included the 5,000 extra votes from Laurens and Edgefield, was Hampton 92,261 to incumbent Governor Chamberlain’s 91,127.20 The corruption caused the Republican-led state legislature to withhold the two fraudulent counties from the final vote tally, resulting in a standoff during which neither Hampton nor his opponent, Daniel Chamberlain, conceded for four months. Hampton and the Red Shirts advised their supporters to pay taxes to the Democrats rather than Congress so that the state’s governing body could not complete their daily duties.21 It was only after Hampton’s behind the scenes negotiations with federal authorities that similarly contested President Rutherford B. Hayes agreed to withdraw troops from Columbia in April 1877.
Without the support of the U.S. Army, Chamberlain and the Republicans were unable
to successfully oppose the Democrats. Hampton took office on April 11, 1877, a date
that marks the end of Reconstruction in South Carolina for many. Hampton declared
in his acceptance speech that he owed much of his success to Black voters who "rose
above prejudice of race and [were] honest enough to throw off the shackles of party."22
Once in office, Hampton demanded the resignation of Republican officials elected in 1876, ordering that their offices be padlocked with the claim that Republican state officials won their elections by fraud.23 The House, now 64-60 Democrat, only accepted 37 of the elected Republicans and declared the 17-member Republican delegation from Charleston “vacant seats.” This refusal led to a special election, during which Hampton later admitted the Democrats stuffed as many as 5,000 ballots.24
As governor, Hampton continued to push for public education throughout the state, but South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina) quickly re-segregated. However, Hampton did open a Black college at the state’s expense, and expenditures per pupil, Black and white, rose well into the 1880s.25 Hampton continued his campaign promise to appoint African Americans to state service, but nominated Black Democrats for offices in overwhelmingly Black majority counties, which previously voted Republican. Out of the 1400 nominations Hampton made while governor, only 117 of them were to African Americans.26 Furthermore, once the Democrats gained power, they eliminated election laws that allowed for supervision of the polls by anyone other than a Democrat, dramatically decreased the number of polling places in majority Black districts, and imposed grandfather clauses and property requirements to prevent registration.27 A new bill, proposed in 1878 by Martin Gary and signed by Hampton, forced residents in areas of Republican strength to walk ten to twenty-five miles to the polling place, and called for separate locations for federal and state polling boxes so that federal supervisors would not be able to watch and therefore report fraud for state elections.28 With few exceptions, Hampton did not appoint Republicans to county boards of canvassers.
The election of 1878 was similarly marked with voter suppression and was a clear death knell for the Republican party. Hampton took a harder stance against Republicans, saying that any race “which placed itself in opposition [to the white race] . . . must give way before the advancing tide and die out as the Indians have done. . . . It is the law of God,” and that if African Americans continued to draw “the color line” by voting Republican, “they would be drawing it for their own destruction.”29 One single precinct had an excess voter count of 2500. Hampton himself even acknowledged the terror and fraud of the 1878 election but blamed the violence on the “terrible moral obliquity visited on our people by Radical rule,” and that it “was a case where the very civilization, the property, the life of the State itself” was at stake.30 He won handily.
Shortly after winning re-election, however, Hampton had a hunting accident and was
forced to have his leg amputated. After his injury, Hampton remained governor for
only a few months until the state legislature nominated him to the U.S. Senate in
early 1879. Many members of Hampton’s own party believed him to be too liberal and
of the “Old Guard,” and effectively removed him from South Carolina politics. The
Bourbons slowly lost power in the state, leading to the rise of the Ben Tillman in
the 1890s and the nadir of race relations in America.31
Senator and Later Life
Hampton served in the senate from 1879 to 1891 but remained mostly quiet and conservative. He rarely spoke to the assembly and missed sessions frequently due to illness and old age.32 Fiscally he supported the gold standard, and shortly before he left office he opposed the Force Bill, which would have allowed the federal government to protect Black citizens during state elections.33 Hampton lost his Senate seat to John L. M. Irby, who was backed by Governor Ben Tillman.
Hampton served as commissioner of U.S. railroads for a short while after his time
in the Senate. At the end of his life, Hampton found himself financially destitute,
and supporters had to fundraise in order to provide the former governor with a house
after his burned in 1899. Hampton died on April 11, 1902, in Columbia, South Carolina,
and is buried at the Trinity Episcopal Churchyard. He and his Red Shirts are memorialized
across the state for their role in ending Reconstruction.
Naming the Wade Hampton Dormitory and Hampton’s Legacy
The original building was built in 1924 and was demolished in 1958 to construct a larger dormitory for women on campus, completed 1959. In the original structure, men could only visit the parlor and only at certain hours. The new Wade Hampton structure was designed to mirror McClintock. Major renovations occurred in 1965, 1970, 1975, and 2013.
The structure was referred to as the women’s dormitory until named for Wade Hampton in 1940, with the construction of other buildings on the quad. Dr. Lucas of the Grounds and Buildings Committee of the Board of Trustees suggested Hampton’s name.34 Though the building was always intended as a women’s dormitory—the first on campus—Hampton himself does not have a connection to any women’s movement.
Naming streets, buildings, and statues for former governor and Confederate leader Wade Hampton III was a relatively common practice in the state of South Carolina at the time. Hampton and Benjamin Ryan Tillman remained political rivals even in death, as their respective adherents fought to canonize one over the other in South Carolina history and memory. In 1940, in response to the efforts of former governor and Tillmanite John Gardiner Richards, Jr., a statue of Tillman was erected directly across from Hampton’s statue. It has been suggested that naming the dormitory Hampton, rather than Tillman, that same year was a subtle contribution to this fight.35
Hampton’s legacy was heavily politicized, and usually in his favor.36 In his later life, Hampton was heavily involved in Confederate memorialization and was a United Confederate Veterans chapter leader. He was lauded as “the hero of the Lost Cause,” who played a vital role in ending Reconstruction. In 1895 Hampton told an adoring audience that the “proudest day of his life” was when U.S. troops left the state after his election in 1877 and “Carolinians, the rightful rulers of the state, would resume their hereditary authority, so long denied them.” The United Daughters of the Confederacy literature for children asked students to discuss Hampton’s life “as a gentleman planter of the Old South and his paternal care of his slaves, whose affection he held to the day of this death.” 37
In 1906, Columbia celebrated the unveiling of a Wade Hampton statue at the state house. The local press referenced “his role and that of the Red Shirts in the campaign of 1876, as of singular importance; for example, the Anderson Intelligencer lauded him ‘not only for what he did during the war, but also, and more particularly for the part he played in the dark times of Reconstruction, when the hand of the beast was at Carolina’s throat.’”38 The State lauded the statue for representing ”white men freed from the despotism of outnumbering aliens, free because Wade Hampton led them.” To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the end of Reconstruction, the state capital hosted a Hampton Day. Parading South Carolinians wore a popular button which featured the portraits of Hampton, Butler, and Gary together, symbolically combining the “peaceful” and “violent” Democratic strategists.39
Hampton’s image was also used to represent a South Carolina that often violently insisted on maintaining independence from the federal government on issues of race. After Ed Smith was re-elected to the U.S. Senate in a campaign that stressed his resistance to federal antilynching legislation, Smith “stood before the Hampton statue dressed in a red shirt emblematic of the overthrow of Reconstruction and declared, ‘We conquered in ’76, and we conquered in ’38.’”40 When giving a speech to two-hundred red shirted men in Orangeburg, Smith told them that “the symbol you wear tonight is the symbol we hurled to the world after the Confederate War between the States when negroes and carpetbaggers got control of the state government.” Smith feared “federal invasion” in the form of New Deal policies and claimed that they would continue to threaten the “re-adoption of the Red Shirt” until Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to South Carolina and denied that he wished to allow “hordes of negroes” into Democratic primaries. The Charleston News and Courier claimed that the Red Shirts’ appearance was a “timely and wise act,” because the national Democratic Party was “resolved to destroy the white man’s party in South Carolina.” An opponent of segregationist Strom Thurmond even attacked the senator for appointing a Black man to a minor post, thus spoiling “Wade Hampton’s era of segregation.”41
1 The Minutes from the Board of Trustees meeting held July 10, 1940 only indicate that “Doctor Lucas moved that the old dormitory for women be named Wade Hampton College in honor of Wade Hampton, alumnus who was a lieutenant-general in the Confederate army, governor and United States Senator. Seconded and passed.” University Archives, South Caroliniana Library.
2 Robert K. Ackerman, “Hampton, Wade III.” South Carolina Encyclopedia Online. 22 Jan. 2019. The inflation number is from “CPI Inflation Calculator,” OfficialData.org. Though not an exact science, this is actually an under-estimation. For 1000 slave number see Fritz Hamer, “Wade Hampton: Conflicted Leader of the Conservative Democracy?” in Michael Brem Bonner and Fritz Hamer, eds. South Carolina in the Civil War and Reconstruction Eras (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2016), 90.
3 Hereafter all references to Wade Hampton are Wade Hampton III.
4 Rod Andrew Jr., “Hampton, Wade II” South Carolina Encyclopedia Online 16 May 2016.
5 Quoted in Ackerman, “Hampton, Wade III.”
6 Wade Hampton III to Andrew Johnson, 25 Aug. 1866. In Charles E. Cauthen, ed., Family Letters of the Three Wade Hamptons, 1782-1901 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1953), 129, 140.
7 Ibid, 135.
8 Wade Hampton and Others, The Respectful Remonstrance on Behalf of the White People of South Carolina, Against the Constitution of the Late Convention of the State, Now Submitted to Congress for Ratification (Columbia: Phoenix Book and Job Power Press, 1868), 6, 12.
9 Wade Hampton to John Mullaly, 31 Mar. 1867 in Cauthen, ed., Family Letters of the Three Wade Hamptons, 1782-1901, 142-3.
10 Wade Hampton to John Connor, 24 Mar. 1868 in Hamer, “Wade Hampton: Conflicted Leader of the Conservative Democracy?” 95.
11 Hamer, “Wade Hampton,” 97.
12 Richard Mark Gergel, “Wade Hampton and the Rise of One-Party Racial Orthodoxy in South Carolina” (1977) in South Carolina in the Civil War and Reconstruction Eras eds. Michael Brem Bonner and Fritz Hamer (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2016), 200.
13 Election Plan, 1876, Martin W. Gary Papers, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina.
14 Cited in Rod Andrew Jr., Wade Hampton: Confederate Warrior to Southern Redeemer (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008), 373-4.
15 Kate Côté Gillin, Shrill Hurrahs: Women, Gender, and Racial Violence in South Carolina, 1865-1900 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2013), 86.
16 Gergel, “Wade Hampton and the Rise of One-Party Racial Orthodoxy in South Carolina,” 200.
17 Hamer, 100.
18 Frank Thomas to J.H. Aycock 13 Nov. 1876, Aycock Family Papers, South Caroliniana Library.
19 Ellenton SC encyclo
20 Gergel, “Wade Hampton…” 200.
21 Hamer, 102.
22 Charleston News and Courier, December 14, 1876, Extra Edition. Quoted in Hamer, 102.
23 New York Times, April 15, 1877. “A South Carolinian,” “The Result in South Carolina,” Atlantic Monthly, January 1878, 3. Quoted in Gergel, 201.
24 Congressional Record, 46th Congress, 2nd Session, p. 3755.
25 Hamer, 104.
26 Gergel, 201 fn 11.
27 Gergel, 197.
28 Journal of the Senate of the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina, 1877–78, 20; New York Times, 26 Oct. 1878.
29 New York Times, April 8, August 24, September 27 (quoting the News and Courier) 1878
30 Yorkville Enquirer, 23 Jan. 1879; Congressional Record: The Proceedings and Debates of the Special Sessions of the Senate of the Forty-Seventh Congress XII (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1881), 373.
31 Stephen Kantrowitz “Tillman, Benjamin Ryan” South Carolina Encyclopedia Online 19 Jan. 2019.
32 Hamer, 104.
33 Ackerman, “Hampton, Wade III.”
34 The Minutes from the Board of Trustees meeting held July 10, 1940 only indicate that “Doctor Lucas moved that the old dormitory for women be named Wade Hampton College in honor of Wade Hampton, alumnus who was a lieutenant-general in the Confederate army, governor and United States Senator. Seconded and passed.”
35 “Benjamin Ryan Tillman Monument,” Historic Columbia ; phone interview with Dr. Lydia Brandt conducted by the author, December 2, 2020.
36 From the 1870s to his death in 1902, opponents of Hampton like Ben Tillman painted Hampton as the wealthy elite regime in opposition to the poor whites Tillman claimed to represent. His image recuperated after his death, however. According to historian Charles Holden, "Poorer whites found a champion of segregation, seeing Hampton as the founder of white rule in a free South Carolina. Struggling farmers in the 1920s based their call for action against creditors on a legend of white unity from Hampton’s days. By the 1930s, Wade Hampton came to represent white South Carolina’s often violent insistence on maintaining independence from an increasingly powerful federal government.” ”’Is Our Love for Wade Hampton Foolishness?’ South Carolina and the Lost Cause” in The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History edited by Gary W. Gallagher and Alan T. Nolan (Indiana University Press, 2000), 61-62.
37 Holden, “’Is Our Love for Wade Hampton Foolishness?’ South Carolina and the Lost Cause,” 74, 75, 78
39 Holden, 77, 80
40 Tom Brown, Civil War Monuments and the Militarization of America (Chapel HIll: University of North Carolina Press, 2019), 59. Hampton’s statue is just one example of how Southern white politicians utilized the Confederate and Reconstruction imagery in resistance to Black freedom and equality.
41 Holden, 80-81.