Benjamin Ryan Tillman (American National Biography)

Orville Vernon Burton, "Tillman, Benjamin Ryan," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
Tillman reacted strongly against the Republican Reconstruction government of the Palmetto State. In 1873 he supported two Edgefield lawyers and ex-Confederate generals, Martin W. Gary and Matthew C. Butler, in their plan to "redeem" the state from the Republican party, which was overwhelmingly supported by African Americans. Devised by Gary, the Edgefield Plan, as the policy became known, called for the organization of secret extralegal military societies that would force defeat of the majority African-American South Carolinians at the ballot box through the use of violence, intimidation, and fraud. Tillman became a devoted Gary protégé. From 1873 to 1876 Tillman, as a member of the Sweetwater Saber Club, carried on a small-scale war with the African-American militia, harassed and assaulted black voters, and executed African-American political figures. His violence on behalf of the white Democrats in the Hamburg and Ellenton riots in the summer of 1876 secured his prominence among the state's white political elite and proved to be the deathblow to South Carolina's Republican Reconstruction government.
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