Managing Hostility in the Southern States: Mississippi Ku-Klux in the Disguises in which They Were Captured
Ca. 1870 Courtesy of the Library of Congress
The Army units occupying ex-Confederate states carried out their duties in a climate of hostility in a white populace that opposed Reconstruction by means that included lethal violence. By 1868, the Ku Klux Klan, once a small social club, had become a terrorist organization.
During his tenure as a Commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau, Erasmus Corwin Gilbreath encountered the Ku Klux Klan. Gilbreath described one of his encounters as such:
“I had first seen something of the Ku Klux Klan. It consisted only of bodies of white men who paraded covered with white sheets and a fantastic cap. They used to parade at night and usually collected one at a time in some graveyard. They there covered their horses and themselves so that no one would recognize either horse or rider, and then they issued forth in a long string. Their object was to frighten negroes, and they did it effectively. They occasionally killed a negro or whipped one, and they kept all of the freedmen in a constant state of alarm. On starting out they usually fired a shotgun or two and then the colored folks would hide in short order. Their white covering was marked with red and black, and altogether they presented a hideous appearance. The negroes seldom made any resistance, and if they did, soon got the worst of it.”