Origin of the Klan

Allie

Captain
Joined
Dec 17, 2014
A follow-up on the subject of the tournament at which Forrest presided. It sounds like the editor of the Appeal got up on the wrong side of the bed. He's not objecting to any klan-related behavior, however (although he wasn't likely to, the Appeal was firmly Democratic in its leanings) but to the frivolity of the whole business in the face of so much misery.

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045160/1867-02-15/ed-1/seq-2/
 

Allie

Captain
Joined
Dec 17, 2014
A second tournament at which Forrest was Chief Marshal. This one was at Iuka and was to raise funds for the burial grounds for the fallen of the battle of Iuka, and combined a tournament with already-popular battlefield tourism and an all-star list of officials: Sterling Price, Forrest, Frank Cheatham, Raphael Semmes, Albert Pike. I haven't found good sources but some suggest that both Pike and Cheatham were associated with the original klan.

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045160/1867-09-12/ed-1/seq-2/

It does look at the very least as if Forrest were known to be amenable to serving on the committee of tournaments, and some were organized by ex-Confederates who happened also to be prominent early klan members. However, the papers in Memphis during the years 67-69 contain hundreds of references to dozens of tournaments, organized by everyone from the Central Baptist Church to a bunch of kids in a youth group. They were so common that the advertising for this one says that standard tournament rules about equipment will be used. It seems highly unlikely that the majority of them had anything to do with the klan.
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Location
Southwest Mississippi
He's absolutely right about Forrest. It's easy for moderns to overlook how respectable Klan membership was considered at that time and place.

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/l...ment&andtext=&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1

Thank's for the link !
I can't see Forrest interested in that type of thing either!

Yep, this is fascinating stuff. . . I had never heard of these tournaments. The things we learn on CivilWarTalk.
Honestly, I don't see how it's out of character for someone who conducted solemn ceremonies wearing robes and calling people wizards.

As @diane said, you make a very good point.
 

James B White

Captain
Honored Fallen Comrade
Joined
Dec 4, 2011
However, the papers in Memphis during the years 67-69 contain hundreds of references to dozens of tournaments, organized by everyone from the Central Baptist Church to a bunch of kids in a youth group. They were so common that the advertising for this one says that standard tournament rules about equipment will be used. It seems highly unlikely that the majority of them had anything to do with the klan.
That's what was puzzling me. If the premise was that some were used for Klan recruiting, sure. If they all were, well, it was just too big a thing.
 

Hunter

First Sergeant
Joined
Apr 23, 2016
A follow-up on the subject of the tournament at which Forrest presided. It sounds like the editor of the Appeal got up on the wrong side of the bed. He's not objecting to any klan-related behavior, however (although he wasn't likely to, the Appeal was firmly Democratic in its leanings) but to the frivolity of the whole business in the face of so much misery.

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045160/1867-02-15/ed-1/seq-2/

My original post was about the purpose of the Klan at its beginning. not really about its early recruiting methods. Secondary sources authored by some of the founders claimed that the Klan was formed, in part, to control the violence. I was very skeptical of this claim but when I studied the context, it seems to make sense. During this period, Democrats in the North and the South were desperately attempting to recapture the White House in the 1868 election. They contended that the reconstruction laws were unconstitutional, and their candidates, Seymour and Blair, declared that, if elected, they would not enforce the laws. The campaign strategy was based on blatant appeals to racism. Meanwhile, the Republicans argued that the South was still disloyal and that the laws were necessary to create loyal governments in the South. Otherwise, they contended, a second civil war would result. The evidence they cited consisted of the acts of violence in the South toward the loyal population: Unionists and blacks. Northern Democrats, therefore, literally begged their southern brethren to avoid and suppress the violence. They wanted the northern public to focus on race rather than loyalty.

But how could this violence be controlled? In the beginning, the violence was sporadic and committed by men who had no connection with each other, oftentimes young men. Perhaps if a hierarchical organization were formed with iconic military figures in charge to recruit those prone to violence and impose discipline on them. Perhaps that organization could instill chivalric values that would focus on defensive rather than offensive measures and goals. Much would depend on the quality of local commanders, in the end, too much. Some were excellent, and violence in their areas was kept to a minimum. Some, however, were fanatics who believed that violence was essential to white control. On this, I highly recommend a recent book by a Guy Hubbs, Searching For a Freedom After the Civil War, which discusses a klansman named Ryland Randolph and the effects of his course on the 1868 election and beyond.

Ultimately, the respectable leaders of the Klan dropped out or died, allowing more fanatics to assume positions of control. This is not to say that there were not individual klansmen who tried to adhere to the Klan's original purposes. But as frustrations grew following the 1868 election, more and more could see no political solution and so they tended toward extreme measures.

As before, feel free to tear this apart...and then sleep on it.
 

diane

Retired User
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
Many have cited the increase in violence as evidence Forrest made it so but the exact opposite is true. As you noted, the violence was impossible to control, and Forrest believed - rightly - that the klan had been infiltrated by persons who were not adverse to brutality to further their goals. He also knew the new president, Grant, would re-invade the South if Southerners didn't get a grip on this dangerous element.

Given the increase in this problem, maybe he saw the tournaments as a way for the young guys to blow off steam? Seems to me, though, it was simply a charity event whenever it was held. Forrest was always down with anything to benefit his former troopers.
 

Hunter

First Sergeant
Joined
Apr 23, 2016
Many have cited the increase in violence as evidence Forrest made it so but the exact opposite is true. As you noted, the violence was impossible to control, and Forrest believed - rightly - that the klan had been infiltrated by persons who were not adverse to brutality to further their goals. He also knew the new president, Grant, would re-invade the South if Southerners didn't get a grip on this dangerous element.

Given the increase in this problem, maybe he saw the tournaments as a way for the young guys to blow off steam? Seems to me, though, it was simply a charity event whenever it was held. Forrest was always down with anything to benefit his former troopers.

I think Forrest's primary concern was the Brownlow's regime, particularly when Brownlow formed a militia force. He and other leaders needed to recruit and train a defensive force to protect former Confederates from a hostile state government bent on retaliating against them for their wartime activities. But recruiting and training in the traditional ways would likely lead to even more federal troops being sent to the state. Tournaments had occasionally been used to recruit cavalry during the Civil War, and it was logical to use them in this context. Outsiders would perceive them as benign, and this perception could be encouraged by advertising that they were intended to raise money for charitable purposes, and by allowing Union soldiers to enter the competition.
 

diane

Retired User
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
I think Forrest's primary concern was the Brownlow's regime, particularly when Brownlow formed a militia force. He and other leaders needed to recruit and train a defensive force to protect former Confederates from a hostile state government bent on retaliating against them for their wartime activities. But recruiting and training in the traditional ways would likely lead to even more federal troops being sent to the state. Tournaments had occasionally been used to recruit cavalry during the Civil War, and it was logical to use them in this context. Outsiders would perceive them as benign, and this perception could be encouraged by advertising that they were intended to raise money for charitable purposes, and by allowing Union soldiers to enter the competition.

Hmmm. Well, it's true Brownlow and Forrest were like the proverbial stork and frog. Forrest did fear the South would rise sooner than anyone thought, or be occupied by the Union in even stronger force than before. I'm doing more research on these tournaments - you've opened up a really interesting topic. The more I look at them, the more I think maybe Forrest would be more interested in them than I'd think! There always was a pretty thick streak of romance in him.

p s
Incidentally, that reminds me of his report about his first battle - Sacramento - where a young lady met the Confederates and pointed out the Union force. The report contained a very vivid description of her long flowing locks and beauty instilling knightly ardor...which doesn't sound like Forrest. I always thought it was his aides dolling up the report but it turns out...that was what Forrest actually said!
 

Allie

Captain
Joined
Dec 17, 2014
My original post was about the purpose of the Klan at its beginning. not really about its early recruiting methods. Secondary sources authored by some of the founders claimed that the Klan was formed, in part, to control the violence. I was very skeptical of this claim but when I studied the context, it seems to make sense. During this period, Democrats in the North and the South were desperately attempting to recapture the White House in the 1868 election. They contended that the reconstruction laws were unconstitutional, and their candidates, Seymour and Blair, declared that, if elected, they would not enforce the laws. The campaign strategy was based on blatant appeals to racism. Meanwhile, the Republicans argued that the South was still disloyal and that the laws were necessary to create loyal governments in the South. Otherwise, they contended, a second civil war would result. The evidence they cited consisted of the acts of violence in the South toward the loyal population: Unionists and blacks. Northern Democrats, therefore, literally begged their southern brethren to avoid and suppress the violence. They wanted the northern public to focus on race rather than loyalty.

But how could this violence be controlled? In the beginning, the violence was sporadic and committed by men who had no connection with each other, oftentimes young men. Perhaps if a hierarchical organization were formed with iconic military figures in charge to recruit those prone to violence and impose discipline on them. Perhaps that organization could instill chivalric values that would focus on defensive rather than offensive measures and goals. Much would depend on the quality of local commanders, in the end, too much. Some were excellent, and violence in their areas was kept to a minimum. Some, however, were fanatics who believed that violence was essential to white control. On this, I highly recommend a recent book by a Guy Hubbs, Searching For a Freedom After the Civil War, which discusses a klansman named Ryland Randolph and the effects of his course on the 1868 election and beyond.

Ultimately, the respectable leaders of the Klan dropped out or died, allowing more fanatics to assume positions of control. This is not to say that there were not individual klansmen who tried to adhere to the Klan's original purposes. But as frustrations grew following the 1868 election, more and more could see no political solution and so they tended toward extreme measures.

As before, feel free to tear this apart...and then sleep on it.
So you're proposing that the klan was founded to control violence against Republicans? Interesting. That's the exact opposite of what I've been finding in my recent reading about Reconstruction era Texas - the violence in DeWitt, Bastrop, and adjacent counties took place against Republicans and Freedman's Bureau agents and the participants, those who lived long enough, would eventually find their way into the KKK.
 

Allie

Captain
Joined
Dec 17, 2014
I think Forrest's primary concern was the Brownlow's regime, particularly when Brownlow formed a militia force. He and other leaders needed to recruit and train a defensive force to protect former Confederates from a hostile state government bent on retaliating against them for their wartime activities. But recruiting and training in the traditional ways would likely lead to even more federal troops being sent to the state. Tournaments had occasionally been used to recruit cavalry during the Civil War, and it was logical to use them in this context. Outsiders would perceive them as benign, and this perception could be encouraged by advertising that they were intended to raise money for charitable purposes, and by allowing Union soldiers to enter the competition.
The thing is, there's a severe shortage of actual sources of examples of this hostile state government actually doing anything that people - normal people, not state legislators, who Brownslow was not averse to holding at gunpoint - needed to be protected from. Certainly they used this as an excuse, but when the excuse is examined closely, a lot of rhetoric pops out, and not a lot of examples of poor unfortunate downtrodden Confederates actually being the victim of anything.
 

Hunter

First Sergeant
Joined
Apr 23, 2016
Hmmm. Well, it's true Brownlow and Forrest were like the proverbial stork and frog. Forrest did fear the South would rise sooner than anyone thought, or be occupied by the Union in even stronger force than before. I'm doing more research on these tournaments - you've opened up a really interesting topic. The more I look at them, the more I think maybe Forrest would be more interested in them than I'd think! There always was a pretty thick streak of romance in him.

p s
Incidentally, that reminds me of his report about his first battle - Sacramento - where a young lady met the Confederates and pointed out the Union force. The report contained a very vivid description of her long flowing locks and beauty instilling knightly ardor...which doesn't sound like Forrest. I always thought it was his aides dolling up the report but it turns out...that was what Forrest actually said!

I have always thought that someone ought to write a book on the Forrest-Brownlow conflict during this period. Because of another book project in which I am involved, I have given it quite a bit of attention in my research---enough to know there is a great untold story here. I simply do not have the time to do it myself. What I have given above are just snippets of that story intended to encourage all to consider undertaking this project. Whoever does it can rest assured that most of what they think they know about the Klan during this period is incomplete and inaccurate. That much is obvious from some of the blowback to my posts above. I am definitely not a fan of the Klan or trying to revise history by any of my posts on this excellent forum; only to share with the members what I have found through research of contemporary materials.
 

Allie

Captain
Joined
Dec 17, 2014
I have always thought that someone ought to write a book on the Forrest-Brownlow conflict during this period. Because of another book project in which I am involved, I have given it quite a bit of attention in my research---enough to know there is a great untold story here. I simply do not have the time to do it myself. What I have given above are just snippets of that story intended to encourage all to consider undertaking this project. Whoever does it can rest assured that most of what they think they know about the Klan during this period is incomplete and inaccurate. That much is obvious from some of the blowback to my posts above. I am definitely not a fan of the Klan or trying to revise history by any of my posts on this excellent forum; only to share with the members what I have found through research of contemporary materials.
With all due respect, forum members here have seen Lost Cause apologists for the klan before, and many people here are published experts in the field. So far, apart from the admittedly fascinating bit about the tournaments, you're not exactly breaking new ground. What you're saying was pretty much the standard Southern take on the klan 50 years ago. It's new investigation into primary sources which has blown holes in it.
 

Hunter

First Sergeant
Joined
Apr 23, 2016
So you're proposing that the klan was founded to control violence against Republicans? Interesting. That's the exact opposite of what I've been finding in my recent reading about Reconstruction era Texas - the violence in DeWitt, Bastrop, and adjacent counties took place against Republicans and Freedman's Bureau agents and the participants, those who lived long enough, would eventually find their way into the KKK.

No, it was originally to defend against violent retaliation by Unionists that Brownlow was expressly encouraging. Confederates were committing violence too. It was a widespread feud with outrages committed on both sides. The problem was that northern Republicans were portraying violence directed against Unionists and blacks as evidence of lingering disloyalty and preliminary steps to a second civil war, thereby requiring Grant's election. For a period, therefore, the Klan organization was extended to other states to act as a control mechanism. In many places, like parts of Texas and other states, it did not work. Moreover, many of those who joined the Klan chaffed under its restrictions and committed atrocities anyway. These acts have been used to define this incarnation of the Klan.
 

diane

Retired User
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
I have always thought that someone ought to write a book on the Forrest-Brownlow conflict during this period. Because of another book project in which I am involved, I have given it quite a bit of attention in my research---enough to know there is a great untold story here. I simply do not have the time to do it myself. What I have given above are just snippets of that story intended to encourage all to consider undertaking this project. Whoever does it can rest assured that most of what they think they know about the Klan during this period is incomplete and inaccurate. That much is obvious from some of the blowback to my posts above. I am definitely not a fan of the Klan or trying to revise history by any of my posts on this excellent forum; only to share with the members what I have found through research of contemporary materials.

There's not a lot of attention given to Forrest's post-war life and Brownlow was a big part of it. He was fanatical about suppressing, oppressing and distressing former rebels, and wasn't all that bashful about stepping on the freedmen to get at them. He even attacked people who agreed with him! Brian Steel Wills and Jack Hurst have done well at bringing out the klan activities, but even they haven't gone into a lot of detail about Forrest's life during Reconstruction. And, there are also the activities of Willie and his uncles - they did not leave the klan when Forrest did. It's one of those things - did Forrest leave when he did because he was too hot for them or did he leave because it was too violent...or did he leave at all? He did, the last few years of his life, definitely disavow them although there may have been a time after he ordered it disbanded that he continued quiet support. Every former Confederate from Lee to Forrest was a little dodgy after the war for very good reason - they none of them knew what was going to happen to them.

Oh, we don't mean to dog pile on you - we just want to be sure we understand what you're talking about!
 

Hunter

First Sergeant
Joined
Apr 23, 2016
The thing is, there's a severe shortage of actual sources of examples of this hostile state government actually doing anything that people - normal people, not state legislators, who Brownslow was not averse to holding at gunpoint - needed to be protected from. Certainly they used this as an excuse, but when the excuse is examined closely, a lot of rhetoric pops out, and not a lot of examples of poor unfortunate downtrodden Confederates actually being the victim of anything.

There is actually quite a bit of low-hanging fruit available at your fingertips. Suggest you begin by reading Brownlow's newspaper, which is online. Or, if you prefer your version of history to what actually happened, don't bother to research it. But my sense is that one of the reasons you and others are on this forum is to learn things you did not know before.
 

Hunter

First Sergeant
Joined
Apr 23, 2016
With all due respect, forum members here have seen Lost Cause apologists for the klan before, and many people here are published experts in the field. So far, apart from the admittedly fascinating bit about the tournaments, you're not exactly breaking new ground. What you're saying was pretty much the standard Southern take on the klan 50 years ago. It's new investigation into primary sources which has blown holes in it.

As stated in one of my posts, I am definitely not a fan of the Klan any more than you are. I am, however, a fan of the facts, as well as a published historian. There are certainly published experts in this general field, many of whom I know and respect greatly, but some (not all) make the mistake of relying too much on secondary sources to perpetuate points of view that will sell to their intended audience. This is particularly true of some Forrest biographers. By contrast, it was what you describe as "new investigation in primary sources" that shed light on what I have shared with you and others.
 

Hunter

First Sergeant
Joined
Apr 23, 2016
I to
There's not a lot of attention given to Forrest's post-war life and Brownlow was a big part of it. He was fanatical about suppressing, oppressing and distressing former rebels, and wasn't all that bashful about stepping on the freedmen to get at them. He even attacked people who agreed with him! Brian Steel Wills and Jack Hurst have done well at bringing out the klan activities, but even they haven't gone into a lot of detail about Forrest's life during Reconstruction. And, there are also the activities of Willie and his uncles - they did not leave the klan when Forrest did. It's one of those things - did Forrest leave when he did because he was too hot for them or did he leave because it was too violent...or did he leave at all? He did, the last few years of his life, definitely disavow them although there may have been a time after he ordered it disbanded that he continued quiet support. Every former Confederate from Lee to Forrest was a little dodgy after the war for very good reason - they none of them knew what was going to happen to them.

Oh, we don't mean to dog pile on you - we just want to be sure we understand what you're talking about!

I totally understand. New ideas can be difficult to absorb, particularly at our age. Just know that if I post anything on this forum, it is based on extensive research in primary source materials

In answer to your question, I am not sure of Forrest's Klan membership after Brownlow was elected to the U.S. Senate, and the "Conservatives" took political control of the state of Tennessee. Retaining control was then a priority. Forrest then went into his railroad building stage, which required him to interact with Republicans and northerners to obtain the immense amount of capital necessary to build the road. He also had to convince county governments along the route to chip in, and many of those were controlled by Republican whites and blacks. Ironically, he was so successful in his solicitations of local Republicans that he was publicly criticized by a fanatical Klan leader in Alabama for fraternizing with the enemy. My guess, and it is only a guess, is that his order to disband the Klan was nothing more than a fulfillment of conditions to this economic support.
 

Allie

Captain
Joined
Dec 17, 2014
There is actually quite a bit of low-hanging fruit available at your fingertips. Suggest you begin by reading Brownlow's newspaper, which is online. Or, if you prefer your version of history to what actually happened, don't bother to research it. But my sense is that one of the reasons you and others are on this forum is to learn things you did not know before.
So, you're not intending to provide sources? Also, exactly what age is everyone supposed to be? There are many people of many ages here, and I haven't noticed any particular age at which people stop learning.
 

Hunter

First Sergeant
Joined
Apr 23, 2016
So, you're not intending to provide sources? Also, exactly what age is everyone supposed to be? There are many people of many ages here, and I haven't noticed any particular age at which people stop learning.

Brownlow's newspaper. I am 60, how old are you?
 
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