Martin Witherspoon Gary was born in Cokesbury, South Carolina, the third son of Dr. Thomas Reeder Gary and Mary Ann Porter.
|Gary Birthplace and Childhood Home, |
Cokesbury, South Carolina
He received his primary education at Cokesbury Academy before enrolling at South Carolina College in 1850. However, his participation in the Great Biscuit Rebellion in 1852 resulted in his withdrawal from the state college. He graduated from Harvard in 1854.
|Edgefield, South Carolina|
|First Battle of Manassas|
In the summer of 1876, Matthew Calbraith Butler wrote to his former commander, Wade Hampton, urging him to seek the governorship in the upcoming election. Butler omitted the details of the violent campaign planned by Gary and others, and Hampton accepted.
|Wade Hampton III|
It soon became apparent that Hampton did not support Gary's campaign plan: it was known in South Carolina as the "Edgefield Plan" due to Gary's leadership in its design and implementation. It called for the bribery or intimidation of African-American voters by local Democratic "rifle clubs" or "Red Shirts" formed ostensibly to attend campaign events and to insure order at polling places. Soon Red Shirt tactics became so violent that the state Democrats repudiated their association with Gary. After the election it was clear that Gary's tactics had helped Hampton to win, but it was also apparent that Hampton had won the trust of many black voters by his own actions.
The efforts of Gary's Red Shirts were successful in Edgefield and Laurens Counties, where Hampton received more votes than there were adult males. The election returns from these two counties were challenged and the outcome was critical to the decision of whether Democratic candidate Wade Hampton or the incumbent Republican Governor Daniel Chamberlain would serve the next term as governor. Hampton's victory came as the result of a deal between Democratic leaders and the national Republican Party.