Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wade Hampton III, born March 28, 1818

Wade Hampton III was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the eldest son of  Wade Hampton II, one of the wealthiest planters in the South and the owner of the largest number of slaves.  He was grandson of Wade Hampton, a cavalary officer in the  American War of Independence. His great-grandfather had migrated from Virginia and settled in South Carolina, where he, his wife, and a son were killed by Indians.
Birthplace of Wade Hampton III in Charleston

Hampton grew up in a wealthy family, receiving private instruction. The family library collection was the largest in South Carolina.  Much of his boyhood was spent at the Millwood Plantation. 

Millwood Plantation House
He had an active outdoor life, riding horses and hunting, especially at his father's North Carolina summer retreat, High Hampton.  He was known for taking hunting trips alone into the woods, hunting black bears  with only a knife. 

In 1836 he graduated from South Carolina College and was trained for the law, although he never practiced. He devoted himself to the management of his plantations in South Carolina and Mississippi, and took part in state politics. 

He was 42 years old when the Civil War began.

South Carolina State House
He was elected to the South Carolina General Assembly in 1852 and served as a Senator from 1858 to 1861. 

Hampton's father died in 1858 and the son inherited a vast fortune, plantations, and one of the largest collections of slaves in the South.

Although his views were conservative concerning the issues of secession and slavery, and he had opposed the division of the Union as a legislator, at the start of the Civil War, Hampton was loyal to his home state. He resigned from the Senate and enlisted as a private in the South Carolina Militia; however, the governor of South Carolina insisted that Hampton accept a colonel's commission, even though he had no military experience at all. 

Hampton organized and partially financed the unit known as "Hampton's Legion", which consisted of six companies of infantry, four companies of cavalry, and one battery of artillery. He personally financed all of the weapons for the Legion.  Despite his lack of military experience and his relatively advanced age of 42, Hampton was a natural cavalryman—brave, audacious, and a superb horseman. 

First Battle of Bull Run

Hampton first saw combat in July 1861, at the First Battle of Bull Run, where he deployed his Legion at a decisive moment, giving the brigade of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson time to reach the field. He was wounded the first of five times during the war when he led a charge against a federal artillery position, and a bullet creased his forehead.

On May 23, 1862, Hampton was promoted to brigadier general while commanding a brigade in Stonewall Jackson's division in the Army of Northern Virginia. In the Peninsula Campaign, at the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31, 1862, he was severely wounded in the foot, but remained on his horse while it was being treated, still under fire. Hampton returned to duty in time to lead a brigade at the end of the battles.
Battle of Seven Pines
After the Peninsula Campaign, General Robert E. Lee reorganized his cavalry forces as a division under the command of J.E.B. Stuart, who selected Hampton as his senior subordinate, to command one of two cavalry brigades. During the winter of 1862, around the Battle of Fredericksburg, Hampton led a series of cavalry raids behind enemy lines and captured numerous prisoners and supplies without suffering any casualties, earning a commendation from General Lee. 
Battle of Brandy Station
In the Gettysburg Campaign, Hampton was slightly wounded in the Battle of Brandy Station, the war's largest cavalry battle. His brother, Frank, fell in an exchange of fire just five miles south of the main engagement. His brigade then participated in Stuart's wild adventure to the northeast, swinging around the Union army and losing contact with Lee.

Stuart and Hampton reached the vicinity of Gettysburg, late on July 2, 1863. While just outside of town, Hampton was confronted by a Union cavalryman pointing a rifle at him from 200 yards. Hampton charged the trooper before he could fire his rifle, but another trooper blindsided Hampton with a saber cut to the back of his head. On July 3, Hampton led the cavalry attack to the east of Gettysburg, attempting to disrupt the Union rear areas, but colliding with Union cavalry. He received two more saber cuts to the front of his head, but continued fighting until he was wounded again with a piece of shrapnel to the hip. He was carried back to Virginia in the same ambulance as General John Bell Hood.

John Bell Hood
On August 3, 1863, Hampton was promoted to major general and received command of a cavalry division. His wounds from Gettysburg were slow in healing, so he did not actually return to duty until November. 

During the Overland Campaign of 1864, Stuart was killed at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, and Hampton was given command of the Cavalry Corps on August 11, 1864. He distinguished himself in his new role at the bloody Battle of Trevilian Station, defeating Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan's cavalry, and in fact, lost no cavalry battles for the remainder of the war.
Battle of Trevilian Station, Virginia
In September, Hampton conducted what became known as the "Beefsteak Raid", where his troopers captured over 2400 head of cattle and over 300 prisoners behind enemy lines.  
Thomas Preston Hampton
In October 1864, Hampton sent his son, Thomas Preston, a lieutenant and an aide to his father, to deliver a message. Shortly afterward, Hampton and his other son, Wade IV, rode in the same direction. Before traveling 200 yards, they came across Preston's body, and as young Wade dismounted, he was also shot. Thomas Preston died from his wound.

While Lee's army was bottled up in the Siege of Petersburg in January 1865, Hampton returned to South Carolina to recruit additional soldiers. He was promoted to lieutenant general on February 14, 1865, but eventually surrendered to the Union along with General Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee at Bennett Place in North Carolina. 
Bennett Farm, North Carolina
 Hampton was reluctant to surrender, and nearly got into a personal fight with Union Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick at the Bennett Farm.
Johnston's Surrender in Bennett Farm House
After the war, Hampton found his property and wealth diminished. His boyhood home, Millwood, near Columbia, South Carolina, was burned by Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's Union soldiers. His many slaves were freed. 
Ruins of Millwood Plantation
Hampton was one of the original proponents, alongside Lt. Gen. Jubal Early, of the Lost Cause movement, attempting to explain the Confederacy's loss of the war. He was especially angry upon the arrival of black Federal troops to occupy his home state.

Hampton was offered the nomination for governor in 1865, but refused because he felt that those in the North would be suspicious of a former Confederate general seeking political office only months after the end of the Civil War. Hampton was a leading opponent of Radical Republican Reconstruction policies in the South, and re-entered South Carolina politics in 1876 as the first southern gubernatorial candidate to run on a platform in opposition to Reconstruction. Hampton, a Democrat, ran against Radical Republican incumbent governor David Henry Chamberlain in Charleston. Supporters of Hampton were called Red Shirts and were known to practice violence. Hoping to allay Union suspicion, Hampton used Grace Piexotto's "The Big Brick House", a prominent brothel located at 11 Fulton Street, to assure complete privacy for the Red Shirts' meeting ground. 

The 1876 South Carolina gubernatorial election is thought to be the bloodiest in the history of the state. Both parties claimed victory. For over six months, there were two legislatures in the state, both claiming to be authentic. Eventually, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that Hampton was the winner of the election. The election of the first Democrat in South Carolina since the end of the Civil War, as well as the national election of Rutherford B. Hayes as presidnet, signified the end of Reconstruction in the South. 

After the election, Hampton became known as the "Savior of South Carolina". He was reelected in 1878, but two days after the election he was thrown from a mule while deer hunting and broke his right leg. Several weeks later, his right leg was amputated due to complications arising from this injury. Despite refusing to announce his candidacy for the Senate, Hampton was elected to the United States Senate by the General Assembly on the same day as the amputation of his leg. 

Senator Hampton
He resigned from the governorship in 1879 and served two terms in the Senate, until 1891, but was denied a third term by the Tillmanites in the state elections of 1890.

From 1893 to 1897, Hampton served as United States Railroad Commissioner, appointed by President Grover Cleveland.

Hampton in Old Age

In 1899, his home in Columbia, was destroyed by fire. An elderly man, he had limited funds and limited means to find a new home. Over his strong protests, a group of friends raised enough funds to build him one.
Margaret Buchanan Frances Preston Hampton
Hampton had five children by his marriage to Margaret Buchanan Frances Preston in 1838.  She died in 1852.  He married Mary Singleton McDuffie in 1858. They had four more children.  Mary became an invalid after the death of  her fourth child, Catherine, in 1867.  Mary died in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1874.   Hampton brought her body back to Columbia to be buried in the family plot.
Mary Singleton McDuffie Hampton
Hampton died at his Columbia home on April 11, 1902, at the age of  84.

He was buried in Columbia's Trinity Cathedral Churchyard. Twenty thousand mourners followed his casket to the cemetery, where the Bishop-General Ellison Capers read the services.
Hampton's Grave

An equestrian statue was erected on the grounds of the South Carolina State House in 1906.

Hampton Statue in front of South Carolina State House

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