American Militias After the Civil War: From Black Codes to the Black Panthers and Beyond

Ammo.com has written a long article on the history of militias in America. Here is an excerpt from the second part of that article, titled American Militias after the Civil War: From Black Codes to the Black Panthers and Beyond. If you find this interesting, please read the entire article at Ammo.com, starting with the first part.

The Civil War (1861-1865) was nothing less than a revolutionary reorganization of American government, society, and economics. It claimed almost as many lives as every other U.S. conflict combined and, by war’s bloody logic, forged the nation which the Founding Fathers could not by settling once and for all lingering national questions about state sovereignty and slavery.

The postwar period, however, was one of arguably greater turmoil than the war itself. This is because many men in the South did not, in fact, lay down their arms at the end of the War. What’s more, freedmen, former slaves that were now American citizens, had to take defensive measures against pro-Democratic Party partisans, the most famous of whom were the Ku Klux Klan.

America’s militia has existed for a number of purposes and has exercised a surprising number of roles over the years. But at its core, it’s a bulwark of the power of the country against the power of the state…

The Reconstruction Era (1865-1877) is one of the most fascinating – and violent – periods of American history. After the defeat of the Confederate States, the United States Army took direct control of the quelled rebel states. Elections were eventually held and Republicans won every state, with the exception of Virginia. The state governments then organized militias, which were comprised of a majority of black men.

To say that there was racial tension in the former Confederate states would be an understatement. Not only was the South under continued military occupation, but they were also being occupied by their former slaves, now armed by what was until very recently a foreign power. The white population of the South responded to what they considered to be an attack on them and their rights by organizing militias of their own, despite the fact that this was prohibited by law. In fact, postbellum laws on militia organization prohibited drilling, parading, or organizing…

A correspondent writing at the time spoke of the palpable fear of the white population: He believed that a massacre of the entire white population was impending. This anxiety is what led to the so-called “Black Codes” of the postwar era, which included tight restrictions on the weapons that could be owned by free blacks – if any at all. Some laws even restricted blacks from owning knives.

It’s worth noting that black veterans of the time were armed quite well. Not only did many keep their service weapons after the war was over, but they were also in possession of weapons claimed as war prizes. The average black citizen of the time, however, wanted only arms for self defense. Indeed, the mutual feeling of uneasiness in the postwar South seems to have a solid foundation for each group…

Some of the first anti-gun control movements in the United States were among freed blacks seeking to keep and bear arms for their own protection against the white independent militias. The names are familiar to most Americans: The Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Camelia, The Red Shirts, The White League, The White Brotherhood. These white independent militias have been called by George C. Rable the “military arm of the Democratic Party.” Many blacks who had no intention of firing a shot in anger wanted a weapon simply to keep themselves and their families secure in the face of armed terrorist gangs seeking to circumvent the Reconstruction…

Read the entire article American Militias after the Civil War: From Black Codes to the Black Panthers and Beyond at Ammo.com.