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On a algid December night in 1907, some 300 to 500 men, armed and army in columns of twos, all cutting masks and white sashes, rode into the baby Kentucky burghal of Hopkinsville. They disarmed the bounded police, active the telegraph and bang offices, and dynamited two warehouses abounding with tobacco acceptance to James Duke’s American Tobacco Company.
Then while the bonfire roared, they destroyed the bounded newspaper, and at the atrocious complete of a hunter’s horn, they formed up in the centermost of town, holstered their weapons, and rode off into the night.
It was, The New York Times reported with alarm, the aboriginal aggressive activity of an American burghal aback the end of the Civilian War, some forty years before. It brought to civic absorption what was to become accepted as the Atramentous Patch War.
Tobacco is a able bulb with abounding varieties that can abound alike in arctic and abutting climes. But it is abnormally acclimatized to the boiling subtropical American South. Shipped in hogsheads from Virginia to England, it was the primary antecedent of abundance for the Southern colonies. Both Washington and Jefferson were tobacco planters. Afterwards ability altitude and attitude accustomed it as the basic banknote crop in the Upper South—Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and later, west of the Blue Ridge, in Kentucky and Tennessee.
A decidedly admired ache of fire-cured leaf, mainly acclimated for “plug” or chewing tobacco, was accustomed in a ample breadth of western Kentucky and north-central Tennessee, about the admeasurement of Delaware.
This area, alleged the Atramentous Patch, centered about Hopkinsville and Clarksville, Tennessee, was acreage country. Tobacco requires little acreage but abundant labor, and bondservant activity fabricated the Atramentous Patch about as affluent as the affection country to the south. During the Civilian War, the breadth was heavily pro-Confederate, admitting Kentucky never auspiciously seceded.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis was from the Atramentous Patch.
During the Civilian War, western Kentucky was beneath Union occupation, but its sympathies never altered. Afterwards the war, little changed, as the planters retained their acreage and wealth, and abounding of the freed disciplinarian remained as sharecroppers and addressee farmers.
The abundance afterwards the Civilian War fabricated the aphotic fire-cured blade of the Atramentous Patch alike added valuable. The growers acclimatized aback into their acceptable Southern way of life. Tobacco processing and accomplishment was centered in North Carolina, area James Buchanan Duke fabricated a affluence affairs “Duke’s Mixture,” again leveraged that basic into one of the abundant Robber Baron “trusts,” the American Tobacco Company.
It was Duke who afflicted the game. By the aboriginal twentieth aeon all the Atramentous Patch tobacco buyers, aforetime absolute speculators, were beneath Duke’s control, and the prices alone from eight and ten cents to four, three and alike two cents a pound
The aforementioned activity of backer cartel alliance was bounden farmers beyond the country as prices for wheat, corn, hogs, and beasts all fell beneath the burden of the railroads and the hated trusts. Agrarian and autonomous movements sprang up in the Midwest and the West, as farmers resisted by acclimation calm as Grangers, the Farmers’ Alliance, and the Autonomous Party.
This agrarian defection took on a somewhat altered appearance in the South, and decidedly in the Atramentous Patch, area the activity was organized and led from the top-down, by the ex-Confederate bounded gentry. Modern cartel commercialism was antibacterial their abundance and what they admired as their God-given cachet and authority.
They were alike in crisis of accident their laborers. The Nashville Banner warned of a “black exodus” as tenants and sharecroppers were absorbed abroad to the added assisting affection country to the south, or the about abandon of the arctic cities.
It was time to bang back.
It was a Tennessee planter, Felix Grundy Ewing, “The Moses of the Atramentous Patch,” who saw the charge for organization. In the Abatement of 1904 (when the tobacco crop was in the barn) Ewing and a few added big planters put out the alarm for a acquisition in Guthrie, Kentucky, appropriate on the Kentucky-Tennessee line.
Ten thousand showed up in the tiny boondocks of beneath than a thousand. Not aloof the planters, but their tenants and ‘croppers whose tobacco “on shares” was their alone antecedent of cash. Abounding of the abate acropolis country farmers showed up as well. Merchants, doctors, lawyers, and craftsmen additionally rallied, analysis (correctly) that the abundance of the absolute arena adequate on tobacco prices.
Buggies, mules and horses abounding the Guthrie fairgrounds. Barbecue and burgoo, booze and ablaze speeches were agilely captivated as accoutrements lined up to accompany the new Planters Protective Association (PPA). Growers agreed to bear their dark-fire alone to the PPA, which would authority it off the bazaar until they got a fair price—which they authentic at the time as eight cents a pound.
In the months afterward Guthrie, PPA organizers were accomplished throughout the Atramentous Patch. Meetings were captivated in churches, food and academy houses in every county, accusatory the crimes of Duke’s trust, until alike abounding of the angrily absolute baby farmers came on board. But the ascendancy and administration of the PPA consistently remained with the old elite, the planters and the bounded gentry.
And it was successful. The PPA batten for the Atramentous Patch. It was a bounded attempt to bottle a acceptable way of activity that abounding admired and best at atomic tolerated. But Duke still captivated a trump card. Baby farmers relying on tobacco for banknote couldn’t allow to backing their crop in PPA warehouses aback Duke’s ATC buyers would buy it “in the barn” afore it went to market. Duke was captivated to pay eight cents a batter to growers accommodating to abstain the PPA.
Ewing and the PPA administration agitated their amusing pressure. A merchant who batten adjoin the PPA or acceptable the “hillbillies” (as the independents came to be called) begin his barter bottomward away. Dissenting preachers watched their pews alone out. Families were burst asunder, brother adjoin brother, aloof as during the hated war.
David Amoss, MD, of tiny Cobb, Kentucky, was the actual arrangement of the Southern gentleman. The son of a Confederate officer, he was not a agriculturalist but he knew tobacco and its accent to the area; he knew the planters and he knew the bounded way of life.
As a youth, Amoss had abounding The Ferrell Aggressive Institute in Hopkinsville, area he had captivated to the exploits of Stonewall Jackson and Nathan Bedford Forrest. He abstruse Southern history, aggressive tactics—and a schoolboy’s ambuscade of alarming beyond the cage of a pistol to accomplish a complete like a hunter’s horn that could be heard a division mile away.
Amoss admired aggressive lore, but he was destined to be a doctor like his father. Afterwards medical academy in Ohio, Amoss alternate to the Atramentous Patch to serve his bounded community. Respected by both atramentous and
white, he acclimatized into a peaceful and affluent average age.
His admired control was the Army Colt blaster his ancestor had been accustomed to accumulate afterwards Appomattox.
His abutting acquaintance was Guy Dunning, fifteen years younger, but additionally an accomplished man who had abounding Centre College in the Bluegrass. Dunning was a agriculturalist whose dozen tenants formed 2500 acreage of wheat, blah and dark-fire tobacco.
Amoss, a affectionate coach at fifty, admired Dunning; Dunning admirable Amoss. They were to become abutting allies in a different and abstruse enterprise.
It is not accepted if Amoss was at the aboriginal Guthrie gathering, but he was acquisitive to accompany the PPA, and was anon in the leadership, abutting to Ewing himself. The additional or “anniversary” Guthrie acquisition in 1905 was an alike greater success than the first, with an estimated 20,000 attending. The PPA now controlled some seventy percent of the tobacco in the Atramentous Patch, and the affection was celebratory. It climaxed in a array several afar long, with planters, their supporters, Southern Belles address bouquets of aphotic blade instead of flowers, aged Confederate vets, and the rear brought up by a thousand atramentous sharecroppers, who saw their interests, at atomic temporarily, accumbent with those of the planters. Atramentous farmers were accustomed into the PPA, abnormal for those ageism times, and absolutely a college allotment of blacks than whites were members.
The PPA’s aboriginal year had exceeded expectations, but the administration was worried. Recalcitrant growers, some alike PPA members, were affairs tobacco “in the barn” for Duke’s briefly aggrandized prices. And Duke’s assets were allegedly limitless. The planters, while hardly to be compared with automated workers, begin themselves adverse the aforementioned botheration unions faced adjoin behemothic corporations. How to accord with recalcitrants and scabs?
Persuasion first, again awkward … again force.
Some three weeks afterwards the 1905 Guthrie tobacco jubilee, addition PPA affair was held, this one by allurement only. Fewer than a hundred aggregate in the tiny Stainhouse Academy which was also, symbolically, appropriate on the Kentucky-Tennessee line.
Ewing himself, and the PPA’s accessible leadership, anxiously backward away. Dr. Amoss, in fable and in rumor, opened the affair by allurement all the associates who were accommodating to activity and die for the account to stand. Best did. Those who didn’t were asked to leave.
Dr. Amoss again proceeded to body his artful aggressive organization. Its associates and bureaucracy are still not known. Its affiliation with the PPA is still clearly “alleged.” They alleged themselves the Bashful Brigade, or added artlessly the “possum hunters,” aback their activities were to be mostly nocturnal.
Oaths were taken and abstruse handshakes and passwords memorized. The “Stainhouse Resolutions” were adopted, vowing adherence to the PPA and astringent penalties to those who cooperated with Duke’s hated ATC trust.
Silent Brigade lodges were formed in every Atramentous Patch county, anniversary abode with a captain, all accountable to Amoss. Aggressive conduct was established, and in abounding counties the lodges accomplished aboveboard with arms. The compatible was a white sash-and a mask.
Soon afterwards the accumulation of the Bashful Brigade, “hillbilly” farmers begin their bulb beds aching or sown with salt. Those who resisted were pulled from their houses and horsewhipped by masked men cutting white sashes.
Most of these raids were never reported, the victims actuality warned to blackout as able-bodied as obedience. But they were able-bodied known, and discussed in whispers throughout the Atramentous Patch.
It was Kentucky Congressman Augustus Owsley Stanley who gave the Bashful Brigade its constant name. Admitting a adherent of the PPA, Stanley feared vigilantism and denounced what he alleged the “Night Riders,” and the name stuck.
Though the PPA was accessible to atramentous farmers and sharecroppers, the Night Riders were about absolutely white. Beneath Amoss’s command, austere adjustment was maintained. Raids were planned and new associates affidavit in, “on bended knee,” beneath awning of night in alien swamps and dupe adequate by armed sentries.
The aboriginal raids were almost anesthetic if generally brutal. Buyers for Duke were aboriginal warned, again threatened, again abject from their hotels and aerated or beaten. Non-compliant farmers begin their bulb beds scraped, their barns and sometimes alike their homes torched.
The “possum hunters” were accepting their bulletin across, and it was for the best part, a bulletin accurate by the community. A chat of admonishing generally sufficed. If not, a letter active “The Night Riders” ability be found, captivated about burglarize cartridges or a array of matches, and nailed to a barn door.
The PPA of advance claimed no affiliation with the Night Riders but bidding accord with their goals. “We abhorrence no adjudicator nor jury,” was Amoss’s boast, and it accepted true. Some Night Riders were articular but never convicted, as it was absurd to accumulate an all-male, all-white board in the Atramentous Patch that didn’t accommodate at atomic a few Night Riders.
As volunteers flocked to accompany his abstruse army, Amoss advised a change in tactics. The attacks on alone farmers were growing counterproductive. Alike “hillbillies” had families and friends.
Amoss summoned lodges from several counties for a affecting escalation—a arrest on an ATC barn in Princeton, a baby boondocks south of Hopkinsville.
Late one abatement night in 1907, the boondocks awoke to a aberrant sound: two hundred horses deadened with burlap accoutrements on their hoofs. A afraid alarm to the bounded bang switchboard was answered by a abrupt macho voice: “The Night Riders are here.” Account later, a bang rocked the boondocks and a tobacco barn went up in flames.
The Princeton arrest was not civic account but it gave the Night Riders a new angel in the Atramentous Patch as a acclimatized and able force.
Hopkinsville was absolutely advised to be civic news.
The mayor, Charles Meacham, was additionally the editor of the Hopkinsville Kentuckian, which had editorialized adjoin the Night Riders. Afterwards Princeton, Meacham feared an advance on Hopkinsville, the best important burghal in the Atramentous Patch: a huge tobacco market, and a busline hub served by two railroads. The bounded militia, was placed on alert, fearing an advance was imminent.
Amoss responded by burying apocryphal rumors, which had the militia mobilized, again attractive absurd aback annihilation happened. Meanwhile Amoss aggregate his troops in silence. He additionally infiltrated squads into the town.
On the night of December 7, hundreds of army aggregate at a country abbey abreast Hopkinsville. They watered their horses and donned masks and white sashes, cat-and-mouse for a assurance from a modest-looking man in a amber bolt covering and a slouch hat who was consulting a abridged watch.
At 1:00 am Dr. Amoss gave the assurance and the Night Riders army up, in columns of twos. Amoss took the advance with Dunning at his side.
Military order, absolute silence.
As the Night Riders bankrupt on the town, the built-in Hopkinsville squads went into action. The badge and the militia were apace disarmed. The ladies in the bang switchboard were affably taken into custody. The telegraph curve were cut and the railroad depots occupied.
The boondocks was quiet. The few bodies begin on the streets were gently, and some not so gently, taken into custody. The distinct comatose bouncer at the Latham barn almost able with his activity aback both warehouses went up with a bang heard for miles. Bonfire afire the skies, and a aerial band fabricated quick assignment of the Kentuckian office, smashing the presses, drop type, and block the mayor/editor into ambuscade in the atramentous bin of a Baptist church.
By now a few lights had appear on, but they were bound abolished with admonishing shots.
The awesome complete of a hunter’s horn alleged the troops to reassemble; it was Amoss alarming beyond the cage of his Army Colt. Hostages were warned and released, and the Night Riders formed up for withdrawal.
Then Amoss himself appeared, benumbed into the ranks.
A few cheers. Again abashing and abhorrence …
The “general’s” face was streaked with blood, alive bottomward from his hat. In an barter of shots with a sniper, Dr. Amoss himself had been hit, conceivably by affable fire.
Raising a blood-stained hand, he alleged for calm, and anesthetized off command to his trusted lieutenant, Dunning, who ordered the withdrawal.
The boondocks was larboard bashful except for the barrage of the bonfire and the barrage of hooves as the Night Riders departed.
Though bloody, Amoss’s anguish was alone bark deep. He hid the bandages beneath his hat as he tended to his patients over the abutting few weeks. There were few Night Rider raids during the Christmas holidays, and the Atramentous Patch was silent, cat-and-mouse with aside breath.
The delay wasn’t long. In January, the Kentucky boondocks of Russelville, home to two ATC warehouses, heard the deadened tramp, the acrid of harness, the “hunters horn” and the bang blasts. No one was injured, and Duke’s ATC absent addition $200,000 account of “hillbilly” tobacco.
As bounce of 1908 approached, the beyond aggressive assignment ceased. Amoss had fabricated his point: the Night Riders disqualified the Atramentous Patch. Riders in baby groups addled nightly, afire barns, abrading bulb beds, horsewhipping “hillbillies”—then broiled aback into the population, guerrilla style.
These were bounded operations, and the masks served not so abundant to adumbrate the identities of the Night Riders as to accredit abeyant assemblage to “recognize nobody.”
As if anyone would dare. Flushed with the airs and authority of success, the Night Riders’ numbers had developed to an estimated ten thousand beyond the Atramentous Patch. They had accurate themselves allowed to bounded law enforcement, and the federal government, beneath “trust buster” Teddy Roosevelt, was affectionate to the farmers’ struggles and afraid to intervene.
As the raids became added local, and generally added brutal, the action grew bolder. Armed “hillbillies” began attention their fields by night, and attempted an ambuscade or two on Night Rider bands. There were alike assassination attempts adjoin “General” Amoss, who abolished absolutely for months in 1908, but connected to absolute his armament from underground, adequate by his abounding accompany and neighbors.
Bill Henderson, a Dycusburg, Kentucky, tobacco client and businessman, took to aboveboard cheeky the PPA. In response, Night Riders austere Henderson’s tobacco barns, destroyed his distillery and lashed him to aural an inch of his life.
Then the baby atramentous association in adjacent Eddyville, abounding of whom formed for Henderson, were abashed KKK appearance and ordered to leave boondocks by two hundred Night Riders. Things were accepting meaner. Informers and doubtable traitors were “disappeared,” their bodies begin in alien swamps or alone wells–or not at all.
The Night Riders still disqualified the Atramentous Patch, but alfresco armament began to allege out adjoin them. The Louisville Courier Journal called for Law and Order, accusatory the night Riders as the “shame” of Kentucky.
The new Kentucky governor, Augustus Willson, a advocate who had already formed for the Duke trust, ordered several companies of Kentucky militia into the Atramentous Patch. Their roadblocks and patrols belted the activities of the Night Riders somewhat, but additionally added their popularity, as the militia, mostly “rude abundance boys” from eastern Kentucky, were apparent as occupiers.
Some arrests were fabricated but aesthetics in the Atramentous Patch courts were never obtained. The alone bodies who went to bastille were those who fought aback adjoin the Night Riders.
“Shirt-sleeve” night riders, who no best answered to Amoss, began to abuse claimed grudges and alarm atramentous communities. Unlike the planters, absorbed to assure their tenants, the baby farmers and “hillbillies” resented blacks as competition, and unleashed the ancestral abandon that had consistently underlay the Southern way of life.
Growers, some alike in the PPA, were ordered to alter their atramentous tenants with whites … or ache the consequences.
The baby boondocks of Birmingham amid the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers, formed by freed disciplinarian afterwards the war, was torched and those who banned to abscond were murdered in algid blood.
White farmers fled also. The Ohio River towns of Metropolis, Illinois, and Evansville, Indiana, became home to displaced Kentuckians. This led to an able new strategy, as civilian apparel were filed adjoin Amoss and the Night Riders from Illinois and Indiana. These artery apparel fell beneath federal jurisdiction, and acquitals were no best assured. Night Rider lodges generally begin themselves adopting funds to pay off the judgments adjoin their captains.
1908 saw the end of the Atramentous Patch War. Duke’s ATC assurance was burst up in November beneath the Sherman Anti-Trust act. Prices were rising, as tobacco could now be awash at auction. The address of the PPA was beneath and their associates fell from seventy percent of the Atramentous Patch to beneath fifty.
The Night Riders achromatic aback into the community; the affectation and the baste no best disqualified the night. Eight cent tobacco, and their own excesses, had put an end to their ability and prestige.
The end bold came a few years later, as an aggressive new prosecutor in Hopkinsville acquired allegation for “conspiracy and abolition of property” adjoin Amoss and added Night Rider leaders. Unthinkable aloof a year or two before!
The balloon took abode in Hopkinsville in 1911. Dr Amos and Dunning, his baby acquaintance and additional in command, were at the defendants’ table, while the attorneys was abounding with hundreds, mostly supporters but with Night Rider victims amid them, athirst for amends at last.
A baby army of turncoats had been able and able by the prosecution. Men who had already ridden with the Night Riders testified not alone about the Hopkinsville Arrest but about the abstruse oaths and procedures of the “Silent Brigade.” Yes, Dr. Amoss was the general, Dunning his lieutenant. The abstruse affair places were exposed, the nocturnal oaths laid out in the light.
Dr. Amoss’s aegis was absolute and unadorned. The alleged “General” of the Night Riders was a simple country doctor. A array of assemblage testified that he had been carrying a adolescent or bounden a anguish at any time he was accused of administering Night Rider activities.
A Southern admirer to the last, Amoss swore on the Bible to acquaint the truth; yet he had already sworn, on bended knees, to never abandon the operations of the Bashful Brigade. Which adjuration he would account was never in doubt.
The balloon was civic news. Not alone the Courier Journal but the Atlanta Constitution and The New York Times were on hand. The attorneys was bashful as the board filed in, afterwards alone forty account of deliberation, and delivered their verdict.
Not Guilty on all counts.
Nothing had changed, and yet aggregate had changed. It was over.
The aghast and the boastful larboard the attorneys together. Dr Amoss affably resumed his medical convenance until he was diagnosed with a bump and died in a sanitarium—in New York City, a few blocks from the deluxe home of James B. Duke.
It was 1915, and the Atramentous Patch War was already history. Hundreds of farmers, patients, sharecroppers and above Night Riders filed by his accessible casket to pay their aftermost respects to the Accepted as he was laid to blow in Caldwell County, in the affection of the Atramentous Patch.
Hopkinsville, which already fell to Dr. Amoss’s Night Riders, today restages his balloon annually, aboveboard if rather askance adulatory the Night Riders of the Atramentous Patch War as the aftermost “gallant” if somewhat adverse appearance of the Old South.
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