D.P. Upham Project Page 3

The Woodruff County Situation 1868

However, while life was great for Upham, not everything was humming right along for other folks. Reconstruction, as the years following the end of the Civil War was known, was a traumatic time for a great many people. Eastern Arkansas was devastated by the Civil War and the economy had a hard time improving. There was a massive dislocation as many people had their land and businesses confiscated by the Union Army only for men like Upham to gain control of them. The black population had beome free and able to vote and their votes all went for the Republican Party that had freed the slaves. A great many of the Southerners who had joined the Confederacy lost their right to vote.

The stage was set for the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan was made up of ex-Confederates who were determined to regain their former position of power in the South. The Klan was a terrorist force that was dedicated to the task of restoring white supremacy in the region, if not the restoration of slavery. The Klan was bound and determined to do everything in it's power to achieve its objectives and it that meant engaging in mass murder and mayhem, then so be it. The Klan was endorsed by a local newspaper in Woodruff County, the Augusta Sentinel. According to Upham, this publication, in its editorials, was "a paper that has preached hell fire, war of races, murder of Radicals, blood to the waist."

Beginning in late Summer, 1868, the Klan unleashed a wave of violence that was far worse than anything that had been seen since the end of the Civil War. Attempts were made on the lives of a great many officeholders and former slaves alike. Many of these attempts succeeded. The Klan aimed at causing the black population to refrain from voting for fear of their lives. The Klan also engaged in disarming the black population, killing all those who stood in their way. It has been estimated that as many as 1,000 black people were murdered by the Klan in just a few months time.

On October 2, 1868, both Upham and another official were subjected to an assassination attempt. He was twice wounded. Due to the fact that there was a breakdown of fundamental law and order in much of the state, Governor Powell Clayton suspended the 1868 elections in 10 counties, including Woodruff. Ultimately, Clayton decided that the situation was so dire that there was no other alternative but to declare martial law in much of the state and call out the state militia.

The Ku Klux Klan was a threat to basic law and order as well as to the freedmen as shown by this image from Harper's Weekly:

The Ku Klux Klan and its Allies The Union as it Was