The Cainhoy Riot was one of the many deadly frays that erupted during the 1876 gubernatorial campaign. As with other outbreaks of racial violence in 1876, it involved white gun clubs and the African American militia, but Cainhoy ended with a difference: when it was over, more whites lay dead than blacks.
A Republican political meeting was scheduled for October 16 at the Brick House, some thirty miles up the Cooper River from Charleston. With the experience of several serious collisions already behind them, African Americans came prepared, and hundreds of militiamen attended the meeting, though for reasons that remain a mystery, they stored their guns in nearby buildings. They became agitated when Charleston County Democratic gun clubs began to arrive by steamer from the city. Democrats demanded “equal time” to speak, a scuffle ensued, and shots rang out. Soon the African Americans were breaking out their rifles, while the outnumbered whites sent the steamer back to Charleston for reinforcements. They arrived to find the battle over, the combatants dispersed, and seven dead men—six whites and one African American. More than a dozen of both races lay wounded.
The affair at Cainhoy finally prompted federal action. On October 17 President Ulysses S. Grant issued a proclamation ordering all private armed organizations to disband and ordered more U.S. troops into the state. Nearly twelve hundred federal soldiers would be on duty for the 1876 election, a consequence Republican incumbent Daniel H. Chamberlain had hoped for and Democratic challenger Wade Hampton III had warned against. But soldiers were only a temporary, piecemeal fix and could not quell all disturbances or protect all Republicans. In the end, even this small victory undercut the legitimacy of the Republican-controlled state government.
Hennessey, Melinda Meeks. “Racial Violence during Reconstruction: The 1876 Riots in Charleston and Cainhoy.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 86 (April 1985): 100–112.
Zuczek, Richard. State of Rebellion: Reconstruction in South Carolina. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996.