Soldier, governor. Born in Barnwell District on February 21, 1829, Hagood was the son of Dr. James O’Hear Hagood and Indiana Margaretta Allen. Educated at Richmond Academy in Augusta, Georgia, he entered the Citadel in 1844, graduating with distinction in 1847. Admitted to the bar in 1850, he was appointed deputy adjutant general of militia for South Carolina in 1851 by Governor John H. Means, and served as commissioner in equity for Barnwell District from 1851 to 1861. On November 21, 1854, Hagood married Eloise Brevard Butler, the daughter of U.S. Senator Andrew P. Butler. They had two children.
On January 27, 1861, at the onset of the Civil War, Hagood was elected colonel of the First South Carolina Regiment of Volunteers. Calm and steadfast under fire, he saw action in South Carolina, Virginia, and North Carolina, from the reduction of Fort Sumter in April 1861 to the Battle of Bentonville in March 1865. His gallantry at the Battle of Secessionville led to his promotion as brigadier general on July 21, 1862. Additionally he was placed in charge of the Second and Seventh Military Districts encompassing South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida on July 19, 1862, and February 20, 1864, respectively.
After the war Hagood returned to his plantations in Barnwell and Edgefield Counties. An advocate of scientific agriculture, he championed diversified farming and was a noted breeder of thoroughbred horses. He served as president of the State Agricultural and Mechanical Society (1869–1873) and was an incorporator in 1870 of the Columbia Oil Company. Politically he represented Barnwell in the Forty-seventh General Assembly (1865–1866), ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Democrat in 1868, and was a member of the 1871 and 1874 Taxpayers’ Conventions. Initially a cooperationist with reform Republicans, he was elected state comptroller general in 1876 on the “straight-out” Democratic ticket, although he deplored the violence of the campaign. During the Ellenton Riots of September 1876, he commanded a posse commissioned to make arrests and quell the violence. As comptroller-general, he masterminded the crucial voluntary tax funding of the Hampton administration during the period of dual governments and was reelected in 1878. Overcoming a challenge by Democratic insurgent Martin W. Gary, Hagood was elected governor in 1880. Choosing to serve only one term, his administration enacted legislation that created a stronger railroad commission, reopened the Citadel, and expanded the coverage of artificial limbs for Confederate veterans. Also during his term, white Democrats solidified their control of state government by passing the Eight Box election law and by creating the “Black” Seventh District to contain African American voting power.
Personally reserved and a gifted organizer, politically Hagood was criticized as being overcalculating. Devoted to the Citadel, he served as chairman of the Board of Visitors (1878–1898), and president of the Association of Graduates (1877–1898). Hagood died on January 4, 1898, at his Sherwood plantation and was buried in Barnwell’s Holy Apostles Episcopal churchyard. As a mark of respect, the entire corps of cadets, officers, and faculty of the Citadel attended his funeral.
Cooper, William J., Jr. The Conservative Regime: South Carolina, 1877–1890. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1968.
Hagood, Johnson. Memoirs of the War of Secession. Edited by Ulysses R. Brooks. Columbia, S.C.: State Company, 1910.