Murder and Nothing Less – This Week in Historical Lynchings

This week, we’ll take a look at another triple lynching, as well as the murder of a judge that began the killings. Through period newspapers, we’ll see not only how murder and a possible black uprising was dealt with in the press, but also how lynchings were handled. By looking at the language used by the New Orleans Times-Picayune in 1893, we can see plainly how even the innocents who were lynched were vilified. It would take the paper nearly a week to denounce the lynching. Over that time, it would print rumor as fact, and practically schedule lynchings to come.

Between the Civil War and World War II, the black community, especially in the South, was terrorized by an epidemic of lynchings. As opposed to public executions, the point of lynching was to avoid the court of law, judge and jury. Often times, the victim, in a holding cell for an offense, was kidnapped by a mob before even being arraigned. According to a recent report issued by the Equal Justice Initiate, there were 4,075 lynchings of black Americans across the South between 1877 and 1950. 1In this case, “The South” pertains to the dozen states where the most lynchings occurred: Mississippi (614), Georgia (595), Louisiana (559), Arkansas (491), Alabama (363), Texas (344), Florida (307), Tennessee (238), South Carolina (184), Kentucky (170), North Carolina (122), and Virginia (88). See the EJI site here.

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Murder and Revenge Lynchings in Louisiana (1893)

On September 15, 1893, Judge Victor Estopinal, presiding over Jefferson Parish in Louisiana, was gunned down in his courtroom. The assassin, pegged immediately as Roselius Julian, was shot once in defense, but fled the scene.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Julian’s appearance as: “the color of cinnamon bark.” Continuing, it was reported that “The negro bore an unsavory reputation in the vicinity, and, in fact throughout the parish of Jefferson. During the last campaign, on account of some obnoxious acts of his in endeavoring to intimidate negro voters, a band of men were about to run him out of the parish, if not, in fact, to use more drastic means to put a stop to his reprehensible tactics.” 2The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Sat, Sep 16, 1893 – Page 1. Here and here.

Likely Julian was trying to convince his fellows in the black community to vote progressive Republican. Jefferson Parish, solidly conservative Democrat, obviously saw him as obnoxious. According to the same paper, Judge Estopinal “took an active interest in politics. Being fearless and intrepid, he figured prominently in wrestling the parish from Republican rule.” 3Ibid.

Julian and Judge Estopinal lived within 100 feet of each other, the former working on the plantation of the latter. According to the paper, Julian’s wife claimed that Julian had beat her. He was arrested and sent before Judge Estopinal, which was when the murder took place. 4Ibid.

Within an hour, another Judge rounded up a possee to hunt down Julian, who had, by that time, returned to his home, grabbed his gun, and shot Judge Estopinal’s son, wounding him.

“The posse scattered in different directions, and will make a thorough search of the swamps. His [Julian’s] mother and brothers’ place, at Camp Parapet, was searched, but he was not found there. The supposition is that he followed the LAbarre road to a small canal that runs to the lake, adn that he may have got a flatboat there to head for the lake.”

The paper also printed the rumor that Julian’s brothers, Volsin Basile and Paul Julian, though they admitted “this was denied by others” who saw them at their mother’s place. A few black residents were arrested, but none turned out to be Roselius Julian.

The next day, readers of the Times-Picayune learned not of the captured of Roselius Julian, but of the lynching of three of his relatives. This is the story that ran:

Lynched as a Warning

Judge Victor Estopinal was laid to rest yesterday morning. Roselius Julian is still at large, but but posses are surrounding the murderer and hope for his capture. Three of the negro’s brothers were hung last night, and the people for miles around are up and armed and determined that justice shall be done and the murder avenged.

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[Here, the paper goes into detail about the murder and search, mostly repeating the above information. The paper, this column of which is now in a mostly-unreadable state, went on to talk about the rumors of a lynching. Eight members of Julian’s family had been arrested, and there were rumors that they would soon be lynched “if they did not divulge the whereabouts of the murderer.” The Judge who called together the posse vowed to stop any such activity.]

Those confined in the jailhouse on Judge Estopinal’s place were the murderer’s mother, two sisters, three brothers and two cousins. Two of the brothers had been arrested by Officer Koerber and a citizen who refused to give his name to the reporter as they were coming out of the swamp.

The other brother and two cousins had been arrested earlier in the day by Corporal Seelhorst at the Black bridge. The mother and two sisters were brought in from their home on the ridge, and it was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon before all the parties thus arrested were incarcerated in the jail at Estopinal’s.

The news of these arrests and the failure and refusal of these parties to furnish any information about their missing relative is what occasioned almost as much excitement as did the deed itself the evening previous. The aroused populace who assumed a threatening attitude and held whispered conversation about lynching, was general in favor of taking no harsh action against the females, but as to the males they appeared determined to string them up or make them talk.

It was in the wise that a reporter heard that an attempt would be made to break the jail between 9 and 10 o’clock. Accordinly before nightfall he took up a position in a lonely spot on the grounds, behind a tree, where he could get a full view of the jailhouse. He remained thus, secreted in this station, for what seemed to him an interminable period.

The guards patrolled the place, but did not come near his vantage ground. Finally, about 11 o’clock, a body consisting of about twenty-five men, some armed with rifles and shotguns, came up to the jail and lit a lantern. They unlocked the door and then held a conference among themselves as to what they should do. Some were in favor of hanging the whole five while others raised objections, and insisted that only two of the brothers, the short one and the tall one, “Valsin” and “Bazile,” should be taken out and strung up.

julian2

This was finally agreed to, and several of the men went into the jail, and, coming out shortly afterwards, brought with them the two doomed negroes. They were hurried across to Simon’s pasture, 100 yards distant, and there asked to take their last chance at saving their lives by making a confession. The negroes made no reply. They were then told to kneel down and pray. One did so. The other remained standing. But both prayed fervently. The taller negro ws then hoisted up. He remained hanging fully five minutes before the second one was hoisted.

The shorter negro, who was the second hung, stood gazing at the horrible death of his brother, without flinching. The mob remained standing at the place for about half an hour, when some one suggested that they go back and hang the three others.

“We took those two fellows that you saw over there in Simon’s place, and strung them to that tree. We gave them a chance to make a confession before squeezing them, but they refused to even deny that they know his whereabouts. We took the other brother, Paul, out to Camp Parapet, and strung him up there to warn the negroes in that direction that they cannot go about killing white judges. The two cousins we took out on the road and, after lashing them, started them up the road in the direction of the swamps, telling them to get out of the parish in less than thirty minutes or suffer the consequences.”
-Member of the mob. 5This quote was taken from another part of the incredibly long article.

[…]

The Reason for the Arrests

Originally there had been no intention of placing any member of Julian’s family under arrest, as it was then regarded as extremely improbable that they knew anything of his whereabouts. One report stated that in his wild flight for safety on Friday evening he had shot at his mother. This would seem to shut off any theory of whither he went. The other brothers, it was said, were working at different places when the tragedy took place, so that they had no chance to learn of his whereabouts.

What caused the arrest of the mother and two sisters yesterday was that on a visit being made to the house these females were found wrapping up some clothes and a loaf of bread. This aroused the suspicion that the articles were to be conveyed to the fugitive. The brother and the two cousins were discovered going over the Black bridge, and had a shirt bundled up as if it were intended for Julian. This naturally caused the finger of suspicion to be pointed towards them. The two brothers were caught coming out of the swamps and as they persistently refused to state whence they had come, they too fell under the bane of doubt. Hence all the arrests.

The Story of the Lynching

It was evident from the circumspection that was everywhere visible that guards, neighbors and everybody in the vicinity were apprehensive that some attempt might be made to rescue the prisoners by overpowering the officers of the law.

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Constant rumors came in from different sources that the negro Roselius [Julian], the fugitive murderer had been seen first at one point, then at another, caused a hurrying up and down the road for a distance of about three miles on either side of the Estopinal place.

[…]

The darkness which brooded over the place, only faintly lit up by the young moon, made the experience of teh night one to be remembered. Hidden deep in the murky obscurity, the ghastly relics of the butchered men were swinging in the night wind, while all about the silence lay undisturbed. Man had come and gone, and these were the only traces he had left of his horrible handiwork. 6The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Sun, Sep 17, 1893 – Page 11. Here.

Family Assassination

The next day, September 18, the Times-Picayune devoted their entire front page and half of their second to the story. Readers learned that Roselius Julian was still at large and were treated to crude drawings of the lynchings taking place the previous day.

Though innocent of any wrongdoing, the three victims were roasted by the paper. The entire family, it was written, “bear a bad reputation.” They had been repeatedly whipped by “regulators” and threatened with lynching.

Of Roselius, they wrote “he was a rabid Republican, and his campaign talk almost got him into trouble many a time, but his luck saved him.”

There was, insisted the paper, a conspiracy among the black community to rise up and kill the judge. Though they offered no actual evidence, they wrote that they “negroes .. .do not appear to know what fear is. This courage, coupled with their brutal instincts, is what causes them to be dreaded all the more. They may remain passively quiet for a while, but at that very time they may be plotting some desperate deed of daring. The slightest provocation, and in many instances no cause whatsoever, may precipitate the carrying out of their plots.

“The chief aim of these negroes appears to be the annihilation of the whites.”

Unable to find Julian, another jail was broken into and a black prisoner removed. “The supposition is that he was going to be lynched.” Another prisoner nearly met the same fate.

In fact, all was prepared for the capture of Julian.

The leaders were reticent and they talked only among themselves. It was impossible for any one, not excepting a great many of the determined men bent on metting out justice to the murderer, to learn anything define from the leaders.

Their quiet demeanor indicated that the work was not all done and that the hunt for the assassin was not to be relinquished until they should have the satisfaction of eitehr seeing his lifeless body dangling from a limb or smell his burning flesh.

It was current talk that an iron-topped sled had been constructed during the day and that it was to be used to burn the negro on if he was captured. Fire was to be built on the sled and the negro was to be bound to the fagots placed there on. 7The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Mon, Sep 18, 1893 – Page 1. Here and here.

Whites Still Under Arms

The following day, the 19th, the Times-Picayune could only muster enough information for three columns. “Whites Still Under Arms” ran the headline. Julian was still at large, but the “colored population has quietly disappeared.”

The sentiment is constantly gaining ground aomong them that their only chance for safety lies in flight. A great many of the blacks in the rear of the Seventeenth war, satisfied with the dangers, real or imaginary, which they ahve already endured, moved out Sunday and Sunday night [Sept. 17]. Scores of them are still leaving in all directions. Many made their way yesterday to Kenner and took the railway into the city. Others tramped in to CArrollton and quartered themselves with friends there.

Some of the negroes of this section are intelligent and industrious, and, having made their homes there, have invested their saving in property of various kinds. This they have been obliged by the events of the past few days to dispose of at ridiculously low prices. A venerable darkey, who is now the proprietor of a draying establishment, and doing a good business, yesterday offered, in the neighborhood of the police station, in Carrollton, to sell his home and establishment for $100, so pressing were his desires to leave at once. Another was heard congratulating himself loudly on being on the safe side of the parish line.

[…]

Where the negroes have gone no one seems to know. But that they have departed form the vicinity of Southport in large bodies is not only evident but is visible and undisputed. A general panic seems to have seized the negroes, and those even who have never been suspected in any manner in connection with the plot against the whites, have taken their departure. The scare among the rural negroes is not only on the Southport side of the Mississippi, but the infection has crossed the river and is going up and down the bank. 8The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Tue, Sep 19, 1893 – Page 2. Here.

Murder and Nothing Less

After days of reporting on the lynching and rumors of future lynchings, the Times-Picayune finally got around to denouncing the crime. On the 20th, they devoted but a few column inches to this denunciation.

While their front page was taken up with a rehashing of rumors and old news, page four had a small blurb:

The killing by the populace in the lower end of Jefferson, on Saturday night, of three men who were known to be innocent of the murder of Judge Estopinal, but, because of their relationship to the murderer, were suspected of sympathy with and of a desire to give him succor from his pursuers, was an act wholly inexcusable. It was murder and nothing less. 9The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Wed, Sep 20, 1893 – Page 4. Here. See also.

The Investigation

Over the next week, the paper’s coverage of the murder and lynchings continued, but little new information came to light. That is, until September 30th. It was then that what seemed like a typical lynching investigation broke wide open. Several anonymous witnesses came forward, but by October 3rd, the district attorney reported that none of the witnesses called to the bench claimed to know anything all about a lynching. 10The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Tue, Oct 3, 1893 – Page 3. Here.

juliantext

By the 7th, the investigation of the lynchers as well as the search for Julian had ground to a halt. 11The Meridional; Abbeville, Louisiana; Sat, Oct 7, 1893 – Page 4. Here.

On the 18th, the district attorney finally released his report. While he condemned the lynching with the same language used by the Times-Picayune, he could not explain “why he was unable to get any facts from the forty-five witnesses whom he examined, and as he and his methods were the principal cause of this miscarriage of justice it is scarcely to be wondered at that he could not find where the trouble lay.” 12The Times-Democrat; New Orleans, Louisiana; Wed, Oct 18, 1893 – Page 4. Here.

Epilogue

Over two years later, Roselius Julian was discovered and killed. After eighteen months of wandering, Julian showed up in Chotard, Mississippi. After revealing his true identity to a local, an attempt was made to capture him.

“Julian resisted,” reported the Times-Picayune in late December 1895, “and, in the darkness of the night, a stray bullet struck the murderer just above the heart and killed him instantly.” 13The Times-Picayune; New Orleans, Louisiana; Fri, Dec 27, 1895 – Page 12. Here.

It took six months for word to travel back to New Orleans. It did so with very little notice. The public had moved on. Over those two years, Louisiana would be host to over thirty more lynchings.

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Flag announcing lynching, flown from the window of the NAACP headquarters on 69 Fifth Ave., New York City. 1936.
Flag announcing lynching, flown from the window of the NAACP headquarters on 69 Fifth Ave., New York City. 1936.

Nearly Ninety Other Lynchings This Week

What follows is a list of all known racially-motivated lynchings between September 12 and September 18, 1877-1950. It should be in the forefront of your mind that the “crimes” listed are only what the victims of the lynchings were accused of committing. They were allowed no trials, and thus they were not guilty in the eyes of the law. Certainly some may have done what they were accused of doing, but in a constitutional society that values law and order over mob rule, each and every lynching was a miscarriage of justice and a horrible wrong. 14For more information on all of this, please see our post here.

It must also be remembered that this list is incomplete. Not only were there unreported lynchings, but the databases I draw from are understandably inadequate.

Year	Victim	  City State	Race	Sex	Form    Alleged Offense

September 12

1888	Curtis Shortney		  Hinds	MS	Black	Male	Unreported				Murder of a white man, a doctor
1889	Louis Mortimer		Leflore	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Killing a black man who refused to join a gang
1894	James Smith		   Bradford	FL	Black	Male	Hanged					Attempted to rape a young white girl
1895	John Thomas		Mississippi	AR	Black	Male	Hanged and shot			Murder and robbery of a married white woman
1896	Jones McCauley	   Ouachita	LA	Black	Male	Shot					Sexual assault of two small black children
1897	Charles Gibson		   Bibb	GA	Black	Male	Hanged and riddled with bullets	Rape of unmarried white girl and killing of black man
1910	Robert Bruce		   Lake	TN	Black	Male	Hanged					Entered a white girls’ room
1910	William Sharp		   Lake	TN	Black	Male	Hanged					Entered a white girls’ room
1913	Unknown				  Tamms	IL	Black	Male	Shot					Confrontation over use of counterfeit dollar at store
1914	Pat Bowers			 Lonoke	AR	Black	Male	Shot					Murder of his wife; shooting and killed two white men
1920	William Echols		 Clarke	MS	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of an aged white man, a night watchman
1936	Thomas Finch		 Fulton	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attempted attack on white woman patient in Grady hospital

September 13

1882	Nathan Bonnet	   Barnwell	SC	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Attempted outrage on a 16-17 year-old white girl
1887	Adam Mallard	   Randolph	GA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Hiding a son who was accused of attempting to murder a white man, a plantation owner
1892	Eli Lindsey		  Morehouse	LA	Black	Male	Shot					Murder of a black man, a farm laborer
1896	John Lee			  Henry	AL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Involved in some kind of altercation, apparently with other blacks
1908	Daniel Newton	 Brookshire	TX	Black	Male	Hanged					Brother of man who murdered white man
1909	John Holly			 Sumter	AL	Black	Male	Hanged					Accomplice in murdering a married white woman
1912	H. Murphy		  Lafayette	FL	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Attempted criminal assault on a white woman
1917	Samuel Cates		 Lonoke	AR	Black	Male	Shot					Indecent proposals to white girls
1919	Unnamed Negro	  Catahoula	LA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Hiding under bed in a white man’s house with his shoes off
1921	Gilmon Holmes	   Caldwell	LA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Murder of a white man, a telegraph operator

September 14

1877	George Anderson	   Arkansas	AR	Black	Male	Throats cut and hanged	Murder of a young white man
1877	Jourdan Elligan	   Arkansas	AR	Black	Male	Throats cut and hanged	Murder of a young white man
1886	David Johnson	Westernport	MD	Black	Male	Drowned					Murder of a white man
1888	Unnamed Negro	 St. Martin	LA	Black	Female	Shot					Race prejudice
1892	Hugh Henry 		 	 Larned	KS	Black	Male	Hanged					Attempted assault of a white woman
1893	Ed Guyton			Pickens	AL	Black	Male	Shot					Arson of a mill and gin house belonging to a white man
1893	Ellen Fant			Pickens	AL	Black	Female	Shot					Arson of a mill and gin house belonging to a white man
1893	Paul Archer			Pickens	AL	Black	Male	Shot					Arson of a mill and gin house belonging to a white man
1893	Polk Hill			Pickens	AL	Black	Male	Shot					Arson of a mill and gin house belonging to a white man
1893	William Archer		Pickens	AL	Black	Male	Shot					Arson of a mill and gin house belonging to a white man
1893	Louise Carter		 Monroe	MS	Black	Female	Hanged					Accessory to murder of three members of a white family
1893	Mahaley Jackson		 Monroe	MS	Black	Female	Hanged					Accessory to murder of three members of a white family
1893	Rufus Broughs		 Monroe	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Accessory to murder of three members of a white family
1899	Ed Henderson		  Worth	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Assaulted woman; accomplice in a rape of 18 year-old white girl
1900	David Moore			 Tunica	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder of a white man, a prominent planter
1900	Frank Brown			 Tunica	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder of a white man, a prominent planter
1900	William Brown		 Tunica	MS	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder of a white man, a prominent planter
1900	Pinkney Murphy		 Nelson	VA	Black	Male	Hanged					Attempted rape of an unmarried white woman, a school teacher

September 15

1893	Jesse Mitchell		 Amelia	VA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Criminal assault on a 12 year-old white girl, a farmer’s step-daughter
1896	Charles Harris		Volusia	FL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Criminal assault on a 7-8 year-old white girl, daughter of his employer
1903	William Williams  Wilkinson	MS	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Enticing workers to leave and killing a white man
1906	Mitchell Frazier	Rosebud	TX	Black	Male	Hanged					Cutting a white farmer
1911	Will Mixen		   Richland	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of his mother and threats to kill other family members
1924	Walter Bell			 Tunica	MS	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Stealing a white man’s car and killing another white man, a plantation manager
1932	Frank Tucker		 Ashley	AR	Black	Male	Hanged					Stealing $10 and wounding officer

September 16

1880	Archie Jameson	  Robertson	TN	Black	Male	Hanged					Torture and murder of an old white man
1880	Jack Bell		  Robertson	TN	Black	Male	Hanged					Torture and murder of an old white man
1880	Joe Ramsey		  Robertson	TN	White	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of a young unmarried white woman
1881	Jane Campbell	  Claiborne	LA	Black	Female	Burned at the stake		Murder of her two children
1886	Daniel Odwell		Screven	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB				Rape of 12 year-old white girl
1888	— Sidairo		 St. Landry	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with buckshot	Incendiary language
1888	Jean Pierre-SaletSt. Landry	LA	Black	Male	Riddled with buckshot	Incendiary language
1893	Basile Julian	  Jefferson	LA	Black	Male	Hanged					Complicity in murder of a white judge
1893	Paul Julian		  Jefferson	LA	Black	Male	Hanged					Complicity in murder of a white judge
1893	Valsin Julian	  Jefferson	LA	Black	Male	Hanged					Complicity in murder of a white judge
1893	Redmond Burke  Breckenridge	MO	White	Male	Unknown					Beating his wife
1896	Ben S. Morris		Watonga	OK	Black	Male	Hanged					Murder of prominent cattle dealer
1897	D. T. Watson		 Lonoke	AR	Black	Male	Hanged					Race prejudice
1908	John Miles	  Pointe Coupee	LA	Black	Male	Hanged					Robbery and assault of white storekeeper
1920	Oscar Beasley	   Angleton	TX	Black	Male	Unknown					Murder of a sheriff

September 17

1892	Jim Harrison			Calhoun	AR	Black	Male	Hanged				Leading a negro uprising and threatening to kill whites
1893	John Willis		  	  Jefferson	LA	Black	Male	Kicked				Complicity in murder of a white judge
1895	Aleck Francis	  	  Jefferson	LA	Black	Male	Hanged and beaten	Dangerous and suspicious character   
1898	Joe Thompson	 	 Tallapoosa	AL	Black	Male	Disemboweled		Murder of three white persons: a wealthy farmer, his wife, and her brother 
1905	Allen Pendleton	  	  Abbeville	SC	Black	Male	Riddled with bullets	Murder of a white man following an altercation
1935	Ellwood Higginbotham  Lafayette	MS	Black	Male	Hanged				Murder of a white man

September 18

1885	Robert Birdsong			  Early	GA	Black	Male	Unreported			Attempted rape of white woman
1885	Nicholas Snowden  Ellicott City	MD	Black	Male	Hanged by black mob	Assault of young girl
1887	Monroe Johnson		  Jefferson	AL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Murder of a married white woman, ”a respectable ... lady”
1890	Unnamed Negro			 Monroe	GA	Black	Male	Hanged				Rape
1893	Riley Gulley			 Wilcox	AL	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Attempted rape of a married white woman, wife of a “highly respected farmer”
1894	Dave Goosby				Lowndes	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Rape and murder of 12 year-old white girl
1895	Unnamed Negro			Bossier	LA	Black	Male	Unreported			Criminal assault on a white woman
1896	John Fitch			   Chambers	AL	Black	Male	Hanged				Entered a young white girl’s bedroom
1903	Tom Heliom			Mississippi	AR	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Assaulted two young black girls, aged 5 and 10
1904	John Ware			   Franklin	GA	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Murder of young white man
1909	Unnamed Negro	 	Sandy Point	TX	Black	Male	Unknown				Part of “race war”
1909	Unnamed Negro		Sandy Point	TX	Black	Male	Unknown				Part of “race war”
1921	Ernest Daniels			Chatham	NC	Black	Male	Hanged/RwB			Found in a young white woman’s room
1923	John Gray				  Perry	MS	Black	Male	Shot				Wounding a white man, a turpentine operator and father of two prominent physicians
1933	Richard Roscoe			Leflore	MS	Black	Male	Shot				Wounding a white man in a fight, biting off his index finger


References   [ + ]

Eric
Eric has always had a love for history and the Civil War. During the 150th anniversary of the war, he wrote the Civil War Daily Gazette blog, which published daily for nearly five years. Wishing to continue the exploration, following the Charleston murders in 2015, and the activism around removing the Confederate Battle Flag, he decided to dig a little deeper into the causes and repercussions of the War.
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