Part of the Reconstruction Era
resurgence of racism
Ku Klux Klan
Commanders and leaders
Casualties and losses
The Kirk-Holden War was a struggle against the Ku Klux Klan in the state of North Carolina in 1870. The Klan was preventing recently freed slaves from exercising their right to vote through intimidation. Republican Governor William W. Holden hired Colonel George Washington Kirk, a person of color and formerly of the 2nd Regiment U. S. Colored Cavalry to handle the matter. He also suspended the writ of habeas corpus, and imposed martial law in Caswell and Alamance counties in response.
2 The war
4 See also
On February 26, 1870, Wyatt Outlaw, the African American town commissioner of Graham and constable, was lynched in Alamance County by the Klan. On May 21, 1870 John W. Stephens, a white, Confederate, Republican State Senator popular with blacks, was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in the Caswell County Courthouse.
On July 8, 1870, Governor Holden declared the two counties to be in a state of insurrection. Colonel George Kirk was brought in to restore order. Holden suspended the writ of habeas corpus and imposed martial law in Caswell and Alamance counties to help Kirk in his efforts.
Governor Holden ordered Kirk to assemble a force and march on the city of Yanceyville. Kirk gathered some 300 volunteers and marched on the city in early July. Soon thereafter, he began arresting men, including some of the most respected citizens of the county including: ex-Congressman John Kerr, lawyers Jacob Alson Long and James E. Boyd, Captain Joseph F. Mitchell, Sheriff Jesse C. Griffith, Barzillai Graves, Thomas J. Womack, and Yancey Jones. Kirk made about 100 arrests in a matter of weeks.
The Klan retaliated and thirty of its members members marched on the small town of Pittsboro intent on taking it over. Kirk’s forces gathered and the Klan pulled back, with Kirk in pursuit. In the forest of Chatham county a bloody battle ensued, though little is known about the events. After several similar skirmishes the war was over.
Governor Holden disbanded Colonel Kirk’s militia in September 1870, and in November ended the state of insurrection in both counties. The m