Much like South Carolina (see following lot), the 1876 election in Florida was marked by violence and voter intimidation as mostly white Democrats attempted to wrest power from mostly African-American and northern-born Republicans. This archive consists of original letters and contemporary transcripts addressed to General Ruger as Commander of the Department of the South, and his staff. The earliest letter is dated 18 September from United States Representative William J. Purman, a Reconstruction Republican, requesting two companies of federal troops for Florida: "The enemies of law and order are making preparations to indulge in violence and intimidation in certain sections on Election Day." Congressman Purman expressed well-grounded fear for his own personal safety, reminding Ruger that "a few years ago the assassin's bullet passed through my neck, leaving me for dead on the ground." Purman followed up on 17 October with a report on a Republican meeting in Monticello with "about 2000 colored men": "Two hundred men on horseback suddenly appeared on the scene, most of them from Ga., and most of them with shotguns. . . . Their object was terrorism and violence if necessary to carry even any caprice into operation." His third letter came on 26 October, warning that Florida's Democratic clubs have "lately received cases of Winchester rifles from New York" and that rebel "cavalry clubs" were planning to "raid down into our two or three counties on Election Day and by violence and intimidation, stampede our voters." On the other side, Ruger also received a message three days before Election Day from the Deemocratic candidates, requesting troops at Tallahassee and Monticello. The lot also includes copies of several post-election reports by company officers stationed across the state. A pair of copied messages from General William T. Sherman two days after the election ordered four companies to Tallahassee. Contested returns for Florida and other states kicked the election into the hands of a commission which eventually awarded Florida's 4 Electoral College votes to the Republican Hayes--enough to give him the presidency.
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