The Traveler… the Ku Klux Klan… Their first “recorded” assassination…

July 26, 2018 by  
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A little over a month ago I journeyed to Wilmington, North Carolina, by the way of the Daily Journal dated June 17, 1868. There I found the headline “The Georgia Military Outrage.” “On the night of the 30th of March, G. W. Ashburn was killed in a negro house of ill-fame, in the city of Columbus, Georgia… One Bennett, who had been an active Radical partisan, a prominent member of the ‘loyal league,’ was in the house at the time of the killing… Sometime after the killing, and after the military Governor of Georgia had offered an unusually large reward for the apprehension of the murderers, several of the most prominent and respectable young gentlemen of Columbus were arrested by military authority, together with two negroes… When the matter of the arrests was brought to the attention of Congress and the country by Hon. Mr. Beck… now confined in the military barracks at Atlanta, awaiting trial… “

Considered a scalawag by his white Columbus neighbors, he worked with the Freedmens Bureau and alongside African American leaders such as Henry McNeal Turner. His actions quickly created several enemies across the South. Ashburn lived amongst the African American population and garnered attention from the Ku Klux Klan, which established their Columbus chapter on March 21, 1868 after a visit from Nathan Bedford Forrest. Henry Benning testified that Mr. Ashburn had “quit his wife and took up with a negro woman in Columbus.” The trial, beginning on June 29, gained national attention as over twenty persons were arrested and held at Fort McPherson. The prisoners consisted mostly of prominent white residents of Columbus. General Henry L. Benning and former Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens agreed to represent the accused. The Federal government was pushing for Georgia to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment, while the Georgia legislature was resisting it. The defenders of the KKK saw here an opportunity for a bargain. On July 21, as the trial progressed, Georgia agreed to ratify the 14th Amendment in exchange for General Meade’s termination of the prosecution of the murder. All prisoners made bail and returned to Columbus. No one was ever prosecuted. [source: Wikipedia]

~The Traveler

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