General Wade Hampton III led the Second American Revolution in South Carolina in 1876, one hundred years after the first American Revolution in which his grandfather participated. The first Wade Hampton grew up on the Tyger River in what is now Spartanburg County, just east of Greer, across the river from the current Tab’s Flea Market.
A unique stone monument with engraved granite marker stands beside Wade Hampton Boulevard near where the Hampton family carved out a farm in the wilderness and began to make their mark on South Carolina and American History. The monument was erected by the Stonewall Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1933.
Hampton family history goes back to England as early as the eleventh century. The first Hampton to come to America was Rev. Thomas Hampton, an Episcopalian minister from Staffordshire or Middlesex England. His wife and three children arrived in America a year or so later. The family resided briefly in Jamestown and later moved inland to what became Glouchester County, Virginia.
Rev. Hampton’s second son, Anthony, was the first Hampton to settle in South Carolina. Anthony was the great grandfather of General Wade Hampton III who was to provide the leadership to rid South Carolina of a corrupt state government that was providing protection for those who were terrorizing citizens during the darkest days of South Carolina history following the War Between the States that ended in 1865.
The great respect shown Gen. Wade Hampton III by those who knew of his sacrifice and accomplishments for fellow South Carolinians is reflected in the number of times his name appears on buildings, highways, churches, fire departments and communities to this day.
About 1774, Anthony Hampton, along with his wife, five sons, his married daughter and her husband, carved out a farm in the wilderness on the Tyger River south of the Middle Indian Path (Scenic Highway 11). They constructed a modest log cabin on the river suitable for a family of nine.
Anthony Hampton’s second son was named Wade. Wade Hampton became a great hunter growing up in the wilderness foothills later described as the “Dark Corner” of Greenville County and northern Spartanburg County. He was the grandfather of Wade Hampton III.
During a warm July day in 1776, young Wade and three younger brothers were tracking game in the woods a long distance from the family’s log cabin when a band of renegade Cherokees in war paint attacked the family, burned the cabin to the ground and killed every inhabitant present, including Anthony Hampton’s newborn grandson. This act of terrorism had a traumatic impact on the life of the first Wade Hampton, his son and grandson.
Edward G. Longacre writes in Gentleman and Soldier: The extraordinary Life of General Wade Hampton:
“With a grim determination that would mark his lifelong quest for fortune and position, Wade, after burying his family, armed himself and his brothers, enlisted the help of neighbors and friends, and pursued the Cherokees.
“Deep in the forest they overtook the war party. With Indian-like stealth, they surrounded its camp, attacked with a war whoop all their own, and dispatched almost the entire band with muskets, knives, and gun butts. Bloodied, exhausted, their thirst for vengeance slacked, the attackers elected not to pursue the few escapees.”
The engraving on the stone monument located near the site of the Hampton home in Spartanburg County reads as follows: “ANTHONY HAMPTON, FEB. 3, 1715 - July 1776 WITH WIFE, SON PRESTON AND GRANDSON MASSACREED BY CHEROKEE INDIANS, JULY 1776, TYGER RIVER, SPARTANBURG DISTRICT, SC
MAJ. GEN. WADE HAMPTON 1752-1835. COL WADE HAMPTON 1791 - 1858 LT GEN. WADE HAMPTON 1818 - 1902. ERECTED BY STONEWALL CHAPTER U.D.C. GREER SC 1933.
Tested in battle with the Indians, the surviving Hampton brothers decided not to continue farming, but devoted themselves to the struggle against whites who were threatening their freedom. The forces of King George III attempting to put down rebellion had spread to the South and taken on a vicious tone
Few participants on either side of the Revolutionary War were observing the rules of civilized warfare. Seeking an outlet for his range and frustration, the first Wade Hampton rose to prominence in the Revolutionary War in South Carolina.
Achieving the grade of Captain in the Second South Carolina Regiment, Wade was twice captured by British forces. The first time, he was freed on parole, however, he was so enraged by British atrocities against civilians and wounded soldiers that he returned to duty. He was especially incensed that the Indians who had butchered his family had formed an alliance with the British Redcoats.
The second time he was captured, he was sentenced to death for violating parole. He overpowered a guard, shot and killed his captors and escaped into the wilderness. Wade later distinguished himself in combat during the battles at Hanging Rock, Rocky Mount and Eutaw Springs.
After the surrender of Cornwallis, Captain Hampton left the military for a more settled existence and returned to farming. In the late 1780s he purchased an estate on the Congaree River outside Columbia, the new capital of South Carolina where he became quite wealthy growing tobacco and cotton. The first year, he planted nearly a thousand acres of cotton and produced 500 bales that were sold for a great profit in Liverpool.
Wade imported and raised prized livestock, including cattle, sheep, swine and hounds for hunting. One of his special interests was raising thoroughbred horses. He was a co-founder of the South Carolina Jockey Club.
By the turn of the 19th century, the first Wade Hampton had outlived two wives, married a third, reared 3 sons and three daughters, acquired more than one thousand slaves, built a mansion on Blanding Street in Columbia and a manor house on the plantation called “Millwood” 5 miles east of Columbia. Ruins of Millwood mark the spot where Gen. Sherman and his troops sacked and burned the family home of Wade Hampton I, II, and III, and their families as an act of vengeance.
In his late fifties, the first Wade Hampton returned to federal service as a colonel of horse and by the outbreak of the War of 1812, he had risen to the rank of brigadier general. In 1814, he resigned his commission following a disagreement with superiors after a failed attempt to capture a Canadian garrison.
Wade Hampton II cut his studies short at South Carolina College to serve on the staff of Gen. Andrew Jackson. The second Wade Hampton was reportedly the first to inform official Washington of Gen. Jackson’s victory in New Orleans. He was said to be more educated and refined and less rough-hewn and backwoods-tough than his father.
Wade Hampton II married Ann Fitzsimmons, daughter of an Irish Immigrant. She inherited a shipping company and a plantation near Augusta, Georgia. Additionally, her husband, the second Wade Hampton already had added a twelve-thousand-acre plantation on the Mississippi River in Louisiana, and thousands of uncultivated acres in Texas as well as hunting lodges in Virginia and Cashiers Valley, North Carolina. The North Carolina lodge is called High Hampton and is operated as a commercial lodge to this day. They were clearly one of the wealthiest families in the deep South in the fourth and fifth decades of the 1800s.
Wade Hampton III was born in the historic home of his mother’s family in Charleston in 1818. He took his first breath of Charleston air in the same room overlooking Hasel Street that his mother had occupied as a young girl growing up in Charleston.
The third Wade Hampton inherited the blood of Saxons and Celts, Britons and Huguenots from his mother and sturdy, large frame, active mind, gallantry and bravery from his father’s family who survived against all odds and carved their existence from the wilderness.
Most of his youth was spent at Millwood, where the second Wade educated the boy in “an appreciation of manners, mores, and social graces.” He was influenced, probably even more, by his grandfather, the first Wade, who “captivated the youngster with stories of his exploits against Redskins and Redcoats and awed him with displays of sacred heirlooms - the spurs, knives, and pistols with which he had tamed the wilderness.” He also saw the uniforms his grandfather wore in the American Revolution and the War of 1812.
Next Week: Part III, Wade Hampton III: Honor a Sacred Trust
Recommended Reading: Gentleman and Soldier: The Extraordinary Life of General Wade Hampton, By Edward G. Longacre and Hampton and His Redshirts, By Alfred B. Williams.