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The Declaration of Insurrection in the Impeachment Trial of Governor William Wood Holden, March 7, 1870


The Declaration of Insurrection in the Impeachment Trial of Governor William Wood Holden, March 7, 1870


The Declaration of a State of insurrection in Alamance County, North Carolina, by Governor W. W. Holden, stemmed from the atrocious acts that were being committed by the Ku Klux Klan and the failure of local authorities to suppress the terror due to the ties of the KKK and the county officials of the Democratic Party. Governor Holden had multiple times called for the locals to attempt suppress the KKK through peaceful means, but was ultimately forced to issue a state of insurrection and call in local state militia and request Federal Troops from President Grant. This eventually became known to Holden’s Democratic adversaries as the Kirk-Holden War, Kirk being Colonel George W. Kirk of Jonesboro, Tennessee, commanding officer of the militia called to extinguish the terror.


North Carolina Senate


North Carolina Senate, Trial of William W. Holden: Governor of North Carolina, before the Senate of North Carolina, on Impeachment by the House of Representatives for High Crimes and Misdeameanors, Vol. 1. (Raleigh, NC: Sentinel Printing Office, 1871), 135-137.


March 7, 1870




Wake County, North Carolina

Original Format

Government Document


Executive Department,

Raleigh, March 7th, 1870.

By virtue of authority vested in me by the constitution of the state, and by virtue of an act passed at the present session of the general assembly, entitled “An act to secure the better protection of life and property,” ratified the 29th day of January, 1870, and for the reason that the civil authorities of the county of Alamance are not able to protect the citizens of said county in the enjoyment of life and property, I hereby proclaim and declare that the county of Alamance is in the state of insurrection.

On the 26th of November, 1869, a citizen of the United States, who was engaged in teaching a school in said county, was taken from his home by a band of men armed and disguised, and was by them cruelly beaten and scourged.

On the night of the 26th of February, 1870, a citizen of said county was taken from his home by a band of men armed and disguised, and was by them hanged by the neck until he was dead, on the public square in the town of Graham, near the court house.

And more recently the postmaster at Company Shops, in said county, an officer of the government of the United States, was compelled to flee the county, and while absent, a band of men armed and disguised visited his house with the purpose, doubtless, of taking his life, and this within a short distance of federal troops stationed in said county, not to overawe or to intimidate good citizens, but to preserve the peace and to protect the innocent and the law abiding.

In addition to these cases, information has been received at this department that peaceable and law abiding citizens of the county aforesaid, have been molested in their houses, have been whipped, shot, scourged, and threatened with further visitations of violence and outrage unless they would conform to some arbitrary standard of conduct set up by these disguised assassins and murderers.

I have issued proclamation after proclamation to the people of the state, warning offenders and wicked or misguided violators of the law, to cease their evil deeds, and, by leading better lives, propitiate those whose duty it is to enforce the law. I have invoked public opinion to aid me in repressing these outrages, and in preserving peace and order. I have waited to see if the people of Alamance would assemble in public meeting and express their condemnation of such conduct by a portion of the citizens of the county, but I have waited in vain. No meeting of the kind has been held. No expression of disapproval even of such conduct by the great body of the citizens has yet reached this department; but, on the contrary, it is believed that the lives of citizens who have reported these crimes to the executive, have been thereby endangered, and it is further believed that many of the citizens of the county are so terrified that they dare not complain, or attempt the arrest of criminals in their midst. The civil officers of the county are silent and powerless.

The laws must be maintained. These laws are over all. Every citizen, of whatever party or color, must be absolutely free to express his political opinions, and must be safe in his own house. These outrages and these violations of law must and SHALL cease. Criminals must and shall be brought to justice. The whole power of both governments, state and federal, is pledged to his, and this power will be exerted. Criminals who may escape to counties adjoining Alamance will be pursued, and if not delivered up by the civil authorities of said counties, or if sheltered or protected in said counties with the knowledge of the civil authorities, the said counties will also be declared to be in a state of insurrection.

I earnestly appeal to all good citizens to aid the civil authorities in maintaining peace and good order, and to support my in my purpose to protect life and property without regard to party or color.

Done at the city of Raleigh, this 7th day of March, 1870, and in the 94th year of our independence.

W. W. Holden, Governor.


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North Carolina Senate, The Declaration of Insurrection in the Impeachment Trial of Governor William Wood Holden, March 7, 1870, Civil War Era NC, accessed May 26, 2024,