Earlier that same day, the black men of Columbia were the subject of a manifesto attributed to "the negro Kuklux klan" and published in a local paper, which declared that "the White KKK have come and now the Black KKK is A Coming." Though the picnic went ahead without incident, during the evening of July 4th four to five hundred horsemen, perhaps antagonized by the "negro Klan's" pronouncement, massed on the court square.
This was the social and political situation in Tennessee that produced narrative accounts of violence featuring "KuKlux" nightriders that would cause a sensation across the North and stimulate countless imitations in local districts of the former states of the Confederacy and loyal border South states.
Soon the cry was raised and passed mouth to mouth, "The Kuklux are coming!" The "pale faces" all wore a pleasing expression, while the dark-skins looked dejected and began dispersing.
The first recorded sighting of the Ku Klux by a federal officer was issued in December 1867 in the weeks after the election loss, and it came not from Pulaski but from Columbia, where the Freedmen's Bureau agent reported the existence of "a body of disguised and armed and mounted men styling themselves 'kuKlux.' Many stories have been put afloat of their midnight deeds and outrages.
When after the founding of the Nashville chapter a Democratic newspaper in Nashville described the Pale Faces as "an auxiliary of the great Ku-Klux Klan," the Columbia Pale Faces passed resolutions that denied the "soft impeachment" of the charge and proclaimed that "we have no connection with the order of Kuklux, nor any other political or sectarian organization." Rather, the Pale Faces professed to be "of a charitable character and for mutual assistance to each other in the hour of distress." (84)
After the last shovelful of earth had been thrown upon the freshly-raised mount, the Kuklux, about twenty strong, kneeled around, and, raising their right hands toward Heaven, swore vengeance on the murderer of John BicknelL.
(93) At the municipal elections on March 28, Conservatives won the majority of seats in Columbia owing to the presence of armed whites throughout the town; in the opinion of the Freedmen's Bureau agent, "mob law ruled the day" (94) The spate of violence peaked on April 7 with the murder of Henry Fitzpatrick, who, the coroner of Columbia determined, died "at the hands of various persons in disguise" A few days later, on April 11, "Kuklux" visited the Freedmen's houses on General Pillow's plantation, thirteen miles outside Columbia, and "stripped and whipped them with large straps" and then "rode over them with their horses, bruising and nearly killing some" (95) The terror persisted until Federal troops were posted in Columbia on the night of May 4.