Wade Hampton: Confederate Warrior to Southern Redeemer

By Rod Andrew Jr. | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
A FATHER AS WELL AS A BROTHER

Hampton buried his grief initially in politics. Though he had never before sought or held elective office, shortly after Margaret’s death he agreed to be a candidate for the post of state representative from Columbia’s surrounding Richlands district. He won. He was reelected in 1854 and served in the state senate from 1856 to 1860. As a legislator, Hampton seemed to think that South Carolina should provide paternalistically for its people. He supported improvements to the state’s system of free public schools, the establishment of a penitentiary, and expansion of the state lunatic asylum to deal with overcrowding. Meanwhile, he continued to devote attention to his planting interests in Mississippi.1

While Wade Hampton III struggled to rebuild his life as a widowed bachelor, his youngest brother Frank was beginning a family of his own. In 1855 Frank married twenty-two-year-old Sally Strong Baxter, the oldest daughter of George Baxter, a prominent merchant of New York City. Sally and Frank settled at Millwood, where Sally quickly grew very fond of her husband’s family and her adopted Carolina home. “It is all such a new life,” she wrote her father:

The ease and liberality with which everything is conducted makes
it seem so natural that one forgets what is in reality great magnifi-
cence…. We sit down every day fourteen to twenty at dinner—
people come and go, stay or not as they please and it all passes off
as a matter of course. But besides all this, which impresses one of
course, there is the family, which seems to me the most remarkable
of any I every saw—four unmarried sisters—each utterly different
from the other and yet it is impossible to say which is the most at-
tractive. Such highbred elegance and with … more than ordinary
cleverness, such perfect femininity and womanliness.2

Sally also grew close to her brother-in-law Wade. She was often sick, and it later became clear that she suffered from a form of tuberculosis. While fighting bouts of illness and trying to make herself at home in her new surroundings, Sally came to appreciate that beneath Wade’s reticence lay sincerity and compassion; that “in his way” he was as gentle and kind as her husband Frank. Though his “singularly unpretending manners” might make him seem “indifferent,” Sally asserted that “his

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