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Night Riders and The Black Patch Wars

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posted on Apr, 16 2012 @ 08:46 PM
Growing up in Western Kentucky, we often heard tales of The Night Riders. Farming is one of the predominate industries in Kentucky, and subjects like what occured early in 20th century are often a part of the local discussion. It's an amazing story of people fighting for what is fair against big business and government, and also a tale of the worst in human nature.

The Night Riders were a vigilante group operating from about 1906 to 1908 in southwestern Kentucky and northwestern Tennessee that used fear and intimidation against the Duke tobacco monopoly in the area. The Night Riders were led by Dr. David Amoss, a medical doctor from the Cobb community in Caldwell County, Kentucky. These "masked riders" initiated what were called the Black Patch Wars because of the unfair price ceilings being generated by the Duke tobacco conglomerate. The Black Patch Wars developed into the most violent civil uprising since the Civil War. The price of tobacco had been artificially suppressed and as a consequence the people in these communities suffered greatly. However, the violent tactics of the Night Riders (whippings, murders, burning of buildings, and seizing of entire towns) set up an inevitable confrontation with the National Guard.

There are many different stories regarding what went on during "The Black Patch Tobacco Wars". Some of them quite amazing, some of them frightening. One of my favorite books on the subject is "On Bended Knees" by Bill Cunningham. I've known Judge Cunningham for most of my life, and he knows this subject really well. I highly recommend reading it.

The longest and most violent sustained civil conflict in the United States during
the century between the end of the Civil War and the racial conflicts of the mid
1960s was the Dark Patch Tobacco War in portions of Kentucky and Tennessee,
which lasted from 1904 to 1909 (Cunningham 1983, back cover)


Cunningham spoke on the Night Riders of West Kentucky and Tennessee. They were militant tobacco farmers who used guerilla tactics against the strangling monopoly of the American Tobacco Company.

Nearly every town in area I live has a tale of the Night Riders. Most of the activities took place around Western Kentucky, but their area of influence grew well outside of the state.

The first organized attack occurred at Trenton when a band of armed and masked men burned the tobacco warehouse and factory of an independent dealer who had bought non-association tobacco. A little later they appeared at Elkton and dynamited the warehouse there. On the night of December 1, 1906, two hundred night riders rode into Princeton, took possession of the town and proceeded at leisure to burn the largest tobacco factories int he world, filled with tobacco purchased from the British market.

Hopkinsville was electrified by the news of the Princeton raid. Since this city was in the midst of the trouble area, its citizens expected the night riders to strike here next. The Militia, under Major Erskine Birch Bassett, the police force and a large body of armed citizens prepared for a raid. On January 4, 1907, the Mayor, Charles Meacham, received a telephone warning that the Riders were on the way. The different units were alerted and took their positions for the defense of the city. However, the report turned out to be a hoaz. The Night Riders had sent the warning in order to test the city's prepardness.

Night after night the riders gathered for an attack on the city. It was their custom to have one of their members move into a city before it was attacked and watch the place. Certainly Hopkinsville was watched. One night when the riders got almost to the city limis they were turned back by a warning that a whole company of militia with loaded rifles was concealed in a building waiting for them.

It was a year before a night came when vigilance was relaxed and that night, December 7, 1907, a little before 2:00 A>M> the Silent Brigade struck Hopkinsville. There was no opposition.

The attack was made from the I.C. Depot. The masked men had left their horses on the outskirts of town and marched down 9th Street to Main where they separated into six squads and carried out their orders with military precision. Three men were sent to guard the Seventh Street bridge and small parties guarded other downtown streets. A corral was formed at 9th and Main into which all citizens who ventured out were herded and guarded by a small squad. One squad went to the Cumberland Telephone office where they broke down the door, cut the wires and captured the two telephone operators on duty before they could sound the alarm. Another unit surrounded the police station and shot through the walls and windows, quickly taking prisoner the men who were surprised inside. Other units took over the Fire Department and the L & N Depot. Small groups rode up and down the street shooting out windows wherever a light was turned on. In a very few minutes the city was in complete control of the masked men.

The office of the newspaper, The Kentuckian, was vandalized and a buyer for the Imperial Tobacco Co., was dragged from his home and brutally beaten.

Dr. David A. Amoss
1857 - 1915
Alleged Leader of The Night Riders

Tales of the Black Patch were big news in their time, and major media across the world told embellished stories of it. It even became a source of entertainment, although much of it made the Night Riders out to be hillbillies or Klansmen, of which they were neither.


The Black Patch Tobacco Wars and the story of the Night Riders is fascinating, and quite relevant to our times. It seems like today we constantly sit on the edge of revolt, and stories like these show us some of the possibilities we could face yet again. There is much more to this story, and way more than I could ever put into this thread. Some of the more personal tales that I've come across are amazing. There are some great ones in "The Tobacco Night Riders of Kentucky and Tennessee" by James O. Nall. The book is very detailed a must have for anyone researching the Night Riders.
edit on 16-4-2012 by isyeye because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 16 2012 @ 09:31 PM
There is alot of information on the Black Patch Wars, and how the government dealt with them available here in a pdf file:


Restoring Law and Order: The Kentucky State
Guard in the Black Patch War of 1907-1909

The Kentucky State Guard’s campaign against the Silent Brigade in 1907-1909 offers lessons for
the operational art of civil security and supporting civil law enforcement. The Silent Brigade was
a guerrilla army that terrorized western Kentucky in a conflict that came to be known as the Black
Patch War. Scholars disagree about whether the Kentucky State Guard was effective in its
campaign, or whether other circumstances led to the decline of the Silent Brigade.

There are some more detailed descriptions of the raids here:

Three tobacco warehouses were burned during the raid on Hopkinsville, December 7, 1907. The largest squad marched to the Latham warehouse near the L & N Depot and then to the frame warehouse of Tandy & Fairleigh on 15th Street and burned them to the ground. The fire soon raged out of control destroying several residences, the Association Warehouse and threatening the Acme Mill. A railroad man was shot in the back when he tried to save some box cars from the fire. The leader of the night riders, Dr. Amoss, was accidentally wounded in the head by his own men.

edit on 16-4-2012 by isyeye because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 17 2012 @ 06:11 AM

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