During the parade at Pulaski, as it was passing a corner where a Negro was standing, one of the horsemen, dressed in a hideous garb, dismounted and stretched out his bridal rein to the Negro as if he asked him to hold his horse. The frightened darky held out his hand to receive it, and, as he did so, the Ku Klux took off his own head, apparently, and offered to place that also in the extended hand. The Negro stood not upon the order of his going but departed with a yell of terror.” Another trick was for a ghostly looking horseman to stop before the cabin of some Negro needing a wholesome lesson, and ask for a drink of water. If a gourd or dipper was brought it was declined, and a bucket of water demanded. Then, as if burning with thirst, the Ku Klux would press the bucket to his lips until the last drop was drained into an oiled sack concealed beneath his robe. He then returned the empty bucket with the remark, “That’s good. It is the first drink of water l have had since I was killed at Shiloh.” This, with a few words of admonition as to future conduct, made an impression not soon forgotten by the superstitious dairy.
We now come to a second transformation of the Ku Klux; this time from a band of “Regulators” to a combination of desperate men struggling for life and honor against the worst elements of their own order, and against circumstances growing out of their own methods. The causes of this transformation may be classed under three heads (1.) “Unjust charges. (2.) Misapprehension of the nature and objects of the order on the part of those not members of it. (3.) Unwise and over severe legislation.”
What had been their strength became now their weakness. Outsiders and even members themselves made use of their methods of secrecy to practice deception upon other people and upon the Clan itself. Bad men made use of the disguise to perpetrate deeds of violence for personal reasons, and the odium fell upon the Ku Klux. These men did not do these things under orders of the Clan, nor in connection with it.
The very class whom the Clan was trying to keep in order made use of its methods to commit outrages, which were credited to the Clan. These men always declared themselves to be Ku Klux, which members of the Clan never did. In every case they proved to be Negroes or ” radical ” supporters of the carpetbagger governments. “No single instance occurred of the arrest of a masked man who proved to be-when stripped of his disguise-a Ku Klux.” (See testimony of Gen. Gordon and others before the Investigation Committee.)
However, the Clan was credited with all the disorders in the country, because the disguises, which it had invented, were used, and it had no way of clearing itself of the accusations. It had sought to clothe itself in mystery, and, as a consequence, people misunderstood its objects. They did not realize the great end it had in view. After the awe of the ignorant and lawless had subsided, hatred of the Clan took its place. The Negroes organized and went armed for the purpose of exterminating the Ku Klux, and on several occasions the Clan was fired into. This brought on the vengance of the Clan, and so it went on, each side believing it was right and the other wrong. This misunderstanding is well brought out in the following order issued by the Grand Dragon of Tennessee, in the fall of 1868: