To Die Game
There is a book take I take down from the shelves and read about once a year that details the experiences of a racially-mixed band of guerrillas in the Lumber River region of North Carolina which holds many lessons: To Die Game, The Story of the Lowry Band, Indian Guerrillas of Reconstruction by W. McKee Evans (LSU Press, 1971).
The example of the Lumbee Indian Lowrys, and their black and white unionist allies, fighting against all comers in the years after the Civil War was distilled in these words by Henry Berry Lowry: "My band is big enough . . . They are all true men . . . We mean to live as long as we can -- and at last, if we must die, to die game." This legend, of resistance against all odds, so permeated the Lumbee Indian folklore in the years afterward that Evans wrote:
"The Indians have drawn strength from a mighty legend. As a result their subsequent history has been somewhat happier than that of the Negroes, during the years following the failure of the Reconstruction experiment in democracy, when there emerged a new, one-party South, based on restricted suffrage and repression. No one ever succeeded in putting Indians in what the Conservatives called their place, that is, the half-free status that Indians and nonslave Negroes had held before the war." (pp. 252-3)
In evidence of this assertion, Evans tells of a large Klan rally which was organized in January 1958 in the Lumber River region after the Kluxers had burned a cross on the lawn of an Indian family.
"Some 2500 people attended. But on that night the Ku Klux found out that in Robeson County there was a clan of a different sort -- the Lowry clan, the thousands of men and women claiming descent from a common ancestor . . . a clan that was not only more ancient but which also embraced far more lusty fighting traditions than the Ku Klux Klan. . . The result was . . . 'the shortest Ku Klux Klan rally in history.'"
"The Indians let the Klansmen set up their microphone and a single electric light bulb; they let about 100 Klansmen assemble around the truck. Then they began to move forward, roaring: "We want Cole!" (The Rev. James W. Cole, self-styled grand wizard of the Klan.) Cole stayed precisely where he was -- behind the truck. The Lumbees began firing their guns in the air; a sharpshooter shot out the light bulb. There was pandemonium in the darkness; the guns spat flame into the air; the amplifying system was torn apart; auto windows were shattered by bullets. The Klansmen, themselves well armed, decided to run for it; there was the roar of automobile engines. Then the Sheriff's deputies fired the tear-gas bombs. When the gas cleared, the Lumbee raid at Maxton was over. The Indians had won." (pp.255-6)
Grand Wizard Cole didn't stop for fifty miles, finally stopping after he'd crossed the state line into South Carolina. Shortly afterward, he received a telegram with the message "Deepest Sympathy" and signed "General Custer."