|Lowell, MA||November 6, 2022|
A looming tombstone at the Hildreth Family Cemetery in Lowell, Massachusetts, marks the graves of several members of the Ames clan. That group includes Adelbert Ames, a general-turned-politician from the mid-nineteenth century. Ames served as the military governor of Mississippi before he was elected that state’s senator and then its civilian governor. Ames was a Radical Republican and an ally to Black Americans navigating life in the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era, as was his father-in-law, Benjamin Butler. This photograph shows the blank back of Ames’s gravestone in the foreground, and the front of Butler’s monument in the background, at right.
Ames’s tenure as civilian governor of Mississippi is demonstrative of the travails faced by those who stood against the status quo of racial hierarchies in the South during the Reconstruction Era. After Democrats won control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1874 midterm elections, whites in Mississippi felt empowered to oust duly-elected Black officials in their state. One person affected was Warren County sheriff Peter Crosby. Governor Ames issued an order that authorized Crosby to regain his post and encouraged him to use the state militia. Black people mobilized in support of Crosby and moved on the Warren County seat of Vicksburg. A contemporary newspaper account conveys “They came, were met at the city limits and slaughtered— simply slaughtered and butchered. They were chased through the woods and the fields and shot like dogs. Many were shot after they gave up, and some were shot on their knees while begging for mercy.” Governor Ames and the Republican-led legislature called on President Ulysses S. Grant to use federal troops to quell the violence. White Democrats continued to use nefarious tactics in 1875 and succeeded in flipping both chambers of the state legislature and taking control of county governments. Legislators soon filed impeachment articles against Ames. Though the charges lacked merit, Ames’s conviction and removal seemed a certainty. He resigned in advance on March 29, 1876 and was succeeded by John Marshall Stone, a Democrat and Confederate veteran.
Ames’s grave is marked with a special military plaque that signifies he was a recipient of the Medal of Honor. The medal is the “highest award for military valor in action” that can be bestowed by the United States. Ames received this decoration for his conduct at the Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, at which time he was a lieutenant. His citation reads, “Remained upon the field in command of a section of Griffin’s Battery, directing its fire after being severely wounded and refusing to leave the field until too weak to sit upon the caisson where he had been placed by men of his command.” Ames was awarded his medal three decades later, on June 22, 1894. His military marker is situated in front of the Ames family monument, to the left of the bulkhead that leads to the vault.
My friend Kathleen kindly accompanied me to the Hildreth Family Cemetery on the morning of Sunday, November 6, 2022, so that I would not be alone as I attended the wreath-laying ceremony for Governor Ames’s father-in-law, General Butler. I took this picture of Kathleen reading the poetic warning that is affixed to the cemetery gate. Its text says, “Those who harm or rob a grave, from God’s just wrath no one can save. Bad luck comes to those who tread with careless steps above the dead.” The Hildreth Family Cemetery is private, and is accessible to the general public only for General Butler’s birthday or through an appointment specially-arranged through the family lawyer.
Born: October 31, 1835 in East Thomaston, Maine
Spouse: Blanche Butler Ames (m.1870-1933)
Highest Military Rank: Brigadier General — U.S. Army
Political Affiliation: Republican Party
Gubernatorial Tenure: 1868-1870, 1874-1876
Senate Tenure: 1870-1874
Died: April 13, 1913 in Ormond Beach, Florida
Interment: Hildreth Family Cemetery, Lowell, Massachusetts
"It is to be desired that this question of 'negro suffrage' shall not be settled by those who believe him unfit for citizenship and those who as masters would have sold him to be cut up on the butcher's block, and such a disposition of his body brought in a few more dollars. Let the blinding prejudices of slavery have no part in the noble work of enfranchisement and reconstruction."
- Adelbert Ames
April 11, 1871, in a speech delivered in the U.S. Senate in support of a bill to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
Ames, Adelbert. Speech of Hon. Adelbert Ames, of Mississippi, Delivered in the Senate of the United States, April 11, 1871. Washington: F. & J. Rives & Geo. A. Bailey, 1871. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.hx2xls&view=1up&seq=5.
Congressional Medal of Honor Society. “About the Medal of Honor.” Accessed December 27, 2022. https://www.cmohs.org/medal.
Congressional Medal of Honor Society. “Adelbert Ames.” Accessed December 27, 2022. https://www.cmohs.org/recipients/adelbert-ames.
Daily Alta California. “THE VICKSBURG MASSACRE.” December 21, 1874. From University of California Riverside Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research, California Digital Newspaper Collection. https://cdnc.ucr.edu/?a=d&d=DAC18741221.2.25&e=——-en–20–1–txt-txIN——–.
Mississippi Secretary of State. “Report of the Secretary of State to the Legislature of Mississippi [from] 1898-99.” From University of Mississippi, eGrove. https://egrove.olemiss.edu/sta_sosrpt/3.
Sansing, David. “Adelbert Ames: Twenty-seventh and Thirtieth Governor of Mississippi: 1868-1870;1874-1876.” Mississippi History Now. December 2003. https://www.mshistorynow.mdah.ms.gov/issue/adelbert-ames-twenty-seventh-and-thirtieth-governor-of-mississippi-1868-18701874-1876.
Wineapple, Brenda. The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation. New York: Random House, 2019.
Zinn Education Project. “December 7, 1874: Vicksburg Massacre.” Accessed December 26, 2022. https://www.zinnedproject.org/news/tdih/vicksburg-massacre/.