The 8 years immediately following the Civil War saw South Carolina ruled by Republicans during Reconstruction. In 1870, the 15th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed and black men were given the right to vote.
A group of uncompromising SC Democrats, called Straightouts, determined to reclaim the white political monopoly that existed before the war. At this time, blacks were a majority in South Carolina and so they formulated a plan of violence and fraud in order to steal power from them. This plan was called the Shotgun Policy.
The most notable atrocities of this terror campaign were the massacres at Hamburg and Ellenton.
Tillman boasted of his involvement in these acts of terror throughout his political career. In 1900 he gave a defense of them on the senate floor. Years later, he recounted them with fondness at a reunion of Red Shirts in Anderson, SC. The Red Shirts were a white supremacist paramilitary group he had helped lead. That speech, in book form, is called The Struggles of 1876.