Bloody Shirt

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BLOODY SHIRT was part of the expression "waving the bloody shirt," referring to a political ploy used in campaigns during the Reconstruction period, following the Civil War. This term described the attempts made by radical northern Republicans to defeat southern Democrats by using impassioned oratory about bloody sacrifice designed to keep alive the hatreds and prejudices of the Civil War period. During the most vehement attacks, in the campaigns of 1872 and 1876, orators would literally wave a bloody shirt to remind audiences of the Civil War casualties.


Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877. New York: Harper and Row, 1988.

Hirshson, Stanley P. Farewell to the Bloody Shirt: Northern Republicans and the Southern Negro, 1877–1893. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962.

HallieFarmer/h. s.

See alsoElections, Presidential ; Radical Republicans .