Wade Hampton was born in Charleston, SC and grew up in one of the wealthy families in the South, receiving private instruction. When his father died in 1858 his son inherited a vast fortune, the plantations, and one of the largest collections of slaves in the South.
The 1876 South Carolina gubernatorial election was one of the bloodiest (and closest) in the history of the state. Both parties claimed victory. For over six months, there were two legislatures in the state, both claiming to be authentic. Eventually, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Hampton was the winner of the election. President Rutherford B. Hayes stated that "the whole Army of the United States would be inadequate to enforce the authority of Gov. Chamberlain." Hayes then ordered the evacuation of Federal troops in South Carolina. Thus the election of the first Democrat in South Carolina since the end of the Civil War signified the end of Reconstruction in the South.