The farmers complained of obstruction of a public road before the local court in Hamburg, Trial Justice Prince Rivers presiding, at a hearing on July 6. The case was continued until the afternoon of July 8 when Matthew Calbraith Butler, Edgefield attorney, appeared as the farmer's counsel. (Of the many men surnamed Butler involved in this incident, he was referred to as 'General' Butler based on his former service in the Confederate Army.) Despite the lack of any official standing, M. C. Butler demanded that the Hamburg company disband, and turn their guns over to him personally (Allen 1888, 314-315).
As hundreds of armed white men gathered in the vicinity, the militia company refused to disarm, and took refuge in their armory in the Sibley building near the Charlotte, Columbia and Augusta Railroad bridge. Perhaps twenty-five militia and fifteen townsmen were in the building when firing began. One man fell in the heat of battle - McKie Meriwether, a local white farmer.
Outnumbered, running out of ammunition, and discouraged by a small cannon brought from Augusta, the men in the armory slipped away into the night. At least one was shot to death during the getaway: Hamburg's Town Marshal, James Cook. Two dozen more were rounded up from their hiding places and taken near the South Carolina Railroad to what was later called the "Dead Ring", where their fate was debated. Four prisoners were picked out and executed: Allan Attaway, David Phillips, Hampton Stephens, and Albert Myniart. Several others were wounded either in escape or in a general fusillade as the ring broke up. The white invaders finished by looting the town (Budiansky 2008 226-237, Allen 1888 314-317). Moses Parks was also killed; the Attorney General's report placed this in the Ring (Allen 1888 316), but accounts based on the Senate report find him shot down in the street near James Cook (Budiansky 2008 233-234).
The official report ends with this statement:
The shots fired at the Hamburg Massacre stunned the Republicans and deflated the 'Co-operationist' faction of the Democratic party, which until then had anticipated a fusion with the reforming Republican Governor Daniel H. Chamberlain. Support crystallized around the uncompromising 'Straight-Outs' who launched the terroristic Edgefield Plan for South Carolina's Redemption (Holt 1979, 173-207). The ensuing violent and bitterly contested election campaign gained undivided control of South Carolina for the white Democrats, leading to nearly a century of black disenfranchisement. Possibly, the Democratic victory influenced the Presidential election through the Compromise of 1877.
The Massacre gained nationwide attention (e.g. Harper's Weekly, August 12, 1876). White South Carolinians saw virtue in necessity and repeated the lesson in full at the town of Ellenton, also in Aiken County, two months later (Allen 1888, 385-387). M. C. Butler's expectations and the depth of his involvement were unproven: in particular he was not conclusively placed in the "Dead Ring", but nevertheless his association with the bloody violence damaged his later career in the U. S. Senate (Martin 2001, 226). Benjamin Ryan Tillman magnified his role in the "stirring events" (Budiansky 2008, 237) and used it to spur his 1890 campaign for Governor of South Carolina (Simkins 1944). Nobody was ever convicted for their involvement.