April 30, 1880 | Revenuers and Moonshiners

 
 

No one welcomes the taxman. That notion was never more true than in the fight between revenuers and moonshiners in the 1870s and 1880s. Federal revenue officers worked under the commissioner of internal revenue. They were tasked with the difficult job of stopping illicit distilling of alcohol—breaking up stills and destroying moonshine made by those avoiding the alcohol tax. Revenue officers and deputy marshals tromped through the deep woods, got ambushed by well-armed moonshiners, and were generally hated by the local populace.

In 1880 a deputy collector in Georgia was arrested by the local sheriff, his bail money was refused, and on his release he was stoned by a crowd. The Georgia Tax Collector Clark complained of his ill treatment, “as though it were not enough that government officials in the honest discharge of their…duties…should be hounded, stoned, bushwhacked, and treated with indignities of the most aggravated type, they are thus to be outraged in the name of the law….”

At the peak of the late 19th century moonshine wars, hundreds of federal officers were killed, wounded, or incarcerated in local jails—all because of a tax on alcohol.*

 

*From Wilbur R. Miller’s Revenuers & Moonshiners: Enforcing Federal Liquor Law in the Mountain South, 1865-1900.