"The Burning of Columbia"
Columbia after Sherman's visit (Photos)
THE BURNING OF COLUMBIA.
When the news of Sherman's approach reached Columbia, S. C, in February, 1865, the mayor of the city sent the following communication to General Sherman : "MAYOR'S OFFICE, COLUMBIA, S. C, February 17, 1865. "To Major General Sherman: The Confederate forces have evacuated Columbia. I deem it my duty as mayor and representative of the city to ask for its citizens the treatment accorded by the usages of civilized warfare. I therefore respectfully request that you will send a sufficient guard in advance of the army to maintain order in the city and protect the persons and property of the citizens. "Very respectfully your obedient servant, T. J. GOODWYN, Mayor." Colonel Stone, who received the mayor's communication, said he could not answer for General Sherman; but he would assure him that the safety of the citizens and protection of the property could be promised while under his (Stone's) command, and he felt sure that General Sherman would confirm this promise. Subsequently General Sherman did confirm it and told the mayor that night : "Not a finger's breadth, Mr. Mayor, of your city shall be harmed. You may lie down to sleep, satisfied that your town will be as safe in my hands as if wholly in your own." He added: "It will become my duty to destroy some of the public buildings, but I will reserve this performance to another day. It shall be done tomorrow, provided the day be calm." With this assurance Mayor Goodwyn retired. But scarcely had the troops reached the head of Main Street when the work of pillage began. The soldiers were orderly and under complete control of the officers when they first entered the city, proving that, had the officers so desired, they could have prevented the pillage. General Sherman, at the head of the cavalry, rode through the streets with his officers. They saw the robbery going on at every corner and yet made no effort to prevent it. There is no doubt that the burning of Columbia had been planned before the army left Lexington, S. C. General Kil- patrick, one of Sherman's generals, said in Lexington on February 16: "Sherman will lay it [Columbia] in ashes for them." One of his lieutenants wrote to Mrs. McCord: "My heart bleeds to think of what is threatening. Leave the town ; to go anywhere will be safer than there." The leader of a squad of men said to W. H. Orchard that night: "If you have anything you wish to save, take care of it at once, for before morning this town will be in ashes. You watch, and you will see three rockets go up soon." Within an hour three rockets did go up, and fires broke out at that signal in all parts of the city at the same moment. The soldiers of General Sherman declared that the rockets were the appointed signal of a general conflagration. By five o'clock in the morning of February 18 more than two-thirds of the city had been destroyed. The soldiers pierced the hose with their bayonets to prevent any effort to extinguish the fire. Why did not General Sherman and his officers prevent this if it was not done with their full approval or rather by their direct command? ~ The Confederate Veteran Magazine 1916