Tin cup , Copperhead-mi , Aussie Billy Sherman and 2 others like this. Aug 25, Messages: There is still augment on if this was an accident, started by Confederates, or started by drunken soldiers in vengeance. Union soldiers did help fight the fires. Is there any documentation that Sherman ordered the city burned? War Horse likes this. Dec 18, Messages: State of Southern Illinois. Sons of Liberty , Feb 17, Sherman himself, though he said he deplored the destruction of the city, probably felt at this time as he did many years later when he said, "though I never ordered it and never wished it, I have never shed many tears over the event, because I believe it hastened what we all fought for, the end of the war.
God Almighty started wind sufficient to carry that cotton wherever He would, and in some way that burning cotton was the origin of the fire. Tin cup , Copperhead-mi , O' Be Joyful and 3 others like this. Dec 23, Messages: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge. Looks like Andy may be another victim of aut0correct--"wind" changed to "when" every time, even in the quotes! Is there any way to turn it off? MaryDee , Feb 17, Dec 21, Messages: Bee , Feb 17, Will Carry likes this.
Aug 29, Messages: I guess it was considered something like a Berlin or Tokyo of its day if you use World War 2 as an analogy. If you don't want your towns destroyed, don't start wars! Aussie Billy Sherman , Feb 17, Copperhead-mi and Carpetbagger like this. You have destroyed them. You have invaded Virginia, and ruined her. Her curse is on you. People who don't want to get hurt, General, had better not force a fight on unwilling Yankees. Bee , Feb 18, A lesson in etiquette and self-protection What is it but a conglomeration of greasy mechanics , filthy operatives, small-fisted farmers , and moon-struck theorists The prevailing class [of the North] is that of mechanics struggling to be genteel, and small farmers who do their own drudgery, and yet are hardly fit for association with a Southern gentleman's body servant.
Emphasis mine of course. Carpetbagger , Feb 18, You must log in or sign up to reply here. Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Share This Page Tweet. Your Username or Email Address: Do you already have an account? No, create an account now.
Yes, my password is: Every implement of the workman or the farmer, tools.
From Barnwell to Orangeburg and Lexington was the next progress, marked everywhere by the same sweeping destruction. Both of these court towns were partially burned. These tidings duly reached the people of Columbia, and eight have prepared them for the treatment they were destined to receive. Daily accessions of fugitives, bringing with them their valuables and provisions, made ample report of the progress of the Federal army. Hundreds of families had seasonably left long before, in anticipation of the danger. Columbia was naturally held to be one of the most secure places of refuge.
Young women of family were sent in large numbers to a city, where numbers seemed to promise a degree of security not to be hoped for in any obscure rural abode. The city was accordingly doubled in population, and here also was to be found an accumulation of wealth, in plate, jewels, pictures, books, manufactures of art and virtu, not to be estimatednot, perhaps, to be paralleled in any other town of the Confederacy.
In many instances, the accumulations were those of a hundred yearsof successive generationsin the hands of the oldest families of the South. A large proportion of the wealth of Charleston had been stored in the capital city, and the owners of these treasures, in many instances, were unable to effect any farther remove. If apprehensive of the danger, they could only fold their hands, and, hoping against hope, pray for escape from a peril to which they could oppose no farther vigilance or effort.
Still, the lurking belief with most persons, who apprehended the approach of the Federal army, encouraged the faith that, as the city was wholly defenceless, in the event of a summons, it would be surrendered upon the usual terms, and that these would necessarily insure the safety of non-combatants and protect their property. But, in truth, there was no small portion of the inhabitants who denied or doubted, almost to the last moment, that Sherman contemplated any serious demonstration upon the city.
They assumedand this idea was tacitly encouraged, if not believed, by the authorities, military and civilthat the movement on Columbia was but a feint, and that the bulk of his army was preparing for a descent upon Charleston. This also seemed to be the opinion in Charleston itself.
All these conjectures were speedily set at rest, when, on the 13th February, Monday, the Federal army was reported to have reached a point in Lexington District, some ten miles above Jeffcoat's. On the 14th, their progress brought them to Thom's Creek, the stream next below Congaree Creek, and about twelve miles below the city. This skirmishing continued throughout Wednesday, but failed to arrest his progress; and as the Federal cannon continued momently to sound more heavily upon our ears, we were but too certainly assured of the hopelessness of the struggle.
The odds of force against the Confederates were too vast for any valor or generalship to make head against it ; and yet, almost to this moment, the hope was held out to the people, in many quarters, that the city could be saved. It was asserted that the corps of Cheatham and Stewart were making forced marches, with the view to a junction with the troops under Beauregard, and, such was the spirit of the Confederate troops, and one of the Generals at least, that almost at the moment when Sherman's advance was entering the town, Hampton's cavalry was in order of battle, and only waiting the command to charge it.
But the horrors of a street fight in a defenceless city, filled with women and children, were prudently avoided; and the Confederate troops were drawn off from the scene at the very hour when the Federals were entering upon it. Whatever hopes might have been entertained of the ultimate success of our defences, they were all dissipated, when, by daylight, on the 16th, Thursday, the Confederate troops re-entered the city, burning the several bridges over the Congaree, the Broad and Saluda Rivers.
They were quartered through the day about the streets, and along their several bivouacs they dug slight excavations in the earth, as for rifle pits and for protection from the shells, which fell fast and thick about the town. The shelling commenced the evening before, and continued throughout the night and the next day. No summons for surrender had been made; no warning of any kind was given.
New batteries were in rapid progress of erection on the West side of the Congaree, the more effectually to press the work of destruction. The damage was comparatively slight. The new capitol building was struck five times, but suffered little or no injury. Numerous shells fell into the inhabited portions of the town, yet we hear of Only two persons killed-one on the hospital square, and another near the South Carolina Railroad Depot. Wagner, from Charleston, an aged citizen of near eighty, narrowly escaped with life, a shell bursting at his feet. His face was excoriated by the fragments, and for awhile his eye-sight was lost; but we are happy to state that the hurts were slight, and he is now as well as ever.
On Wednesday, the 15th, the city was placed under martial law, and the authority confided to General E. Law, assisted by Mayor Goodwyn and Captains W. Stanley and John McKenzie.
With characteristic energy, this officer executed his trusts, and was employed day and night in the maintenance of order. This, with some few exceptions, was surprisingly maintained. There was some riotous conduct after night. Some highway robberies were committed, and several stores broken open and robbed. But, beyond these, there were but few instances of crime and insubordination.
Terrible, meanwhile, was the press, the shock, the rush, the hurry, the universal confusion--such as might naturally be looked for, in the circumstances of a city from which thousands were preparing to fly, without previous preparations for flight-burdened with pale and trembling women, their children and portable chattels-trunks and jewels, family Bibles and the lares familiares. The railroad depot for Charlotte was crowded with anxious waiters upon the train-with a wilderness of luggagemillions perhaps, in valuemuch of which was left finally and lost.
Throughout Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, these scenes of struggle were in constant performance. The citizens fared badly. The Governments of the State and of the Confederacy absorbed all the modes of conveyance. Transportation about the city could not be had, save by a rich or favored few. No love could persuade where money failed to convince,and SELF, growing bloated in its dimensions, stared one from every hurrying aspect, as you traversed the excited and crowded streets. In numerous instances, those who succeeded in getting away, did so at the cost of trunks and luggage; and, under what discomfort they departed, no one who did not see can readily conceive.
The end was rapidly approaching. The guns were resounding at the gates. At a late hour on Thursday night, the Governor, with his suite and a large train of officials, departed. The Confederate army began its evacuation, and by daylight few remmained who were not resigned to the necessity of seeing the tragedy played out. After all the depletion, the city contained, according to our estimate, at least twenty thousand inhabitants, the larger proportion being females and children and negroes.
Hampton's cavalry, as we have already mentioned, lingered till near 10 o'clock the next day, and scattered groups of Wheeler's command hovered about the Federal army at their entrance into the town. The inhabitants were startled at daylight, on Friday morning, by a heavy explosion. This was the South Carolina Railroad Depot. It was accidentally blown up. Broken open by a band of plunderers, among whom were many females and negroes, their reckless greed precipitated their fate.
This building had been made the receptacle of supplies from sundry quarters, and was crowded with stores of merchants and planters, trunks- of treasure, innumerable wares and goods of fugitives-all of great value. It appears that, among its contents, were some kegs of powder. The plunderers paid, and suddenly, the penalties of their crime. Using their lights freely and hurriedly, the better to pick, they fired a train of powder leading to the kegs. The explosion followed, and the number of persons destroyed is variously estimated, from seventeen to fifty. It is probable that not more than thirty-five suffered, but the actual number perishing is unascertained.
At an early hour on Friday, the commissary and quartermaster stores were thrown wide, the contents cast out into the streets and given to the people. The negroes especially loaded themselves with plunder. All this might have been saved, had the officers been duly warned by the military authorities of the probable issue of the struggle. Wheeler's cavalry also shared largely of this plunder, and several of them might be seen, bearing off huge bales upon their saddles. It was proposed that the white flag should be displayed from the tower of the City Hall.
But General Hampton, whose command had not yet left the city, and who was still eager to do battle in its defence, indignantly declared that if displayed, he should have it torn down. The following letter from the Mayor to General Sherman was the initiation of the surrender: The Confederate forces having 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. At 9 o'clock, on the painfully memorable morning of the 17th February, Friday, a deputation from the City Council, consisting of the Mayor, Aldermen McKenzie, Bates and Stark, in a carriage bearing a white flag proceeded towards the Broad River Bridge Road. Arriving at the forks of the Winnsboro Road, they discovered that the Confederate skirmishers were still busy with their guns, playing upon the advance of the Federals. These were troops of General Wheeler. This conflict was continued simply to afford the main army all possible advantages of a start in their retreat.
General Wheeler apprised the deputation that his men would now be withdrawn, and instructed them in what manner to proceed. The deputation met the column of the Federals, under Captain Platt, who sent them forward to Colonel Stone, who finally took his seat with them in the carriage. The advance belonged to the 15th corps.
The Mayor reports that on surrendering the city to Colonel Stone, the latter assured him of the safety of the citizens and of the protection of their property, while under his command. He could not answer for General Sherman, who was in the rear, but he expressed the conviction that he would fully confirm the assurances which he Colonel Stone had given.
Subsequently, General Sherman did confirm them, and that night, seeing that the Mayor was exhausted by his labors of the day, he counselled him to retire to rest, saying, "Not a finger's breadth, Mr. Mayor, of your city shall be harmed. You may lie down to sleep, satisfied that your town shall be as safe in my hands as if wholly in your own.
It shall be done tomorrow, provided the day be calm. About 11 o'clock, the head of the column, following the deputation--the flag of the United States surmounting the carriage--reached Market Hall, on Main street, while that of the corps was carried in the rear. On their way to the city, the carriage was stopped, and the officer was informed that a large body of Confederate cavalry was flanking them. Colonel Stone said to the Mayor, "We shall hold you responsible for this!
Two officers, who arrived in Columbia ahead of the deputation, having crossed the river at a point directly opposite the city, were fired upon by one of Wheeler's cavalry. We are particular in mentioning this fact, as we learn that, subsequuently, the incident was urged as a justification of the sack and burning of the city.
Hardly had the troops reached the head of Main street, when the work of pillage was begun. Stores were broken open within the first hour after their arrival, and gold, silver, jewels and liquors, eagerly sought. The authorities, officers, soldiers, all, seemed to consider it a matter of course. And woe to him who carried a watch with gold chain pendant; or who wore a choice hat, or overcoat, or boots or shoes.
It was stripped in the twinkling of an eye. It is computed that, from first to last, twelve hundred watches were transferred from the pockets of their owners to those of the soldiers. Purses shared the same fate; nor was the Confederate currency repudiated. But of all these things hereafter, in more detail. At about 12 o'clock, the jail was discovered to be on fire from within.
This building was immediately in rear of the Market, or City Hall, and in a densely built portion of the city. The supposition is that it was fired by some of the prisoners--all of whom were released and subsequently followed the army. The fire of the jail had been preceded by that of some cotton piled in the streets. Both fires were soon subdued by the firemen. At about half-past 1 P. Some of the prisoners, who had been confined at the Asylum, had made their escape, in some instances, a few days before, and were secreted and protected by citizens. No one felt safe in his own dwelling; and, in the faith that General Sherman would respect the Convent, and have it properly guarded, numbers of young ladies were confided to the care of the Mother Superior, and even trunks of clothes and treasure were sent thither, in full confidence that they would find safety.
The Irish Catholic troops, it appears, were not brought into the city at all; were kept on the other side of the river. But a few Catholics were collected among the corps which occupied the city, and of the conduct of these, a favorable account is given. One of them rescued a silver goblet of the church, used as a drinking cup by a soldier, and restored it to the Rev. This priest, by the way, was severely handled by the soldiers. Such, also, was the fortune of the Rev. Shand, of Trinity the Episcopal Church, who sought in vain to save a trunk containing the sacred vessels of his church.
It was violently wrested from his keeping, and his struggle to save it only provoked the rougher usage. We are since told that, on reaching Camden, General Sherman restored what he believed were these vessels to Bishop Davis. It has since been discovered that the plate belonged to St.
Peter's Church in Charleston. And here it may be well to mention, as suggestive of many clues, an incident which presented a sad commentary on that confidence in the security of the Convent, which was entertained by the great portion of the people. This establishment, under the charge of the sister of the Right Rev. Bishop Lynch, was at once a convent and an academy of the highest class. Hither were sent for education the daughters of Protestants, of the most wealthy classes throughout the State; and these, with the nuns and those young ladies sent thither on the emergency, probably exceeded one hundred.
The Lady Superior herself entertained the fullest confidence in the immunities of the establishment.
But her confidence was clouded, after she had enjoyed a conference with a certain major of the Yankee army, who described himself as an editor, from Detroit. He visited her at an early hour in the day, and announced his friendly sympathies with the Lady Superior and the sisterhood; professed his anxiety for their safety--his purpose to do all that he could to insure it--declared that he would instantly go to Sherman and secure a chosen guard; and, altogether, made such professions of love and service, as to disarm those suspicions, which his bad looks and bad manners, inflated speech and pompous carriage, might otherwise have provoked.
The Lady Superior, with such a charge in her hands, was naturally glad to welcome all shows and prospects of support, and expressed her gratitude. He disappeared, and soon after re-appeared, bringing with him no less than eight or ten men--none of them, as he admitted, being Catholics.
He had some specious argument to show that, perhaps, her guard had better be one of Protestants. This suggestion staggered the lady a little, but he seemed to convey a more potent reason, when he added, in a whisper: This officer, leaving his men behind him, disappeared, to show himself no more. The guards so left behind were finally among the most busy as plunderers. The moment that the inmates, driven out by the fire, were forced to abandon their house, they began to revel in its contents.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? In a number of cases, the guards provided for the citizens were among the most active plunderers; were quick to betray their trusts, abandon their posts, and bring their comrades in to join in the general pillage.
The most dextrous and adroit of these, it is the opinion of most persons, were chiefly Eastern men, or men of immediate Eastern origin. The Western men, including the Indiana, a portion of the Illinois and Iowa, were neither so dextrous nor unscrupulous--were frequently faithful and respectful; and, perhaps, it would be safe to assert that many of the houses which escaped the sack and fire, owed their safety to the presence or the contiguity of some of these men.
But we must retrace our steps. It may be well to remark that the discipline of the soldiers, upon their first entry into the city, was perfect and most admirable. There was no disorder or irregularity on the line of march, showing that their officers had them completely in hand.
They were a fine looking body of men, mostly young and of vigorous formation, well clad and well shod, seemingly wanting in nothing. Their arms and accoutrements were in bright order. The negroes accompanying them were not numerous, and seemed mostly to act as drudges and body servants. They groomed horses, waited, carried burdens, and, in almost every instance under our eyes, appeared in a purely servile, and not a military, capacity.
The men of the West treated them generally with scorn or indifference, sometimes harshly, and not infrequently with blows. But, if the entrance into town and while on duty, was indicative of admirable drill and discipline, such ceased to be the case the moment the troops were dismissed. Then, whether by tacit permission or direct command, their whole deportment underwent a sudden and rapid change. The saturnalia soon began. We have shown that the robbery of the persons of the citizens and the plunder of their homes commenced within one hour after they had reached the Market Hall.
It continued without interruption throughout the day. Sherman, at the heal of his cavalry, traversed the streets everywhere--so did his officers. Subsequently, these officers were everywhere on foot, yet beheld nothing which required the interposition of authority. And yet robbery was going on at every corner in nearly every house. Citizens generally applied for a guard at their several houses, and, for a time, these guards were allotted them.
These might be faithful or not. In some cases, as already stated, they were, and civil and respectful; considerate of the claims of women, and never trespassing upon the privacy of the family; but, in numbers of cases, they were intrusive, insulting and treacherous--leaving no privacy undisturbed, passing without a word into the chambers and prying into every crevice and corner.
But the reign of terror did not fairly begin till night. In some instances, where parties complained of the misrule and robbery, their guards said to them, with a chuckle: Wait till to-night, and you'll see h-ll. Among the first fires at evening was one about dark, which broke out in a filthy purlieu of low houses, of wood, on Gervais street, occupied mostly as brothels. Almost at the same time, a body of the soldiers scattered over the Eastern outskirts of the city, fired severally the dwellings of Mr.
English, and many others. There were then some twenty fires in full blast, in as many different quarters, and while the alarm sounded from these quarters, a similar alarm was sent up almost simultaneously from Cotton Town, the Northermost limit of the city, and from Main street in its very centre, at the several stores or houses of O.
Eberhardt, and some others, in the heart of the most densely settled portion of the town; thus enveloping in flames almost every section of the devoted city. At this period, thus early in the evening, there were few shows of I that drunkenness which prevailed at a late hour in the night, and only after all the grocery shops on Main street had been rifled. The men engaged in this were well prepared with all the appliances essential to their work. They did not need the torch.
Each had his ready box of Lucifer matches, and, with a scrape upon the walls, the flames began to rage, Where houses were closely contiguous, a brand from one was the means of conveying destruction to the other. They had been high throughout the day, and steadily prevailed from South-west by West, and bore the flames Eastward. To this fact we owe the preservation of the portions of the city lying West of Assembly street.
The work, begun thus vigorously, went on without impediment and with hourly increase throughout the night. Engines and hose were brought out by the firemen, but these were soon driven from their labors--which were indeed idle against such a storm of fire--by the pertinacious hostility of the soldiers; the hose was hewn to pieces, and the firemen, dreading worse usage to themselves, left the field in despair.
Meanwhile, the flames spread from side to side, from front to rear, from street to street, and where their natural and inevitable progress was too slow for those who had kindled them, they helped them on by the application of fresh conlbustibles and more rapid agencies of conflagration. By midnight, Main street, from its Northern to its Southern extremity, was a solid wall of fire. The range called the "Granite" was beginning to flame at 12, and might have been saved by ten vigorous men, resolutely working. At 1 o'clock, the hour was struck by the clock of the Market Hall, which was even then illuminated from within.
It was its own last hour which it sounded, and its tongue was silenced forevermore. In less than five minutes after, its spire went down with a crash, and, by this time, almost all the buildings within the precinct were a mass of ruins. Very grand, and terrible, beyond description, was the awful spectacle. It was a scene for the painter of the terrible. It was the blending of a range of burning mountains stretched in a continuous series for more than a mile. Here was Aetna, sending up its spouts of flaming lava ; Vesuvius, emulous of like display, shooting up with loftier torrents, and Stromboli, struggling, with awful throes, to shame both by its superior volumes of fluid flame.
The winds were tributary to these convulsive efforts, and tossed the volcanic torrents hundreds of feet in air. Great spouts of flame spread aloft in canopies of sulphurous cloud--wreaths of sable, edged with sheeted lightnings, wrapped the skies, and, at short intervals, the falling tower and the tottering wall, avalanche-like, went down with thunderous sound, sending up at every crash great billowy showers of glowing fiery embers. Throughout the whole of this terrible scene the soldiers continued their search after spoil. The houses were severally and soon gutted of their contents.
Hundreds of iron safes, warranted "impenetrable to fire and the burglar," it was soon satisfactorily demonstrated, were not "Yankee proof. Jewelry and plate in abundance was found. Men could be seen staggering off with huge waiters, vases, candelabra, to say nothing of cups, goblets and smaller vessels, all of solid silver.
Clothes and shoes, when new, were appropriated--the rest left to burn. Liquors were drank with such avidity as to astonish the veteran Bacchanals of Columbia; nor did the parties thus distinguishing themselves hesitate about the vintage.
There was no idle discrimination in the matter of taste, from that vulgar liquor, which Judge Burke used to say always provoked within him "an inordinate propensity to sthale," to the choicest red wines of the ancient cellars. In one vault on Main street, seventeen casks of wine were stored away, which, an eye-witness tells us, barely sufficed, once broken into, for the draughts of a single hour--such were the appetites at work--and the numbers in possession of them.
Rye, corn, claret and Madeira all found their way into the same channels, and we are not to wonder when told that no less than one hundred and fifty of the drunken creatures perished miserably among the flames kindled by their own comrades, and from which they were unable to escape. The estimate will not be thought extravagant by those who saw the condition of hundreds after 1 o'clock A.
By others, however, the estimate is reduced to thirty; but the number will never be known. Sherman's officers themselves are reported to have said that they lost more men in the sack and burning of the city including certain explosions than in all their fights while approaching it. It is also suggested that the orders which Sherman issued at daylight, on Saturday morning, for the arrest of the fire, were issued consequence of the loss of men which he had thus sustained. One or more of his men were shot, by parties unknown, in some dark passages or alleys--it is supposed in consequence of some attempted out-rages which humanity could not endure; the assassin taking advantage of the obscurity of the situation and adroitly mingling with the crowd without.
And while these scenes were at their worst--while the flames were at their highest and most extensively raging--groups might be seen at the several corners of the streets, drinking, roaring, revelling--while the fiddle and accordeon were playing their popular airs among them. There was no cessation of the work till 5 A. A single thought will suffice to show that the owners or lodgers in the houses thus sacrificed were not silent or quiet spectators of a conflagration which threw them naked and homeless under the skies of night. The male population, consisting mostly of aged men, invalids, decrepits, women and children, were not capable of very active or powerful exertions; but they did not succumb to the fate without earnest pleas and strenuous efforts.
Old men and women and children were to be seen, even while the flames were rolling and raging around them, while walls were crackling and rafters tottering and tumbling, in the endeavor to save their clothing and some of their most valuable effects. It was not often that they were suffered to succeed. They were driven out headlong. Ladies were hustled from their chamberstheir ornaments plucked from their persons, their bundles from their hands.
It was in vain that the mother appealed for the garments of her children. They were torn from her grasp and hurled into the flames. The young girl striving to save a single frock, had it rent to fibres in her grasp. Men and women bearing off their trunks were seized, despoiled, in a moment the trunk burst asunder with the stroke of axe or gun-butt, the contents laid bare, rifled of all the objects of desire, and the residue sacrified to the fire. You might see the ruined owner, standing woe-begone, aghast, gazing at his tumbling dwelling, his scattered property, with a dumb agony in his face that was inexpressibly touching.
Others you might hear, as we did, with wild blasphemies assailing the justice of Heaven, or invoking, with lifted and clenched hands, the fiery wrath of the avenger. But the soldiers plundered and drank, the fiery work raged, and the moon sailed over all with as serene an aspect as when she first smiled upon the ark resting against the slopes of Ararat. We have intimated that, at an early hour in the day, almost every house was visited by groups, averaging in number from two to six persons.
Some of these entered civilly enough, but pertinaciously entered, in some cases, begging for milk, eggs, bread and meat-in most eases, demanding them. The kitchens were entered frequently by one party, while another penetrated the dwelling, and the cook was frequently astounded by the audacity by which the turkey, duck, fowl or roast was transferred from the spit to the wallet of the soldier. In the house, parties less meek of temper than these pushed their way, and the first intimation of their presence, as they were confronted at the entrance, was a pistol clapped at the head or bosom of the owner, whether male or female.
Frequently, no demand was made. Rarely, indeed, was a word spoken, where the watch or chain, or ring or bracelet, presented itself conspicuously to the eye. It was incontinently plucked away from the neck, breast or bosom. Hundreds of women, still greater numbers of old men, were thus despoiled. The slightest show of resistance provoked violence to the person. Alfred Huger was thus robbed in the chamber and presence of his family, and in the eye of an almost dying wife.
He offered resistance, and was collared and dispossessed by violence. We are told that the venerable ex-Senator, Colonel Arthur P. Hayiie, was treated even more roughly. James Rose, besides his watch, lost largely of choice wines, which had been confided to his keeping. But we cannot descend to examples. In the open streets the pickpockets were mostly active. A frequent mode of operating was by first asking you the hour. If thoughtless enough to reply, producing the watch or indicating its possession, it was quietly taken from hand or pocket, and transferred to the pocket of the "other gentleman," with some such remark as this: I'll take it myself; it just suits me.
Some of the incidents connected with this wholesale system were rather amusing. Templeton, a well known and highly esteemed citizen, passing along the street, was accosted by a couple of these experts, who stopped and asked him, pointing to the arsenal building, on the hill opposite, "What building is that? Before he could recover himself, his chain- and watch were in the grasp of the thief, who was preparing to transfer it to his own pocket, quietly remarking, "A very pretty little watch; just to my liking.
The question, "What's o'clock," was the sure forerunner of an attempt upon your pocket. Some parties saved their chronometers by an adroitness which deserves to be made known. One individual replied to the question: I was asked that question already by one of your parties, at the other corner. We are told of one person who, being thus asked for the time of day by three of them, in a street in which he could see no other of their comrades, thrust a revolver suddenly into their faces, and cocking it quickly, cried out, " Look for yourselves.
Robinson was assailed with the same question by a party in the neighborhood of his house. He denied that he had a watch. He took them into his house, suddenly called his guard and said, "These men are pursuing me; I, know not what they want. The guard drove out the party, with successive thrusts at them of the bayonet, and from, the street, defrauded of their spoils, they saluted house guard and owner with all manner of horrid execrations.
Hundreds of like anecdotes are told, not merely of loss in watches, but of every other article of property. Hats and boots, overcoats and. Even the negroes were despoiled, whenever the commodity was of any value. An incident occurred, which, though amusing to read of, could not have been very pleasant to one of the party engaged at least. A gentleman was directed to break in the heads and empty the contents of some forty barrels of whiskey stored at the Fair Grounds. He had proceeded with the job only so far as breaking in the heads of the barrels, when a number of soldiers entered the building, and stopped all further proeeeding.
They charged him with poisoning the liquor, and forced him to take a drink from every barrel, before they would touch the contents. The consequence was that he was drunk for over a week. Within the dwellings, the scenes were of more harsh and tragical character, rarely softened by any ludicrous aspects, as they were screened by the privacy of the apartment, with but few eyes to witness.
The pistol to the bosom or the head of woman, the patient mother, the trembling daughter, was the ordinary introduction to the demand. It was in vain that the woman offered her keys, or proceeded to open drawer, or wardrobe, or cabinet, or trunk. It was dashed to pieces by axe or gun-butt, with the cry, "We have a shorter way than that! All the precious things of a family, such as the heart loves to pore on in quiet hours when alone with memory--the clear miniature, the photograph, the portrait--these were dashed to pieces, crushed under foot, and the more the trembler pleaded for the object so precious, the more violent the rage which destroyed it.
Nothing was sacred in their eyes, save the gold and silver which they bore away. Nor were these acts those of common soldiers. Commissioned officers, of rank so high as that of a colonel, were frequently among the most active in spoliation, and not always the most tender or considerate in the manner and acting of their crimes. And, after glutting themselves with spoil, would often utter the foulest speeches, coupled with oaths as condiment, dealing in what they assumed, besides, to be bitter sarcasms upon the cause and country.
We'll burn the very stones of South Carolina. It is her fit punishment; and if this does not quiet rebellion, and we have to return, we will do this work thoroughly. We will not leave woman or child. Almost universally, the women of Columbia behaved themselves nobly under their insults. They preserved that patient, calm demeanor, that simple, almost masculine firmness, which so becomes humanity in the hour of trial, when nothing can be opposed to the tempest but the virtue of inflexible endurance. They rarely replied to these insults; but looking coldly into the faces of the assailants, heard them in silence and with unblenching cheeks.
When forced to answer, they did so in monosyllables only, or in brief, stern language, avowed their confidence in the cause of their country, the principles and rights for which their brothers and sons fought, and their faith in the ultimate favor and protection of God. One or two of many of these dialogues--if they may be called such, where one of the parties can urge his speech with all the agencies of power for its enforcement, and with all his instruments of terror in sight, while the other stands exposed to the worst terrors which maddened passions, insolent in the consciousness of strength--may suffice as a sample of many.
Her eye never faltered. Her cheek never changed its color. Her lips were firmly compressed. Her arms folded on her bosom. The eye of the assassin glared into her own. She met the encounter without flinching, and he lowered the implement of murder, with an oath: You have pluck enough for a whole regiment! In a great many cases the guard behaved themselves well, using their utmost endeavors to protect the property under their charge, even to the use of the bayonet. An officer, Lieutenant McQueen, stopped with Dr. Reynolds, and during the fire, worked manfully, and was the means of saving the residence from destruction.
His gentlemanly manners won the respect and confidence of the family, and when he was on the point of leaving, the doctor gave him a letter, signed by several gentlemen, acknowledging his grateful feelings for the manner in which he had been treated; saying that; the fortunes of war might some time place him in a position that the letter might be of use to him. This proved to be the case. At the skirmish near Lynch's Creek, this officer was wounded and captured.
On showing the letter to a friend of Dr. Reynolds, who happened to be in the hospital, he was removed to a private house, every attention shown him, and when he was able to move, a special parole was obtained for him, and he returned to his home. The "pluck" of our women was especially a subject of acknowledgment. They could admire a quality with which they had not soul to sympathize--or rather the paramount passion for greed and plunder kept in subjection all other qualities, without absolutely extinguishing them from their minds and thoughts. To inspire terror in the weak, strange to say, seemed to them a sort of heroism.
To extort fear and awe appeared to their inordinate vanity a tribute more grateful than any other, and a curious conflict was sometimes carried on in their minds between their vanity and cupidity. Occasionally they gave with one hand, while they robbed with another. Several curious instances of this nature took place, one of which must suffice. A certain Yankee officer happened to hear that an old acquaintance of his, whom he had known intimately at West Point and Louisiana, was residing in Columbia.
He went to see him after the fire, and ascertained that his losses had been very heavy, exceeding two hundred thousand dollars. The parties had not separated for an hour, when a messenger came from the Yankee, bringing a box, which contained one hundred thousand dollars in Confederate notes. This the Yankee begged his Southern friend to accept, as helping to make up his losses.
The latter declined the gift, not being altogether satisfied in conscience with regard to it. In many cases, Confederate money by the handfull was bestowed by the officers and soldiers upon parties from whom they had robbed the last particles of clothing, and even General Sherman could give to parties, whom he knew, the flour and bacon which had been taken from starving widows and orphans. So he left with the people of Columbia a hundred old muskets for their protection, while emptying their arsenals of a choice collection of beautiful Enfield rifles.
And so the starving citizens of Columbia owe to him a few hundred starving cattle, which he had taken from the starving people of Beaufort, Barnwell, Orangeburg and Lexington-cattle left without food, and for which food could not be found, and dying of exhaustion at the rate of fifteen to twenty head per diem. In this connection and this section, in which we need to devote so much of our space to the cruel treatment of our women, we think it proper to include a communication from the venerable Dr. Sill, one of the most esteemed and well-known citizens of Columbia. It is from his own pen and the facts occurred under his own eyes.
We give this as one of a thousand like cases, witnessed by a thousand eyes, and taking place at the same time in every quarter of the city, almost from the hour of the arrival of the army to that of its departure. He writes as follows:. She was poor, indeed, having very little clothing, and only one or two implements--a sewing machine and a crimping apparatus--by means of Which she obtained a precarious support. My own family happily and servants being all absent, and being myself wholly incapacitated by years of sickness from making any exertion, all that the poor widow woman and myself could remove from my house, besides the few things of hers, consisted of two bags of flour, a peck of meal, and about the same of grist, and about thirty pounds of bacon and a little sugar.
These few things we managed to get out of the house, and, by the aid of a wheelbarrow, removed about fifty yards from the burning buildings. Waiting then and there, waiting anxiously the progress and direction of the fire, we soon found that we had been robbed of one bag of flour and a trunk of valuable books of account and papers. The fire continuing to advance on us, we found it necessary to remove again.
The Irish Catholic troops, it appears, were not brought into the city at all; were kept on the other side of the river. They were gifts to me from a precious friend. However, I do think everyone from Sherman down to Stone underestimated the amount of lawlessness within Columbia on the 17th. But, even had the people been unable to supply these provisions--even had the Council failed to respond to these requisitions--at whose doors should the blame be laid? If apprehensive of the danger, they could only fold their hands, and, hoping against hope, pray for escape from a peril to which they could oppose no farther vigilance or effort. Castle Sorghum was a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp established in in Columbia. Lafayette McLaws attempted to prevent the crossing of the Salkehatchie River by the right wing of Maj.
Having lost, but a few moments before, almost everything she had in the way of provisions, she seemed most deeply and keenly alive to her destitute situation, in the event she should lose the remaining bag of flour ; the last and only hope of escape from starvation of her child and herself. She fell upon her knees, with hands uplifted, in a supplicating manner, and most piteously and imploringly set forth her situation--an appeal which, under the circumstances, it would be impossible to conceive, more touching or heart-rending.
She told him she was not here of her own choice; that herself and husband had come to Charleston in to better their fortunes; that they had been domiciled in New Jersey, where her husband had taken the necessary steps to become a citizen of the United States. She had in her hand his papers vouching the truth of her statement; that her husband had died of yellow fever in Charleston; that being unable, from want of the means, to return to New Jersey, she had been driven from Charleston to Columbia, a refugee, flying from the enemy's shells, to try to make an honest support for herself and child.
To all this, he not only turned a deaf ear, but deliberately drew from his breast a huge shining Bowie-knife, brandished it in her face, rudely pushed her aside, using, at the same time, the most menacing and obscene language shouldered the bag of flour, and marched off, leaving the poor starving creature, with her helpless child, overwhelmed with grief and despair.
We shall not seek to multiply instances like the foregoing, which would be an endless work and to little profit. General Sherman tells General Hampton that, could he find any civil authority, and could they provide him with forage and provisions, he would suffer no foraging upon the people. His logic and memory are equally deficient. Was there no Mayor and Council in Columbia?
They had formally surrendered the city into his hands, They constituted the civil authority; but he made no requisition upon them for provisions for his troops. He did not say to them, "Supply me with twenty thousand rations in so many hours. The citizens would have been only too glad, by yielding up one-half of their stores, to have saved the other half, and to have preserved their dwellings from the presence of the soldiers.
Nay, did not the in-dwellers of every house--we will say five thousand houses--seek at his hands a special guard--which usually consisted of two men--and were not these fed wholly by the families where they lodged during the whole time of their stay? Here, by a very simple computation, we find that ten thousand soldiers were thus voluntarily provided with rations; and a requisition for twenty thousand men might easily and would probably have been provided, had any such been made; for the supplies in the city were abundant of every sort--the population generally having laid in largely, and without stint or limit, anticipating a period of general scarcity from the march of the enemy.
But, even had the people been unable to supply these provisions--even had the Council failed to respond to these requisitions--at whose doors should the blame be laid? The failure would have been the direct consequences of General Sherman's own proceedings. Had lie not ravaged and swept, with a bosom of fire, all the tracts of country upon which the people of Columbia depended for their supplies? Had he not, himself, cut off all means of transportation, in the destruction, not only of the rail-ways, but of every wagon, cart, vehicle, on all the plantations through which he had passed--carrying off all the beasts of burden of any value, and cutting the throats of the remainder?
He cuts off the feet and arms of a people, and then demands that they shall bring him food and forage! But even this pretext, if well grounded, can avail him nothing. He was suffering from no sort of necessity. It was the boast of every officer and soldier in his army, thqt he had fed fat upon the country through which be had passed; everywhere finding abundance, and had not once felt the necessity of lifting the cover from his own wagons, and feeding from his own accumulated stores.
But the complaint of Hampton, and of our people at large, is not that he fed his followers upon the country, but that he destroyed what he did not need for food, and tore the bread from the famishing mouths of a hundred thousand women and children--feeble infancy and decrepit age.
We have adverted to the outrages which were perpetrated within the households of the citizen, where, unrestrained by the rebuking eyes of their own comrades, and unresisted by their interposition, cupidity, malignity and lust, sought to glut their several appetites. The cupidity generally triumphed over the lust. The greed for gold and silver swallowed up the more animal passions, and drunkenness supervened in season for the safety of many. We have heard of some few outrages, or attempts at outrage, of the worst sort, but the instances, in the case of white females, must have been very few.
There was, perhaps, a wholesome dread of goading to desperation the people whom they had despoiled of all but honor. They could see, in many watchful and guardian eyes, the lurking expression which threatened sharp vengeance, should their tresspasses proceed to those extremes which they yet unquestionably contemplated. H stood ready, with his couteau de chasse, made bare in his boom, hovering around the persons of his innocent daughters. O , on beholding some too familiar approach to one of his daughters, bade the man stand off at the peril of his life; saying that while he submitted to be robbed of property, he would sacrifice life without reserve--his own and that of the assailant--before his child's honor should be abused.
Gibbes with difficulty, pistol in hand, and only with the assistance of a Yankee officer, rescued two young women from the clutches of as many ruffians. We have been told of successful outrages of this unmentionable character being practiced upon women dwelling in the suburbs. Many are understood to have taken place in remote country settlements, and two cases are described where young negresses were brutally forced by the wretches and afterwards murdered--one of there being thrust, when half dead, head down, into a mud puddle, and there held until she was suffocated.
But this must suffice. The shocking details should not now be made, but that we need, for the sake of truth and humanity, to put on record the horrid deeds. And yet, we should grossly err if, while showing the forbearance of the soldiers in respect to our white women, we should convey to any innocent reader the notion that they exhibited a like forbearance in the case of the black. The poor negroes were terribly victimized by their assailants, many of them, besides the instance mentioned, being left in a condition little short of death.
Regiments, in successive relays, subjected scores of these poor women to the torture of their embraces, and--but we dare not further pursue the subject. There are some horrors which the historian dare not pursue-which the painter dare not delineate. They both drop the curtain over crimes which humanity bleeds to contemplate. Some incidents of gross brutality, which show how well prepared were these men for every crime, however monstrous, may be given.
A lady, undergoing the pains of labor, had to be borne out on a mattress into the open air, to escape the fire. It was in vain that her situation was described as the soldiers applied the torch within and without the house, after they had penetrated every chamber and robbed them of all that was either valuable or portable. They beheld the situation of the sufferer, and laughed to scorn the prayer for her safety.
J, was but recently confined. Her condition was very helpless.
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Her life hung upon a hair. The men were apprised of all the facts in the case. They burst into the chamber--took the rings from the lady's fingers--plucked the watch from beneath her pillow, and so overwhelmed her with terror, that she sunk under the treatment--surviving their departure but a day or two. In several instances, parlors, articles of crockery, and even beds, were used by the soldiers as if they were water closets. In one case, a party used vessels in this way, then put them on the bed, fired at and smashed them to pieces, emptying the filthy contents over the bedding.
In several cases, newly made graves were opened, the coffins taken out, broken open, in search of buried treasure, and the corpses left exposed. Every spot in grave-yard or garden, which seemed to have been recently disturbed, was sounded with sword, or bayonet, or ramrod, in their desperate search after spoil.
In this grave connection, we have to narrate a somewhat picturesque transaction, less harsh of character and less tragic, and preserving a somewhat redeeming aspect to the almost uniform brutality of our foes. Their comrades, in large numbers, were encamped on the adjoining and vacant lands.
These latter penetrated his grounds, breaking their way through the fences, and it was not possible, where there were so many, to prevent their aggression entirely. The guard kept them out of the dwelling, and preserved its contents. They were not merely civil, but amused the children of the family; played with them, sympathized in their fun, and contributed to their little sports in sundry ways.