Page images




for the protection of persons and property. The wind was then blowing a gale. Citizens and soldiers were upon the streets, and general good order prevailed. Sherman had ratified the promise of protection given by Stone. “ It will become my duty,” he observed, substantially, “to destroy some of the Government or public buildings, but I will reserve this performance to another day. It shall be done to-morrow, provided the day be calm.”

That promise was faithfully kept, and had Wade Hampton, the commander of the rear-guard of the Confederates, who lingered in the town until ten o'clock that morning, been as careful of the interests of the citizens as the l'nion troops, all would have been well. But he ordered all the cotton in the city, public and private, to be taken into the streets and burned, to prevent its falling into the hands of the Nationals. When Sherman entered the town, the cotton was in the streets. The cords and bagging of the bales had been cut, and the white wool in tufts was flying about the city in the gale, like snow, lodging in the trees and on the sides and roofs of houses. Notwithstanding the high wind, some of the bales, especially a pile of them in the heart of the city, near the court-house, were already on fire when Sherman entered. His troops, by great exertions, partially subdued the flames. They broke out again, with greater intensity, that night; and the beautiful capital of South Carolina—the destined seat of Government of the prospective independent “ Confederate States of America”- was laid in ruins in the course of a few hours. Among the public buildings then destroyed, was the old State House, delineated on page 46 of volume I. Hampton, the real author of the conflagration, afterward charged it upon Sherman-a charge which Beauregard, ever ready to "fire the Southern heart” with the relation of “Yankee atrocities,” did not make at the time, and which Pollard, the Confederate historian of the war, did not make afterward, except by implication, when he wrote that Sherman, “ After having completed, as far as possible, the destruction of Columbia, continued his march northward.” «

1 Sack and Destruction of the City of Columbia. page 13.

2 The Fifteenth Corps passed through the city in the course of the day, and went out on the Camden road. The Seventeenth did not enter the town; and the left wing was not within two miles of it at any time.

3 See General Sherman's Report, April 4, 1865.

4 General Sherman, in his Report, dated April 4, 1965, says: “ Before one single building had been fired by order, the smoldering fires, set by Hampton's order, were rekindled by the wind and communicated to the buildings around. At dark they began to spread, and got beyond the control of the brigade on duty within the city. The whole of Woods's division was brought in, but it was found impossible to check the flames, which, by midnight, had become unmanageable, and raged until about 4 A, M., when, the wind subsiding, they were got under control. I was up nearly all night, and suw Generals IIoward, Logan and Woods, and others, laboring to save houses and protect families thus suddenly deprived of shelter, and of bedding and wearing apparel. I disclaim, on the part of my army, any agency in this fire, but, on the contrary, claim that we saved what of Columbia remains unconsumed. And, without hesitation, I charge General Wade Hampton with having burned his own city of Columbia, not with a malicious intent, or as a manifestation of a silly • Roman stoicism,' but frou folly and want of sense, in filling it with lint, cotton, and tinder. Our officers and men on duty worked well to extinguish the flames; but others not on duty, including the officers, who had long been imprisoned there, rescued by us, may have assisted in spreading the fire after it had once begun, and may have indulged in unconcealed joy to see the ruin of the capital of South Carolina."*

The conduct of the Confederate troops, and especially of Wade IIampton, the commander, after the mayor

* Major Nichols, in his Story of the Great March, under date of Feb. 17, 1865 (page 166), says: "Various cances are assigned to explain the origin of the fire. I am quite sure that it originated in sparks, flying from the hundreds of bales of cotton which the Rebels had placed along the middle of the main street, and fired as they left the city. Fire from a tightly compressed bale of cotton is unlike that of a more open material, which burns itself ont. The fire lies amoldering in a bale of cotton after it appears to be extinguished, and in this instance, when our soldiers supposed they had extinguished the fire, it suddenly broke out again with the most disastrous effect. There were fires, however, which must have been started independent of the above-named cause. The source of these is ascribed to the desire for revenge from some 200 of our prisoners, who had escaped from the cars as they were being conveyed from this city to Charlotte, and, with the pemories of long suffering in the miserable pens I visited yesterday, on the other side of the river, sought this means of retallation"



4 1865.


The fall of Columbia was the signal for Hardee to evacuate Charleston, for it was then flanked, and he was threatened with isolation. He was in command of about fourteen thousand troops. It was supposed, until the last moment, that Sherman's march on Columbia, was only a feint, and that Charleston was his chief objective. With this impression, Hardee had concentrated the troops under his command in and around that city. To cherish that belief, General Gillmore, then in command on the coast in that vicinity, had caused feints to be made in the direction of Charleston. One of these was composed of a considerable body of troops, under General Schimmel

fennig, who, on the 10th of February," made a lodgment on

James's Island, within three miles of Charleston. At the same time, gun-boats and a mortar schooner moved up the Stono River and flanked the troops. An attack was made upon the Confederate works on the island, and their ritle-pits were carried, with a loss to the Nationals of about eighty

Co-operative movements were made at the same time, by General Hatch, who led a column across the Combahee toward the South Edisto River, while General Potter, with another column from Bull's Bay, northward of Charleston, menaced the Northwestern railway.

These movements, with Columbia at the mercy of Sherman, warned Harder hat he must instantly leave Charleston by the only railway now left open for his use, and endeavor to join Beauregard and Cheatham, who were then, with the remnant of Hood's army, making their way into North Carolina, where Johnston intended to concentrate all his available forces, in Sherman's path. Having determined upon a speedy evacuation, Hardee employed a short time in destroying as much property in Charleston, that

might be useful to the Nationals, as possible. At an early

hour,' every building, warehouse, or shed, stored with cotton, was fired by a guard detailed for the purpose.

The few inhabitants were filled with consternation, as they saw the hands of their professed friends, applying the torch to the already sorely smitten city. The fire engines were brought out to endeavor to save buildings adjoining the cotton stores, but in vain; and on the western side of the city, the flames raged furiously. The horrors of the scene were heightened by a catastrophe which destroyed many lives. Some boys had discovered powder at the depot of the Northwestern railway, and amused themselves by throwing some of it on burning cotton in the street. The powder dropping from their hands, soon formed a train, along which fire ran to the large quantity stored at the depot.

► Feb. 17,

and some of the council had gone out to surrender the city, had exasperated the National soldiers, and according to the laws and usages of war, subjected the city to lawful destruction. According to the author of The Sick and Destruction of the City of Columbia, the mayor and councilmen went out at nine o'clock, when it was proposed," he says, “ 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 defense, indignantly declared that, if displayed, he should have it torn down." The author adds: “ Hampton's cavalry, as we have already mentioned, lingered till near ten o'clock, and scattered groups of Wheeler's command hovered about the Federal army at their entrance into the town." It appears by the testimony of this eager witness against the Nationals, who professes to have been an eye-witness of the destruction of Columbia, that the Confederats soldiery, under the direction of Wade Hampton, continued to fight the Nationals in the streets of the city after it had been surrendered by competent authority. That writer gives a terrible picture of the robberies committed by the Union soldiers not on duty. They seem to have followed the example of the Confederates themselves. He tells us of a building, in which valuable property of almost every kind had been stored, that Was “ broken open by a band of plunderers," early in the morning. before the arrival of the National trops

“Wheeler's cavalry also shared largely in the plunder, and several of them might be seen bearing off huge bales upon their saddles."- Page 12.

and says,



A terrible explosion followed, by which the city was shaken to its foundations. The building was converted, in an instant, into an immense volume of fire, smoke, aná fragments, shooting high in air. Full two hundred persons were destroyed. At least one hundred and fifty dead bodies were

[graphic][merged small]

taken from the ruins of the depot, from which point the fire spread rapidly through the adjoining buildings; and, before the flames were subdued, four squares, embracing an area bounded by Chapel, Alexander, and Washington Streets, were consumed.

That night, the last of Hardee's troops left ruined Charleston. They had made the destruction of property as complete as possible. Cotton warehouses, arsenals, quartermaster's stores, railroad bridges, two iron-clad steamers, and some vessels in the ship-yard, were destroyed. Many of the cannon about the city were temporarily disabled; and a 600-pounder Blakely gun, stationed at a huge mound which had been thrown up at the angle of East Bay and South Battery, for the purposes of a magazine and battery, was exploded that it might not fall into the hands of the Nationals. The shock of that explosion nearly ruined a fine mansion opposite. The remains of the great gun were at 'Adger's wharf when the writer sketched them,



1 This was the appearance of a portion of the burnt district of Charleston, mentioned in the text, as it appeared when the writer visited that city, in April, 1866. The ruins of the Roman Catholic Cathedral are soon, in the distance, toward the left of the picture.



at the close of March, 1866. The dimensions of the breech (four feet three inches in diameter) are indicated by the figure of a man, standing by the side of it. The projectile of this monster rifled cannon, weighing six hundred

[graphic][merged small]



pounds, is also here delineated, together with three grains of the powder employed in projecting the bolt, drawn the exact

size of the original. The evacuation of Charleston was not known to the Nationals until the next morning, when Lieutenant-Colonel A. G. Bennett, commanding on Morris Island, having hints to that effect, dispatched a boat toward Fort Moultrie for information. When near Fort Sumter, it was met by another, containing some musicians, which Hardee had left behind. They attested the truth of the rumor. Major J. A. Hennessy was immediately sent to Fort Sumter to raise the National flag over the ruins of that notable fortress, where it had been so dishonored nea y four years before. It was done at

nine o'clock in the morning Flags were also raised over Forts * Feb 18, Ripley and Pinckney; and at 10 o'clock, Lieutenant-Colonel

Bennett arrived at Charleston. He found some of the Confederates still lingering, and engaged in incendiary work, while a portion of the city was a glowing furnace of flame.

Mayor Macbeth gladly surrendered the city, that the remainder of it might be saved. The act was promptly done, when a small force was hurried up from Morris Island, and set to work, with the negroes of the city, who were impressed for the purpose, in extinguishing the flames. By their exertions the arsenal was saved, and a large quantity of rice, which was distributed among the poor. On that day, the city of Charleston, and all its defenses and dependencies, were “repossessed” by the Government, with over four hundred and fifty pieces of artillery, mostly in fair condition, and consisting chiefly of 8 and 10-inch columbiads; a large amount of powder, and eight locomotives and other rolling stock of railways. Georgetown, on Winyaw Bay, was evacuated on the same day; and when Gillmore took possession of Charleston, Hardee was making his way, with his troops, as speedily as possible, across the Santee and Pedee rivers, to avoid a crushing blow from Sherman, who pushed on rapidly from Columbia, in a northeasterly course, into North Carolina, with Goldsboro' as his destination.

The gallant Colonel Stewart L. Woodford, of the One Hundred and Twenty-seventh New York (afterward Lieutenant-Governor of the State of New York), was appointed military governor of Charleston, and by kind,



firm, and judicious management, he soon established friendly relations between the citizens and soldiers. His orders were marked by conciliation, justice, firmness, and forbearance, and commanded universal respect;' and, at the end of a month after the evacuation of the city by the Confederate troops, when Woodford resigned his command into the hands of Colonel Gurney, that which, it was supposed, would remain the most rebellious of all cities, was really the most docile and orderly. The inhabitants “accepted the situation," and society, in a large degree, resumed its normal condition."

A few weeks after the fall of Charleston, and on the anniversary of the evacuation of Fort Sumter, four years before, the identical flag which was then taken down, folded up and borne away by Major

• April 14,

1861. Anderson, the brave defender of the post, was, by the same hand, again flung to the breeze over that fortress, which had been reduced


[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

to an almost shapeless mass of rubbish. Major Anderson had borne away the tattered flag, with a resolution to raise it again over the fortress, or be wrapped in it as his winding sheet, at the last. He was permitted to raise it there again, before the war had ended, and then to bear it away a second time, for the next office to which he had dedicated it.5

1 There was a general expectation in Charleston, that a spirit of vengeance wonld be manifested by the conquerors, and they were astonished to find that about the only kind of " tyranny” to which they were to be subjected, was foreshadowed in the following paragraph in Colonel Woodford's first order :

“ The people are invited to open their schools and churches, and resume, as far as possible, the avocations of peace. They are required to behave in an orderly manner. No disloyal act or utterance will be tolerated. The National flag must be honored and the National laws obeyed."

James Redpath was appointed Superintendent of Education, for the post.

? The following extract, from Woodford's General Order No. 19, will indicate what had been accomplished in Charleston, in the space of a single month :—"The churches and stores have been generally opened. Three thousand children attend public school. Four thousand citizens have voluntarily taken the oath of allegiance, and the six offices established for that purpose, have been constantly thronged."

3 See page 331, volume I.

* This was the general appearance of the interior of Fort Sumter, when the writer sketched it, at the beginning of April, 1866.

5 When intelligence reached Washington of the evacuation of Charleston, the President of the United States appointed the anniversary of the fall of Fort Sumter, as the day when the old flag should be raised again over that fortress, by Major (now General) Anderson. Preparations were made 'April 14. accordingly. A large number of citizens went from the harbor of New York in the steamer Oceanus, to assist in the ceremonies. Colonel Stewart L. Woodford had charge of the exercises of the day, at the fort. When the multitude were assembled around the flag-staff, William B. Bradbury led them in singing his song of Victory at Last, followed by Rally Round the Flug. The Rev. Mathew Harris, Chaplain of the United States Army, who made the prayer at the raising of the flag over Sumter on December 27, 1860 (see page

VOL. III.-108

« PreviousContinue »