Monday, February 20, 1865

Columbia, South Carolina

Having utterly ruined Columbia, the right wing began its march northward, toward
Winnsboro, on the 20th. The command moved in good order to Muddy Springs. On our arrival at that point we found a scarcity of water and moved on about two miles and a half north of the Muddy Springs where the Fifteenth Army Corps is now in camp. The headquarters are near the crossing of the Winnsborough and upper Camden roads. The rear guard swept everything clear of Columbia, and at 2 p.m., when some of Howard’s staff officers left, the city was clear of all stragglers and very quiet. A small squad of the enemy’s cavalry, about 100, appeared on our right flank, but were driven off without disturbing our march.

Estimates of our damage done to Columbia:
1,000 bales of cotton burned.

19 locomotives (these comprised all the locomotives in and about the city, they were destroyed by burning the wood work and breaking everything breakable about their machinery and punching holes in their boilers and tenders);

20 box-cars (all that were left of a large number destroyed by the incendiary fires of the 17th instant);

All the buildings not previously burned belonging to the South Carolina Railroad and depot, 2 large freight sheds being included; in these freight sheds were destroyed 60 sets complete of six-mule team harness, 1,000 pounds of trace chains, 40 kegs of nails, 25 kegs railroad iron spikes, 5 tons of railroad machinery of various kinds, and a large miscellaneous collections of articles valuable to the enemy, which it was impracticable under the circumstances to classify and make an inventory of;

650 car wheels (destroyed by sledging off the flanges);

2 buildings filled with stationery belonging to the so-called Confederate States, consisting of note, cap, letter, and envelope paper, envelopes, steel pens, penhilders, ink, and quartermasters’ and other blanks. These things were mixed up in a heterogeneous mass estimated at two tons’ weight.

Twenty-five powder mills. These comprised all the powder mills along the Congaree River; the machinery was destroyed and the mills blown up.

The so-called Confederate States armory, situated on the Congaree River, comprising warehouses, machine shops, foundry, and offices; the machinery of the shops and a large amount of other machinery which had not been taken out of the original packages was broken thoroughly by sledging, and the ruin completed afterwards by burning the buildings.

A large amount, probably half a ton, of all varieties of files and other gun-making tools in the original packages were destroyed; the gunstocks and barrels and muskets destroyed as reported by the orndance officers.

The smoke-stacks of six manufactories of various kinds were thrown over or blown up.

Ten tons of machinery, said to belong to the Confederate States, found packed in boxes under a shed on the common, was destroyed, consisting of a stationary engine and lathe and other machinery, the use of which could not be ascertained.

The destruction of all property mentioned in the directions is believed to be entire and complete. The above list does not include the entire amount, but is as accurate as the circumstances will admit.

The left wing is all up and marching on Winnsboro.

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3 Responses to Monday, February 20, 1865

  1. There seems to be a fine line between acceptable destruction of military assets and going too far in destroying civilian property. I find it hard to feel real sympathy to destruction of civilian property belonging to a population that actively supported an army in rebellion. As long as the soldiers didn’t physically assault people, I tend to think that all’s fair in love and war. I don’t think those civilians would have abstained in materially supporting “their” soldiers.

  2. brownyneal says:

    Sherman did not intend to destroy as much of Columbia as happened. Most of the dwelling survived, but almost all of the public structures burned. Sherman wanted the railroads, arsenal and buildings and infrastructure destroyed so it could not be used by the enemy as a base against him. Howard left about half his herd of cattle so people would not starve.

    Sherman’s marches liberated thousands of slaves and proved to the Plantation owners that slavery was dead- no one would enforce it. With their slaves already lost, Sherman’s destruction was even more incentive to end the war. When two armies met, the area nearby would be devastated by armies taking supplies from the citizens. Johnston surrendered to Sherman because the war was lost and continuation would only lead to further devastation.

    Over half of the wealth of the South in 1860 was invested in slaves. Much of the monetary damage caused by Sherman was due to liberation of the slaves.

  3. Isn’t it interesting that the planter aristocracy was able to pick a fight over slavery, an institution not many southerners could afford to be a part of? I read a book called “Fierce Patriot” and then Eisenhower’s book about Sherman and I was struck at the mutual admiration Johnston and Sherman had for each other. I think Johnston was the most realistic of the Confederate commanders. Lee continued to attack after the war, for all intent and purposes, was over until he was forced to surrender. Pickett’s Charge was a horrible waste of men. Lee did however, convince his commanders to not fight a guerrilla war. Davis was simply a scoundrel. Take care.

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