In anticipation of the occupation of the city, I had made written orders to Gen. Howard touching the conduct of the troops. These were: to destroy absolutely all arsenals and public property not needed for our own use, as well as all railroads, depots, and machinery useful in war to an enemy; but to spare all dwellings, colleges, schools, asylums, and harmless private property. I was the first to cross the pontoon-bridge, and, in company with Gen. Howard, rode into the city. The day was clear; but a perfect tempest of wind was raging. The brigade of Col. Stone was already in the city, and was properly posted. Citizens and soldiers were on the streets, and general good order prevailed. Gen. Wade Hampton, who commanded the Confederate rear-guard of cavalry, had, in anticipation of our capture of Columbia, ordered that all cotton, public and private, should be moved into the streets and fired, to prevent our making use of it. Bales were piled everywhere; the rope and bagging cut, and tufts of cotton were blown about in the wind, lodged in the trees and against houses, so as to resemble a snow-storm. Some of these piles of cotton were burning, especially one in the very heart of the city, near the court-house; but the fire was partially subdued by the labor of our soldiers. During the day, the 15th corps passed through Columbia and out on the Camden road. The 17th did not enter the town at all; and, as I have before stated, the left wing and cavalry did not come within two miles of the town. Before one single public 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. About 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 saw Gens. Howard, Logan, 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 Gen. Wade Hampton with having burned his own city of Columbia; not with malicious intent, or as the manifestation of a silly “Roman stoicism,” but from 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
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