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.
It will be seen that Gen. Sherman
does not charge Hampton
with intending to burn the city, which he was confessedly unable to hold; nor does he deny that some of our men, not on duty, may have aided to extend the conflagration.
Nor does Beauregard
, who was Hampton
's superior in command at Columbia
, and who ordered its evacuation, indorse the charges against his successful antagonist.
Nor does Pollard
— who never misses an opportunity to defame the detested “ Yankees ” --directly accuse Sherman
of having ordered or desired the conflagration;, though he evidently wishes to convey the impression that he did. Here is his account of the capture:
A white flag, displayed from the steeple of the City Hall, announced the surrender of the town.
With bands playing, drum-corps beating, flags flying, and their men in step, the Yankee army marched down Main-street to the Capitol square.
No sooner had the enemy entered Columbia than a wild and savage scene of pillage commenced.
Stragglers, “bummers,” pontoon men, and the riffraff of the army, were to be met in every street and almost every house.
If they wanted a pair of boots, they took them from one's feet.
Watches were in constant demand — in several instances, being snatched from the persons of ladies.
Ear and finger rings were taken by force; and, in isolated cases, the dresses of ladies were torn from their bodies by villains who expected to find jewels or plate concealed.
Search for silver and provisions was made in every conceivable place.
Ramrods were used as probes to indicate where boxes were buried; and gardens, out-houses, cellars, garrets, chimneys, and nooks never thought of by anybody but a thief in search of plunder, were turned, so to speak, inside out. Rev. Mr. Shand, the Episcopalian clergyman, while conveying a trunk containing the communion service of silver from the church to the South Carolina College, was accosted by a Yankee and a negro, who compelled him, under threat of death, to give it up.
The conflagration which destroyed the city commenced about dusk.
The fire started near the rear of the jail.
A high wind prevailed; and, in a short time, the flames were in full and unconquerable progress, spreading rapidly in three directions — up and down Main-street, and eastwardly.
From 10 P. M. till 3 A. M., the scene was appalling.
The sky was one broad sheet of flame; above which, amid the lurid smoke, drifted in eddying circles a myriad of sparks: these falling, scattered the conflagration on every side.
The monotone of the roaring, leaping, hissing tongues of flame, as they careered on their wild course, alone filled hearts with dismay.
The air was like that of a furnace.
Many of the streets were impassable.
Frightened men, women, and children, ran in all directions; some only to flee again from the fresh attacks of the destroying element.
Property thrown out of houses was either burned or stolen.
Many of the Federal soldiers, maddened by liquor, dashed through the city with lighted torches to inflame the dwellings yet untouched.
Morning revealed, to some extent, the broad sweep of destruction.
Four thousand or more citizens were houseless and homeless.
From the State House to Cotton Town, and an average of two or three squares on each side of Main-street, nothing but blackened ruins remained.
Every vestige of that once busy street was gone.
After having completed, as far as possible, the destruction of Columbia, Sherman continued his march northward.
As the fall of Columbia
involved that of Charleston
, including Fort Sumter
and all its other defenses — Hardee
properly declining to be here isolated and consigned to capture at our convenience — and, as the scene destruction which marked that
evacuation has not even been charged to the Unionists we will copy Pollard
's graphic description of this also, as a companion-piece to that of Columbia
The movement of Sherman had already been decisive of the fate of Charleston.
Gen. Hardee, finding himself flanked at Charleston, and appreciating the instant necessity of effecting a junction with Beau-regard and Cheatham and concentrating all available forces in Sherman's path, resolved