‘Though darkened with Sulphur’: the Charleston railroad depot, destroyed by explosion in 1865 These ruins form an impressive fulfilment of the prophecy in Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem. But it was not till near the end that the scene here preserved could meet the eye. It resulted from the evacuation of the city by the Confederate forces on February 17, 1865. This step had been taken with great reluctance. The movement of secession had begun at Charleston. The city was dear to every Southern heart. Yet military policy clearly dictated that the scattered troops in the Carolinas be concentrated against Sherman. Indeed, it would have been better policy to evacuate earlier. But sentiment is always powerful. Even Jefferson Davis said, ‘Such full preparation had been made that I had hoped for other and better results, and the disappointment to me is extremely bitter.’ When the Union troops from Morris Island arrived in Charleston the next morning, they found that the commissary depot had been blown up with the loss of two hundred lives, mostly of women and children. An officer reported ‘Public buildings, stores, warehouses, private dwellings, shipping, etc., were burning and being burned by armed Confederates.’ All the Negroes in the city were impressed by the Union officers to work the fire apparatus until all the fires were extinguished. But some of the fairest sections of Charleston were already in ruins.
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