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[156]

Letter from General Hampton on the burning of Columbia.

We propose at some future day to publish in full the facts concerning the burning of Columbia, and to fix beyond all controversy the responsibility for that outrage upon the laws of civilized warfare. But in the meantime we put on record the following letter which General Wade Hampton addressed to Senator Reverdy, Johnson and which he read in the United States Senate at the time:

Wold woods, Mississippi, April 21, 1866.
To Hon. Reverdy Johnson, United States Senate:
Sir — A few days ago I saw in the published proceedings of Congress that a petition from Benjamin Kawles, of Columbia, South Carolina, asking compensation for the destruction of his house by the Federal army in February, 1865, had been presented to the Senate, accompanied by a letter from Major-General Sherman.

In this letter General Sherman uses the following language:

The citizens of Columbia set fire to thousands of bales of cotton rolled out into the streets, and which were burning before we entered Columbia. I, myself, was in the city as. early as 9 o'clock, and I saw these fires, and knew that efforts were made to extinguish them, but a high and strong wind kept them alive.

I gave no orders for the burning of your city, but, on the contrary, the conflagration resulted from the great imprudence of cutting the cotton bales, whereby the contents were spread to the wind, so that it became an impossibility to arrest the fire.

I saw in your Columbia newspaper the printed order of General Wade Hampton, that on the approach of the Yankee army all the cotton should thus be burned, and from what I saw myself I have no hesitation in saying that he was the cause of the destruction of your city.

This same charge, made against me by General Sherman, having been brought before the Senate of the United States, I am naturally most solicitous to vindicate myself before the same tribunal. But my State has no representative in that body. Those who should be her constitutional representatives and exponents there are debarred the right of entrance into those halls. There are none who have the right to speak for the South; none to participate in the legislation which governs her; none to impose the taxes she is called upon to pay, and none to vindicate her sons from misrepresentation, injustice or slander.

Under these circumstances I appeal to you, in the confident hope you will use every effort to see that justice is done in this matter.

I deny, emphatically, that any cotton was fired in Columbia by any order.


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