previous next

[532] humanity, the defenseless city was burned to the ground, after the dwelling houses had been robbed of everything of value, and their helpless inmates subjected to outrage and insult of a character too base to be described.

Hypocrisy is the tribute which vice pays to virtue; therefore General Sherman has endeavored to escape the reproaches for the burning of Columbia by attributing it to General Hampton's order to burn the cotton in the city, that it might not fall into the hands of the enemy. General Hampton has proved circumstantially that General Sherman's statement is untrue, and, though in any controversy to which General Hampton may be a party, no corroborative evidence is necessary to substantiate his assertion of a fact coming within his personal observation, hundreds of unimpeachable witnesses have testified that the burning of Columbia was the deliberate act of the Federal soldiery, and that it was certainly permitted, if not ordered, by the commanding general. The following letter of General Hampton will to those who know him be conclusive:

Wild 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 for 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 nine o'clock, and I saw these fires, and knew that efforts were made to extinguish them, but a high and strong wind prevented. 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 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 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.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Columbia (South Carolina, United States) (6)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
W. T. Sherman (5)
Wade Hampton (5)
Benjamin Kawles (1)
Reverdy Johnson (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
April 21st, 1866 AD (1)
February, 1865 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: