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[533]

I deny, emphatically, that any cotton was fired in Columbia by my order. I deny that the citizens ‘set fire to thousands of bales rolled out into the streets.’ I deny that any cotton was on fire when the Federal troops entered the city. I most respectfully ask of Congress to appoint a committee, charged with the duty of ascertaining and reporting all the facts connected with the destruction of Columbia, and thus fixing upon the proper author of that enormous crime the infamy he richly deserves. I am willing to submit the case to any honest tribunal. Before any such I pledge myself to prove that I gave a positive order, by direction of General Beauregard, that no cotton should be fired; that not one bale was on fire when General Sherman's troops took possession of the city; that he promised protection to the city, and that, in spite of his solemn promise, he burned the city to the ground, deliberately, systematically, and atrociously. I, therefore, most earnestly request that Congress may take prompt and efficient measures to investigate this matter fully. Not only is this due to themselves and to the reputation of the United States army, but also to justice and to truth. Trusting that you will pardon me for troubling you, I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Were this the only instance of such barbarity perpetrated by General Sherman's army, his effort to escape the responsibility might be more successful, because more plausible; when, however, the eulogists of his exploits note exultingly that ‘wide-spreading columns of smoke rose wherever the army went,’ when it is incontrovertibly true that the line of his march could be traced by the burning dwelling houses and by the wail of women and children pitilessly left to die from starvation and exposure in the depth of winter, his plea of ‘not guilty’ in the case of the city of Columbia can not free him from the reprobation which outraged humanity must attach to an act of cruelty which finds a parallel only in the barbarous excesses of Wallenstein's army in the Thirty Years War, and which, even at that period of the world's civilization, sullied the fame of that otherwise great soldier.

In consequence of General Sherman's movements, it was considered advisable to evacuate Charleston (February 17th), that General Hardee's command might become available for service in the field; thus that noble city and its fortresses, which the combined military and naval forces of the United States, during an eighteen months siege, had failed to reduce, and which will stand forever as imperishable monuments of the skill and fortitude of their defenders, were, on February 21st, without resistance, occupied by the Federal forces under General Q. A. Gillmore.

Fort Sumter, though it now presented the appearance of a ruin, was really better proof against bombardment than when first subjected to fire. The upper tier of masonry, from severe battering, had fallen on the outer wall, and shot and shell served only to solidify and add harder

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