Twenty-fifth Iowa infantry, commanding third brigade, First division, Fifteenth corps. About the same time a small party of the Seventeenth corps had crossed the Congaree in a skiff, and entered Columbia from a point immediately west. In anticipation of the occupation of the city, I had made written orders to General Howard touching the conduct of the troops. These were to destroy, absolutely, all arsenals and public property not needed for our own use, as well as all railroads, depots, and machinery useful in war to an enemy, but to spare all dwellings, colleges, schools, asylums, and harmless private property. I was the first to cross the pontoon bridge, and in company with General Howard rode into the city. The day was clear, but a perfect tempest of wind was raging. The brigade of Colonel Stone was already in the city, and was properly posted. Citizens and soldiers were on the streets, and general good order prevailed. General Wade Hampton, who commanded the Confederate rear-guard of cavalry, had, in anticipation of our capture of Columbia, ordered that all cotton, public and private, should be moved into the streets and fired, to prevent our making use of it. Bales were piled everywhere, the rope and bagging cut, and tufts of cotton were blown about in the wind, lodged in the trees and against houses, so as to resemble a snow storm. Some of these piles of cotton were burning, especially one in the very heart of the city, near the Court-house, but the fire was partially subdued by the labor of our soldiers. During the day the Fifteenth corps passed through Columbia and out on the Camdenroad. The Seventeenth did not enter the town at all; and, as I have before stated, the left wing and cavalry did not come within two miles of the town. Before one single public building had been fired by order, the smoldering fires, set by Hampton's order, were rekindled by the wind, and communicated to the buildings around. About dark they began to spread, and got beyond the control of the brigade on duty within the city. The whole of Wood's division was brought in, but it was found impossible to check the flames, which, by midnight, had become unmanageable, and raged until about four A. M., when the wind subsiding, they were got under control. I was up nearly all night, and saw Generals Howard, Logan, Woods, and others, laboring to save houses and protect families thus suddenly deprived of shelter, and of bedding and wearing apparel. I disclaim on the part of my army any agency in this fire, but on the contrary, claim that we saved what of Columbia remains unconsumed. And without hesitation, I charge General Wade Hampton with having burned his own city of Columbia, not with a malicious intent, or as the manifestations of a silly “Roman stoicism,” but from folly and want of sense, in filling it with lint, cotton, and tinder. Our officers and men on duty worked well to extinguish the flames; but others not on duty, including 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. During the eighteenth and nineteenth, the arsenal, railroad depots machine shops, foundries, and other buildings were properly destroyed by detailed working parties, and the railroad track torn up and destroyed down to Kingsville and the Wateree bridge, and up in the direction of Winnsboro. At the same time the left wing and cavalry had crossed the Saluda and Broad rivers, breaking up the railroad about Alston, and as high up as the bridge across Broad river on the Spartanburg road, the main body moving straight for Winnsboro, which General Slocum reached on the twenty-first of February. He caused the railroad to be destroyed up to Blackstakes depot, and then turned to Rocky Mount, on the Catawba river. The Twentieth corps reached Rocky Mount on the twenty-second, laid a pontoon bridge, and crossed over during the twenty-third. Kilpatrick's cavalry followed, and crossed over in a terrible rain during the night of the twenty-third, and moved up to Lancaster, with orders to keep up the delusion of a general movement on Charlotte, North Carolina, to which General Beauregard and all the cavalry of the enemy had retreated from Columbia. I was also aware that Cheatham's corps, of Hood's old army, was aiming to make a junction with Beauregard at Charlotte, having been cut off by our rapid movement on Columbia and Winnsboro. From the twenty-third to the twenty-sixth we had heavy rains, swelling the rivers and making the roads almost impassable. The Twentieth corps reached Hanging Rock on the twenty-sixth,and waited there for the Fourteenth corps to get across the Catawba. The heavy rains had so swollen the river, that the pontoon bridge broke, and General Davis had very hard work to restore it and get his command across. At last he suceeded, and the left wing was all put in motion for Cheraw. In the mean time, the right wing had broken up the railroad to Winnsboro, and thence turned for Peay's ferry, where it was crossed over the Catawba before the heavy rains set in, the Seventeenth corps moving straight on Cheraw, via Young's bridge, and the Fifteenth corps by Tiller's and Kelly's bridges. From this latter corps, detachments were sent into Camden to burn the bridge over the Wateree, with the railroad depot, stores, &c. A small force of mounted men under Captain Duncan was also despatched to make a dash and interrupt the railroad from Charleston to Florence, but it met Butler s division of cavalry, and after a sharp night skirmish on Mount Elon, was compelled to return unsuccessful. Much bad road was encountered at Lynch's creek, which delayed the right wing about the same length of time as the left wing had been at the Catawba. On the second of March, the leading division of the Twentieth corps entered Chesterfield,
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Table of Contents:
Doc . 16 . operations in Tennessee .
Doc . 19 . the siege of Suffolk, Virginia .
Doc . 36 . General Rousseau 's expedition.
Doc . 59 . battles of Spottsylvania , Va: battle of Sunday , May 8 , 1864 .
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