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Encyclopedia > Columbia, South Carolina, in the Civil War
Ruins, as seen from the State House, 1865
Ruins, as seen from the State House, 1865

The Southern United States city of Columbia, South Carolina, was an important political and supply center for the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. Much of the town was destroyed by Union forces under Major General William T. Sherman during the Carolinas Campaign in the last months of the war. Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1534x1000, 383 KB)Ruins seen from the capitol, Columbia, South Carolina, 1865. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1534x1000, 383 KB)Ruins seen from the capitol, Columbia, South Carolina, 1865. ... Historic Southern United States. ... Nickname: The Big Friendly, The Capital of Southern Hospitality, The Metro Location in Richland County, South Carolina Country United States State South Carolina Counties Richland and Lexington Government  - Mayor Bob Coble (D) Area  - City  133. ... Some Confederate soldiers The Confederate States Army (CSA) was formed in February 1861 to defend the Confederate States of America, which had itself been formed that same year when seven Southern states seceded from the United States (four more states soon followed). ... This article is becoming very long. ... The 21st Michigan Infantry, a company of Shermans veterans. ... Insignia of a United States Air Force Major General German Generalmajor Insignia Major General is a military rank used in many countries. ... Portrait of William Tecumseh Sherman by Mathew Brady William Tecumseh Sherman (February 8, 1820 – February 14, 1891) was an American soldier, businessman, and author. ... Sherman in South Carolina: The burning of McPhersonville. ...


Early Civil War history

Columbia became chartered as a city in 1854 and soon grew at a rapid pace, as throughout the 1850s and 1860s Columbia was the largest inland city in the Carolinas. Railroad transportation served as a significant cause of population expansion in Columbia during this time. Rail lines that reached the city in the 1840s were first and foremost interested in transporting cotton bales, not passengers. Cotton was the lifeblood of the Columbia community, as before the Civil War, directly or indirectly, virtually all of the city's commercial and economic activity was related to cotton. The Carolinas is a collective term used in the United States to refer to the States of North and South Carolina together. ... Cotton ready for harvest. ...

Columbia's First Baptist Church hosted the South Carolina Secession Convention on December 17, 1860, with delegates selected a month earlier at Secession Hill. The delegates drafted a resolution in favor of secession without dissent, 159-0. Columbia's location made it an ideal location for other conventions and meetings within the Confederacy. During the ensuing Civil War, bankers, railroad executives, teachers, and theologians from several states met in the city from time to time to discuss certain matters. December 17 is the 351st day of the year (352nd in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 1860 is the leap year starting on Sunday. ... For other uses, see Secession (disambiguation). ... Motto: Deo Vindice (Latin: Under God, Our Vindicator) Anthem: God Save the South (unofficial) Dixie (traditional) The Bonnie Blue Flag (popular) Capital Montgomery, Alabama (until May 29, 1861) Richmond, Virginia (May 29, 1861–April 2, 1865) Danville, Virginia (from April 3, 1865) Language(s) English (de facto) Government Republic President...

Castle Sorghum was a Confederate prisoner of war camp established in 1862. It consisted of a 5-acre tract of open field, without walls, fences, buildings, or any other facilities. A "deadline" was established by laying wood planks 10 feet inside the camp's boundaries. The rations consisted of cornmeal and sorghum molasses as the main staple in the diet, thus the camp became known as "Camp Sorghum." Due to the lack of any security features, escapes were common. Conditions were terrible, with little food, clothing or medicine, and disease claimed a number of lives among both the prisoners and their guards. Prisoner of War camps Contents // Categories: Substubs | Prisons and detention centres ...

The burning of Columbia

Following the Battle of Rivers' Bridge (February 3, 1865, the Confederate division of Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws attempted to prevent the crossing of the Salkehatchie River by the right wing of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman's Union army. The Union division under Maj. Gen. Francis P. Blair (Howard's army) crossed the river and assaulted McLaws's flank. McLaws withdrew to Branchville, causing only one day's delay in the Union advance. Combatants United States of America Confederate States of America Commanders Frank Blair Lafayette McLaws Strength 5,000 1,200 Casualties 92 170 The Battle of Rivers Bridge was a Union victory during the American Civil War. ... February 3 is the 34th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... 1865 (MDCCCLXV) is a common year starting on Sunday. ... Symbol of the Polish 1st Legions Infantry Division in NATO code A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of around ten to twenty thousand soldiers. ... Lafayette McLaws Lafayette McLaws ( January 15, 1821 – July 24, 1897) was a U.S. Army officer and a Confederate general in the American Civil War. ... The Salkehatchie River originates near the City of Barnwell, South Carolina and accepts drainage from Turkey Creek and Whippy Swamp before merging with the Little Salkehatchie River to form the Combahee River Basin, which empties into Saint Helena Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. ... Francis Preston Blair (April 12, 1791 – October 18, 1876), American journalist and politician, was born at Abingdon, Virginia. ... Branchville is a town located in Orangeburg County, South Carolina. ...

Bronze star on the State House depicting an artillery strike
Bronze star on the State House depicting an artillery strike

On February 17, 1865, Columbia surrendered to Sherman, and Wade Hampton's Confederate cavalry retreated from the city. Union forces were overwhelmed by throngs of liberated Federal prisoners and emancipated African Americans. Many soldiers took advantage of ample supplies of liquor in the city and began to drink. Fires began in the city, and high winds spread the flames across a wide area. Most of the central city was destroyed, and the city's fire companies found it difficult to operate in conjunction with the invading Union army, many of whom were also trying to put out the fire. The burning of Columbia has engendered controversy ever since, with some claiming the fires were accidental, others stating they were a deliberate act of vengeance, and others claiming that the fires were set by retreating Confederate soldiers who lit bales of cotton on their way out of town. On that same day, the Confederates evacuated Charleston. On February 18, Sherman's forces destroyed virtually anything of military value in Columbia, including railroad depots, warehouses, arsenals, and machine shops. Among the buildings burned were the old South Carolina State House and the interior of the incomplete new State House. February 17 is the 48th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1865 (MDCCCLXV) is a common year starting on Sunday. ... Wade Hampton III during the Civil War Wade Hampton III (March 28, 1818 – April 11, 1902) was a Confederate cavalry leader during the American Civil War and afterwards a politician from South Carolina, representing it as governor and U.S. Senator. ... Soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback in combat are commonly known as cavalry (from French cavalerie). ... An African American (also Afro-American, Black American, or simply black) is a member of an ethnic group in the United States whose ancestors, usually in predominant part, were indigenous to Africa. ... February 18 is the 49th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. ... South Carolina State House South Carolina State House The South Carolina State House is the State Capitol building of the U.S. state of South Carolina. ...

Legend has it, Columbia's First Baptist Church missed by a hair from being torched by Sherman's troops. As the story goes, the soldiers marched up to the church and asked the groundskeeper if he could direct them to the location of the church where the declaration of secession was signed. The loyal grounds keeper directed the men to another church, a Methodist church, located nearby; thus, the historic landmark avoided being destroyed by Union soldiers.

Controversy surrounding the burning of the city started soon after the war ended. General Sherman blamed the high winds and retreating Confederate soldiers for firing bales of cotton, which had been stacked in the streets. Sherman denied ordering the burning, though he did order militarily significant structures, such as the Confederate Printing Plant, destroyed. Firsthand accounts by local residents, Union soldiers, and a newspaper reporter offer a tale of revenge by Union troops for Columbia's and South Carolina's pivotal role in leading Southern states to secede from the Union, whereas other accounts (as documented in, for example, James W. Loewen's Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong) portray it as mostly the fault of the Confederacy. In this map:  Union states prohibiting slavery  Union territories  Border states on the Union side which allowed slavery  Kansas, which entered and fought with the Union as a free state after the Bleeding Kansas crisis  The Confederacy  Confederate claimed and sometimes held territories During the American Civil War, the Union... James (Jim) W. Loewen PhD is an author, historian, and professor. ...

During Reconstruction, Columbia became the focus of considerable attention. Reporters, journalists, travelers, and tourists flocked to South Carolina's capital city to witness a Southern state legislature whose members included ex-slaves. The city also made somewhat of a rebound following the devastating fire of 1865; a mild construction boom took place within the first few years of Reconstruction, and repair of railroad tracks in outlying areas created jobs for area citizens. // Reconstruction was the process in U.S. history that attempted to resolve the issues of the American Civil War when both the Confederacy and slavery were destroyed. ...

Notable Civil War personalities from Columbia

Brigadier General Maxcy Gregg Maxcy Gregg (August 1, 1814 - December 15, 1862) was a lawyer, and Confederate Brigadier General during the American Civil War. ... A Brigadier General, or one-star general, is the lowest rank of general officer in the United States and some other countries, ranking just above Colonel and just below Major General. ... Combatants United States of America Confederate States of America Commanders Ambrose E. Burnside Robert E. Lee Strength Army of the Potomac ~114,000 engaged Army of Northern Virginia ~72,500 engaged Casualties 12,653 (1,284 killed, 9,600 wounded, 1,769 captured/missing) 5,377 (608 killed, 4,116... Colonel (IPA: or ) is a military rank of a commissioned officer, with the corresponding ranks existing in nearly every country in the world. ... In military science a brigade is a military unit that is part of a division and includes regiments (where that level exists), or (in modern armies) is composed of several battalions (typically two to four) and directly attached supporting units. ...

Civil War tourism

  • The Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum showcases an artifact collection from the Colonial period to the space age. The museum houses a wonderful collection of artifacts from the South Carolina Confederate period.
  • The copper-domed granite State House wears six bronze stars to mark hits from Sherman's cannons.
  • Today, tourists can follow the path General Sherman's army took to enter the city and see structures or remnants of structures that survived the fire. A Civil War walking tour is available.

This article is becoming very long. ... Download high resolution version (1537x998, 374 KB)The ruins of Mills House and nearby buildings, Charleston, South Carolina A shell-damaged carriage and the remains of a brick chimney in the foreground. ... A photograph taken on Public Square of hundreds of Cleveland veterans from the American Civil War in 1865 Cleveland, Ohio, was an important Northern city during the American Civil War. ... President Lincoln insisted that construction of the U.S. Capitol continue during the Civil War. ... Baltimore on April 19, 1861 The Baltimore riot of 1861 (also called the Pratt Street Riot and the Pratt Street Massacre) was an incident that took place on April 19, 1861 in Baltimore, Maryland between Confederate sympathizers and infantrymen of the United States Army. ... Louisville in the Civil War During the American Civil War, Louisville was a major stronghold of Union forces, which kept Kentucky firmly in the Union. ... The city of Romney, Virginia (now West Virginia) traded hands between the Union Army and Confederate States Army dozens of times during the American Civil War. ... Atlanta, Georgia, was an important rail and commercial center during the American Civil War. ... The ruins of Mills House and nearby buildings, Charleston A shell-damaged carriage and the remains of a brick chimney in the foreground. ... Nashville, Tennessee, was among the leading cities of the Confederate States of America, one that symbolized control of the Upper South. ... Panoramic View of New Orleans-Federal Fleet at Anchor in the River, ca. ... Location Location in the State of Virginia Coordinates , Government Country State County United States Virginia Independent city Founded December 17, 1748 Mayor Annie M. Mickens Geographical characteristics Area     City 60. ... Shells of the buildings of Richmond, silhouetted against a dark sky after the destruction by Confederates, 1865. ... Combatants United States of America Confederate States of America Commanders Ulysses S. Grant John C. Pemberton Strength 70,000 30,000 Casualties 10,142 9,091 (30,000 paroled) The Battle of Vicksburg, or Siege of Vicksburg, was the final significant battle in the Vicksburg Campaign of the American Civil... Region down Cape Fear River Wilmington, North Carolina, was a major Atlantic Ocean port city for the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. ...


  • Eicher, David J., The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War, Simon & Schuster, 2001, ISBN 0-684-84944-5.



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