Today in History:

21 Series I Volume XLVII-I Serial 98 - Columbia Part I


their cavalry squads, but I checked his firing, limiting him to a few shots at the unfinished State-house walls, and a few shells at the railroad depot to scatter the people who were seen carrying away sacks of corn and meal that we needed. There was no white flag or manifestation of surrender. I directed General Howard not to cross directly in front of Columbia, but to cross the Saluda at the factory, three miles above, and afterward Broad River, so as to approach Columbia from the north. Within an hour of the arrival of General Howard's head of column at the river opposite Columbia, the head of column of the Left Wing also appeared, and I directed General Slocum to cross the Saluda at Zion Church, and thence to take roads direct to Winnsborough, breaking up, en route, the railroads and bridges about Alston.

General Howard effected a crossing of the Saluda, near the factory, on the 16th, skirmishing with cavalry, and the same night made a flying bridge across Broad River, about three miles above Columbia, by which he crossed over Stone's brigade, of Woods' division, Fifteenth Corps. Under cover of this brigade a pontoon bridge was laid on the morning of the 17th. I was in person at this bridge, and at 11 a.m. learned that the mayor of Columbia had come out in a carriage and made a formal surrender of the city to Colonel Stone, 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 Camden road. 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, to smouldering 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 Woods' division was brought in, but it was found impossible to check the flames which, by midnight, had become unmanageable, and raged until about 4 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 even of bedding