The Burning of Columbia — The Rest of the Story

“Then sir we will give them the bayonet”

Al Mackey has suddenly changed his attack from the Sons of Confederate veterans to the burning of Columbia, S. C.

This time he is attacking Wade Hampton and Prof.Marion B. Lucas, Sherman and the Burning of Columbia,  the SCV and anyone else he can think of. Giving Mackey credit, he cites several sources, however they are cherry picked to support his point of view. let’s take a look at what Mackey DID NOT post.

1. From W. T. Sherman’s Memoirs


“General Howard will cross the Saluda and Broad Rivers as near their mouths as possible, occupy Columbia, destroy the public buildings, railroad property, manufacturing and machine shops; but will spare libraries, asylums, and private dwellings. He will then move to Winnsboro’, destroying en route utterly that section of the railroad. He will also cause all bridges, trestles, water-tanks, and depots on the railroad back to the Wateree to be burned, switches broken, and such other destruction as he can find time to accomplish consistent with proper celerity.”

“This whole subject has since been thoroughly and judicially investigated, in some cotton cases, by the mixed commission on American and British claims, under the Treaty of Washington, which commission failed to award a verdict in favor of the English claimants, and thereby settled the fact that the destruction of property in Columbia, during that night, did not result from the acts of the General Government of the United States–that is to say, from my army. In my official report of this conflagration, I distinctly charged it to General Wade Hampton, and confess I did so pointedly, to shake the faith of his people in him, for he was in my opinion boastful, and professed to be the special champion of South Carolina.”
We can see by Sherman’s own statement that his intent was to fire and  destroy Columbia and  to blame Gen. Wade Hampton for the fire and destruction, even if Hampton was not guilty Not much left to be said about the incident after reading the firebug’s own words However here are some excellent websites, go there read and decide for yourself—

Looking in the Offical Records we find this report by one of Sherman’s own officers—

OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 47, Part 1 (Columbia)
Numbers 5. Report of Bvt. Brigadier General Orlando, M. Poe, Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army, Chief Engineer. WASHINGTON, D. C., October 8, 1865.

SIR: *

Third. The campaign from Savannah, Ga., to Goldsborough, N. C., from January 25, 1865, to March 22, 1865.

—————— Page 170
Left Wing pontoon bridge was built over the Saluda at Zion Church, nine and one-half miles above Columbia, and some force crossed. On the 17th a pontoon bridge was built just above the ruins of the former bridge over Broad River, three miles above Columbia, and the Right Wing crossed to the north bank and occupied the city, the greater part of which was burned during the night. Many reasons are given for this flagrant violation of General Sherman’s orders, but, as far as I could judge, it was principally due to the fact that the citizens gave liquor to the troops until they were crazily drank and beyond the control of their officers. The burning cotton, fired by retreating rebels, and the presence of a large number of escaped.

Sherman denies the burning of Columbia so does Hampton. —

Wade Hampton’s letter to W.T. Sherman OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 47, Part 2 (Columbia)

Page 596 OPERATIONS IN N. C., S. C., S. GA., AND E. FLA. Chapter LIX.

In the Field, February 27, 1865.

Major General W. T. SHERMAN, U. S. Army:

GENERAL: Your communication of the 24th instant reached me to-day. In it you state that it has been officially reported that your foraging parties are “murdered: after capture. You go onto say that you have “ordered a similar number of prisoners in our hands to be disposed of in like manner; ” that is to say, you have ordered a number of Confederate soldiers to be “marked. ” You characterize your order in proper terms, for the public voice, even in your own country, where it seldom dares to express itself in vindication of truth, honor, or justice, will surely agree with you in pronouncing you guilty of murder of your order is carried out. Before dismissing this portion of your letter, I beg to assure you that for every soldier of mine “murdered” by you, I shall have executed at once two of yours, giving in all cases preference to any offices who may be in my hands.

In reference to the statement you make regarding the death of your foragers, I have only to say that I know nothing of it; that no orders given by me authorize the killing of prisoners after capture, and that I do not believe my men killed any of yours, except under circumstances in which it was perfectly legitimate and proper that they should kill them. It is a part of the system of the thieves whom you designate as your foragers to fire the dwellings of those citizens whom they have robbed. To check this inhuman system, which is justly execrated by every civilized nation, I have directed my men to shoot down all of your men who are caught burning houses. This order shall remain in force so long as you disgrace the profession of arms by allowing your men to destroy private dwellings.

You say that I cannot, of course, question your right to forage on the country- “It is a right as old as history. ” I do not, sir, question this right. But there is a right older, even, than this, and one more inalienable – the right that every man has to defend his home and to protect those who are dependent on him; and from my heart I wish that every old man and boy in my country who can fire a gun would shoot down, as he would a wild beast, the men who are desolating their land, burning their homes, and insulting their women.

You are particular in defending and claiming “war rights. ” May I ask if you enumerate among these the right to fire upon a defensess city without notice; to burn that city to the ground after it had been

page 597—

surrendered by the inhabitants who claimed, though in vain, that protection which is always accorded in civilized warfare to non-combatants; to fire the dwelling houses of citizen after robbing them; and the petrate even darker crimes than these – crimes too black to be mentioned?

You have permitted, if your have not ordered, the commissioned of these offenses against humanity and the rules of war; you fired into the city of Columbia without a word of warning; after its surrender by the mayor, who demanded protection to private property, you laid the whole city in ashes, leaving amidst its ruins thousands of old men and helpless women and children, who are likely to perish of starvation and exposure. Your line of march can be traced by the lurid light of burning houses, and in more than one household there is now an agony far more bitter than that of death. The Indian scalped his victim regardless of age or sex, but with all his barbarity he always respected the persons of his female captives. Your soldiers, more savage than the Indian, insult those whose natural protectors are absent.

In conclusion, I have only to request that whenever you have any of my men “murdered” or “dospised of,” for the terms appear to be synonymous with you, you will let me hear of it, that I may know what action to take in the matter. In the meantime I shall hold fifty-six of your men as hostages for those whom you have ordered to be executed.

I am, yours, &c.,



In conclusion I would say the guilty party is more than likely Sherman, we have his history of destruction throughout the South by his bummers,his hate of the Southern people,eyewitness accounts and a statement from one of his officers. Al Mackey says one cannot believe the neo-Confederates, which I am proud to be one, or the Sons Of Confederate Veterans. That being the case looking at Mackey’s past biased posts on his blog one cannot believe a bigoted neo-yankee like Al Mackey, Sherman or anyone else that supports the blue side. They are all liars


2 thoughts on “The Burning of Columbia — The Rest of the Story

  1. Mackey’s argument is much more compelling. He also included a lot of your assertions, plus there really isn’t anything in your citation that suggests Sherman intended to destroy Colombia and blame Hampton.

    • Rob you are entitled to your opinion, but look at his officers report, he clearly blames the Union troopers, In Sherman’s memoirs he states fully intended to blame Hampton to shake the Southern peoples faith in him. It is almost as if he gave the order himself. Then we have the websites I posted with eyewittnesses. Looks pretty commpelling to me.

      Congrats on your work with with the Georgia Historical group. Good Job


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