Columbia Aflame “… as a slight revenge on the Confederates for their cruelty”

Consider this from the 1st Missouri Engineers (emphasis mine):

February 17, 1865.  The men began at daylight to lay the bridge across the Broad River, in which we were delayed for some time waiting for the skirmishers to drive away the enemy from the wooded cover on the opposite side. We received twelve boats from the Army of Georgia.  The bridge was completed at noon; length of this bridge 540 feet.  The bridge at the Saluda was taken up at 10 p.m., and parked at the east side of the Broad River, and many of the men wandered up to Columbia, which place was on fire and burning up house after house; long lines of cotton bales had been strung through the main street, cut open and fired by the Confederates when they left; there were probably several thousand bales thus fired in the middle of the streets.  The wind was blowing quite strongly, and great tufts of the blazing cotton were hurled here and there among the wooden buildings.  It was at this time that some of our First Missouri Engineers, who had their homes and families despoiled in the region of Rolla, Missouri, gathered in bunches of this burning cotton and flung it down in various houses, as a slight revenge on the Confederates for their cruelty.  The names of not one of these men are known.

Nor would any scribe have recorded their names.

We have a tendency to artificially divide the prosecution of the war by theaters.  You will hear the counter that out in the Trans-Mississippi was a “different case” and behavior of combatants there was not representative the larger contest.  I think that a false separation we have erected for the ease of our studies.  “Hard War” was a product of escalations as the war intensified.  Be it Greenton or Rolla, events from Missouri influenced public and military opinions.  Far from being a “different case,” the fighting in the Trans-Mississippi was directly influential upon, and at the same time influence by, the fighting in other sectors of the war.  We cannot disconnect the burning of Lawrence, Kansas from that of Columbia, South Carolina.

Again, we see those long-carried grudges being off-loaded in South Carolina.

(Citation William A. Neal, An illustrated History of the Missouri Engineer and the 25th Infantry Regiments, Chicago: Donohue & Henneberry, 1889, page 168.)

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

3 thoughts on “Columbia Aflame “… as a slight revenge on the Confederates for their cruelty”

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