Columbia, Burning of

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COLUMBIA, BURNING OF. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's Union army reached Columbia, South Carolina, on 17 February 1865, on its famous march through the Carolinas. That night, one-third of the city burned to the ground. Sherman claimed that the fire started initially from bales of cotton ignited by evacuating Confederates under Gen. Wade Hampton. Whatever the fire's origins, Columbia's civilian authorities, demoralized and scattered by the invasion, were unable to bring the blaze under control. Union soldiers spread the flames and plundered the city, wreaking vengeance on the capital of the first state to secede. In his memoirs Sherman dismissed the notion that he should have confined his men to camp to prevent the conflagration.


Glatthaar, Joseph T. The March to the Sea and Beyond. New York: New York University Press, 1985.

Lucas, Marion B. Sherman and the Burning of Columbia. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1976.

Royster, Charles. The Destructive War. New York: Knopf, 1991.

D. D.Wallace/a. r.

See alsoCivil War ; Sherman's March to the Sea .

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Columbia, Burning of