Remembering the Burning of Columbia

Z12-16A, web
City of Columbia, SC, detail from Map Z12-16A, Griswold’s and Weld’s Surveys, National Archives and Records Administration


On January 18, 2015, I had the honor of giving a presentation at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room in Columbia, SC, entitled “For the First Time I Am Ashamed”: Rattled Yankees and Inconsolable Civilians in the Wake of the Burning of Columbia. This presentation was part of Historic Columbia Foundation’s ongoing commemorative activities celebrating the 150th anniversary of this pivotal event in South Carolina’s history. You can read more about those events at this website.

As the title implies, the presentation focused on civilian and soldier experiences of the fire, documenting an event far more horrific than recent historians have allowed. One of my major assertions was that it is time to revisit the characterization of this event by past scholars, most notably Marion B. Lucas in his 1976 book Sherman and the Burning of Columbia, which downplayed the extent of the destruction and dismissed many of the personal experiences of eyewitnesses on both sides of the conflict. Instead, as we pause to commemorate these events, we owe it to those who came before us to develop a more rigorous means for both quantifying and qualifying the extent of Columbia’s destruction. Indeed, I will be reaching out to scholars over the next several months to begin a project that will allow us to do exactly this.

I have had numerous requests from individuals and organizations who were not able to attend this event, asking to see a copy of my remarks. As a courtesy, I am attaching them in the PDF below. While you should feel free to download them for personal research use, they are protected by copyright, so I ask that you secure permission from me before reprinting, redistributing, or reposting them anywhere else.

Burning of Columbia presentation, Plaag, printed text


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