The Evacuation of  Charleston
What happened in the days leading up to the surrender of Charleston, and the death of Lizzie Skipper

The Burning of Columbia
When the capital of South Carolina fell to Sherman, southern fears were realized

The Suders of Charleston
William Henry Suder was transporting soldiers to safety when his engine exploded days before the end of the Civil War

The Orphan House of Charleston
When Willie and John were left without parents in the devastated southern city at the end of the war, they became inmates of the famous institution

The City In Ruins
Charleston was photographed by the Union Navy in April 1865, creating an awesome record of a city in ruins

Columbia Was Shattered After Rebel Retreat

The citizens of Charleston would not learn about the surrender and burning of the capital until later, but on the night of February 15, the first of Sherman’s Union soldiers reached the Congaree River across from Columbia.

The next day they aimed their artillery on the State House across the river and began shelling the city. On the morning of Friday, February 17, the mayor of Columbia surrendered the city to Sherman as Beauregard withdrew his defending troops north. There was no expected defense, so Sherman promised he would not order the city destroyed.

That day and night much of Columbia’s downtown burned, but the fires were started by the retreating rebel army, and whipped by the winds that day.  In the evening, angry Union soldiers added to the problem. Sherman claimed to have never ordered any action, and that rebel fires were uncontrollable.

The retreating Confederates started fires around the city, destroying supplies and burning stored cotton bales in the streets to keep the Union army from following. Some civilians reported that Union soldiers helped extinguish those earlier fires even though high winds continued throughout the day.

That night, some Union soldiers left camp and came into town to drink and pillage. According to reports by residents, many soldiers stayed to protect the civilians from the unmanaged rage. Sherman claimed the winds spread rebel fires and burned the city, but he was accused of not confining his men to camp.

The burning of Columbia became a major Sherman horror story retold be Southerners to this day, second only to the Battle of Atlanta.  But Beauregard had no problem ordering the streets set on fire, and he was never accused of the city’s destruction.


In the April 8, 1865, edition of Harpers Weekly, the burning of Columbia, South Carolina, was illustrated for its Northern readers.


The center of Columbia is seen from the steps of the state house sfter the war ended in April 1865.



© Bill Draper. All Rights Reserved.