Columbia, Burning of | South Carolina Public Radio


"C" is for Columbia, Burning of (February 17-18, 1865). Columbia was in chaos when Mayor Thomas J. Goodwyn surrendered the city. Retreating Confederates set fire to the Charlotte Railroad depot. Cotton from broken bales was driven by strong winds all over the city. Locals offered wine and whiskey to Union troops. Throughout the day fires broke out in at least six locations downtown. Nourished by wooden buildings and a strong wind, the fire spread rapidly. As the fire spread, some Union soldiers engaged in frightful misconduct. By early morning on the 18th, the wind had died down and additional Union troops had restored order. In 1873, a claims commission investigating the events in Columbia assessed no blame. Though traumatic for all inhabitants, the tragic events of the burning of Columbia were an accident of war.

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