Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 08.djvu/221
Burning of Columbia. 209
first division that came in soon got as drunk as the first regiment that occupied the town.' 'Then sir,' said General Sherman, ' go and bring in the second division ; I hold you personally responsi- ble for its immediate cessation.' The officer darted off and Sher- man bade me good evening. I am sure it was not more than an hour and a half from the time that General Sherman gave his order before the city was cleared of the destroyers." From that time until the departure of General Sherman from Columbia (with perhaps one or two exceptions) not another dwelling in it was burned by his soldiers, and during the succeeding days and nights of his occupation perfect tranquility prevailed throughout the town. The discipline of his troops was perfect, the soldiers standing in great awe of their officers.
That Columbia was burned by the soldiers of General Sherman, that the vast majority of the incendiaries were sober, that for hours they were seen with combustibles firing house after house, without any affectation of concealment, and without the slightest check from their officers, is established by proof full to repletion and wearisome from its very superfluity. After the destruction of the town, his officers and men openly approved of its burning and exulted in it. "I saw," deposes the Mayor, "very few drunken soldiers that night ; many who appeared to sympathise with our people told me that the fate and doom of Columbia had been common talk around their camp-fires ever since they left Savannah." It was said by numbers of the soldiers that the order had been given to burn down the city. There is strong evidence that such an order was actually issued in relation to the house of General fohn S. Preston. The Ursuline Convent was destroyed by the fire and the proof referred to comes from a revered and honored mem- ber of that holy sisterhood (the Mother Superior) and is subjoined in her own words: "Our convent was consumed in the general mflagration of Columbia, ourselves and pupils were forced to fly, leaving provision, clothing and almost everything. We spent the night in the open air in the church-yard. On the following morn- ing General Sherman made us a visit, expressed his regret at the mrning of our convent, disclaimed the act, attributing it to the intoxication of his soldiers, and told me to choose any house in town for a convent and it should be ours. He deputed his Adju- int-General, Colonel Ewing, to act in his stead. Colonel Ewing jminded us of General Sherman's offer to give us any house in /olumbia we might choose for a convent. ' We have thought of 2