When Sherman Marched North from the Sea: Resistance on the Confederate Home Front

By Jacqueline Glass Campbell | Go to book overview

3 : THE MOST DIABOLICAL ACT
OF ALL THE BARBAROUS WAR

By mid-February 1865 Columbia's prewar population of eight thousand had tripled. The city contained a larger number of refugees than anywhere else in the state, including over one hundred female employees of the Treasury Note Department and numerous wealthy planter families from Charleston and the Carolina Low Country. They had been attracted by the city's “excellent transportation and communication facilities, hotels, boardinghouses, government ordnance plants, and laboratories.”1 Refugees who fled before Sherman's forces poured in daily. William Simms described roads lined with “wives and children, and horses and stock and cattle, seeking refuge from the pursuers.”2 Yet even as these fugitives spread tales of atrocities and the relentless progress of Sherman's men, the residents of Columbia believed that their strategic city would be defended to the hilt and “the inhabitants cherished their delusion, until it was dispelled by the sound of the Federal cannon at their gates.”3

When Sherman's arrival was imminent, mass confusion erupted in the capital city as government officials, military personnel, and civilians all fought to get their respective goods and persons out of town. At the railway station “car windows were smashed in, women and children pushed through, some head foremost, others feet foremost.” Others witnessed “surging pleading masses” of women and children begging to be taken aboard trains “jammed to suffocation.” So great was the chaos that by February 15 martial law was declared, and the last available transport out of the city was assigned to government property. From her haven in Lincolnton, North Carolina, Mary Chesnut heard that she had been one of the last refugees from Columbia who entered a train by the door. After that “women could only be

-58-

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When Sherman Marched North from the Sea: Resistance on the Confederate Home Front
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 3
  • 1: Savannah Has Gone Up the Spout 8
  • 2: Rocking the Cradle of Secession 31
  • 3: The Most Diabolical Act of All the Barbarous War 58
  • 4: God Save Us from the Retreating Friend and Advancing Foe 75
  • 5: With Grief, but Not with Shame 93
  • Epilogue 105
  • Notes 111
  • Bibliography 145
  • Index 167
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