James Ford Rhodes (1848–1927). History of the Civil War, 1861–1865. 1917.

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  which they were merely traversing and could not hope to occupy permanently. In the high circles of the army a bitter feeling existed against South Carolina as the cause of all the trouble of the past four years. “The whole army,” Sherman wrote, “is burning with an insatiable desire to wreak vengeance upon South Carolina. I almost tremble at her fate but feel that she deserves all that seems in store for her.” 1 With such sentiments at headquarters it is little wonder that the rank and file thought it legitimate to despoil the enemy and set fire to his houses: still most of these irregular acts were committed by stragglers. Sherman’s orders may probably be justified from the military point of view but they left loopholes for the mania for destruction; and the necessities of the case and the burden of responsibility resting upon him may have caused him to wink at the havoc wrought by his army. The evidence shows, however, that many of the general officers did their best to stop the depredations of their soldiers and some punishments were inflicted. From this statement must again be excepted Kilpatrick, whose command suffered no restraint and were forward in destruction and pillage.  2   The most notorious occurrence during this march was the partial destruction by fire of Columbia, the capital of South Carolina; but this was due neither to Sherman nor Wade Hampton nor any other Federal or Confederate officer. 2  3   The occupation of Columbia by Sherman compelled the abandonment of Charleston on February 18 by the Confederates. Efforts were made to collect a force which should be able to resist the Union Army but, in view of the steadily advancing host, they seem to have been puny and at any
Note 1. Dec. 24, 1864, O. R., XLIV, 741. [back]
Note 2. V, 90 et seq. Rhodes, Historical Essays. [back]