Sherman’s March to the Sea

A new thing learned:  I didn’t know Columbia was burned in 1865 during Sherman’s March to the Sea .  This month marked the 146th anniversary.  The name is a little misleading as he apparently actually went from Atlanta to Savannah, then turned around and came back through South Carolina and up into North Carolina. So technically I guess he’d already been to the Sea and was headed back North.

This link I found on a Columbia tourist blog, describes the history:

Having successfully completed his march to the sea by capturing Savannah in December of 1864, Union Major General William Tecumseh Sherman planned his invasion of South Carolina. His target was Columbia, the state capital where the secession movement began and considered by Sherman’s generals to the be a richer prize and more important capture than any city in the South. On January 30, 1865, Sherman’s 65,000-man army launched the invasion moving ten to twelve miles a day, burning a swath sixty miles wide in grim determination readily viewed as retribution. An abundance of alcohol greeted the Union army as it entered Columbia on February 17, 1865. Vengeful attitude fueled by drunkenness culminated in the looting and burning of the city–an act described by a Union war correspondent as “the most monstrous barbarity of the barbarous march.” Visit for a video documentary of first-hand accounts of Sherman’s March to Columbia and the burning of the city.

and this one also gives some insight:

Still, the real devastation did not begin until Sherman’s men hit South Carolina in February 1865. The March to the Sea had been total war, but it had been conducted almost as a philosophical exercise. We must break the will of these people to resist, we must show them that they cannot continue to fight us. If some eggs get broken — or eaten — well, we’re sorry about that. The march through South Carolina was different. Sherman, Sherman’s army, Northerners in general, hated South Carolina. South Carolina was — and obviously quite deservedly so — the symbol of Southern secessionist defiance. When the army entered South Carolina, it was total war with a vengeance, not just burning and looting and destroying, but burning, looting, and destroying with conviction. The capital city of Columbia was burned. The army said it was an accident, and it seems clear today that it was, but many of Sherman’s troops agreed that if the accident had not taken place they would have done it on purpose. At least 13 other cities were burned. Right before the army left Savannah, Sherman wrote, “Don’t forget that when you have crossed the Savannah River you will be in South Carolina. You need not be so careful there about private property as we have been. The more of it you destroy the better it will be. The people of South Carolina should be made to feel the war, for they brought it on and are responsible more than anybody else for our presence here. Now is the time to punish them.”

Given this history, it seems a little weird for the city to invite everyone to an event commemorating the invasion and describe it as:”:  a full day of fun activities for all ages will begin with Union canon firing once again upon the South Carolina State House. Join the troops as a spectator on the West Columbia side of the Gervais Street Bridge on the left.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned during my short tenure as a South Carolinian, ANY excuse for BBQ and beer is a good reason to celebrate.



Filed under New Learning

2 responses to “Sherman’s March to the Sea

  1. Pingback: Strange Google Searches | One New Thing

  2. what sherman allowed to happen as his armies marched north thru s. carolina would nowadays land him and most of his senior commanders in jail and on trial for war crimes. his troops knew upon leaving savannah that they would be given free rein to vent their anger upon the civilians of the state.. and who’s buying the escuse that columbia burned by accident?

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