The Burning of Columbia is an interactive map and timeline of the destruction of South Carolina's capital city in the waning days of the Civil War. The narrative it presents is based on two sources: William Gilmore Simms's late-1865 pamphlet Sack and Destruction of the City of Columbia, S.C., and the second edition of Marion B. Lucas's scholarly history, Sherman and the Burning of Columbia. The destruction of Columbia is controversial, and this project does not attempt to make an argument about culpability for the fire. Rather, it does three things. First, this project provides background information about the circumstances surrounding the beginning of Sherman's "Carolinas Campaign," including his troop movements and the placement of Confederate forces. Second, it describes and illustrates the battle for control of the city, the chaos surrounding its evacuation and occupation, and the extent of the resulting destruction. Finally, the project superimposes the extent of the destruction from those few days in February 1865 over three maps from later in the nineteenth century--1869, 1872, and 1895--illustrating how the burning of Columbia may have affected the city's later development. Our hope is that this project will provide a powerful resource for understanding, discussing, and teaching this important moment in South Carolina's history.
Upon opening the site, users will see four different means for navigating through the narrative:
Users are free to engage the project however they see fit. However, a user wanting a linear presentation of the narrative should click through the waypoints sequentially, advancing the timeline when the last waypoint has been reached.
Return to The Burning of Columbia