Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Sack and Destruction of the City of Columbia, S. C. >> Chapter XI / Unsuccessful Attempts to Save Property—Females Ill-Treated—A Guard Performs His Duty—A Plucky Citizen—Families Quartered in the Streets—A Cool Proceeding—''A Big Drunk'' >> Page 20

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Journalism | Power Press of Daily Phœnix | 1865
Transcription 20 DESTRUCTION OF COLUMBIA.

CHAPTER XI.

UNSUCCESSFUL ATTEMPTS TO SAVE PROPERTY-FEMALES ILL-TREATED-A GUARD PERFORMS HIS DUTY-A PLUCKY CITIZEN-FAMILIES QUARTERED IN THE STREETS-A COOL PROCEEDING---" A BIG DRUNK. "

A single thought will suffice to show that the owners or lodgers in the houses thus sacrificed were not silent or quiet spectators of a conflagration which threw them naked and homeless under the skies of night. The male population, consisting mostly of aged men, invalids, decrepits, women and children, were not capable of very active or powerful exertions ; but they did not succumb to the fate without earnest pleas and strenuous efforts. Old men and women and children were to be seen, even while the flames were rolling and raging around them, while walls were crackling and rafters tottering and tumbling, in the endeavor to save their clothing and some of their most valuable effects. It was not often that they were suffered to succeed. They were driven out headlong.
Ladies were hustled from their chambers—their ornaments plucked from their persons, their bundles from their hands. It was in vain that the mother appealed for the garments of her children. They were torn from her grasp and hurled into the flames. The young girl striving to save a single frock, had it rent to fibres in her grasp. Men and women bearing off their trunks were seized, despoiled, in a moment the trunk burst asunder with the stroke of axe or gun-butt, the contents laid bare, rifled of all the objects of desire, and the residue sacrified to the fire. You might see the ruined owner, standing woe-begone, aghast, gazing at his tumbling dwelling, his scattered property, with a dumb agony in his face that was inexpressibly touching. Others you might hear, as we did, with wild blasphemies assailing the justice of Heaven, or invoking, with lifted and clenched hands, the fiery wrath of the avenger. But the soldiers plundered and drank, the fiery work raged, and the moon sailed over all with as serene an aspect as when she first smiled upon the ark resting against the slopes of Ararat.
Such was the spectacle for hours on the chief business street of Columbia.
We have intimated that, at an early hour in the day, almost every house