Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 14: No 1) >> Verification of Simms's Account of the Burning of Columbia >> Page 33

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Secondary Scholarship | 2006
Transcription VERIFICATIONS OF SIMMS'S ACCOUNT
OF THE BURNING OF COLUMBIA


Several years ago Dr. Dianne Luce sent the editor of The Simms Review
the following notes of parallel passages from Simms's Sack and Destruction
and eye-witness accounts as published in South Carolina Women in the
Confederacy (Columbia: The State, 1903). Owing to the recent publication
of Dr. David Aiken's new edition of Simms's A City Laid Waste, it is timely
that we publish Dr. Luce's notes here. Dr. Luce's "notes" were just that,
but they are so persuasive in proving the veracity of Simms's account that
we feel they deserve to be put on record.


Themes

Union men warning or taunting Southerners that Columbia is destined to be destroyed:

"[A] certain major of the Yankee army ... had some specious argument to show [Lady Superior of the
Ursuline convent] that ... her guard had better be one of Protestants. This suggestion staggered the lady a
little, but he seemed to convey a more potent reason, when he added, in a whisper: `For I must tell you, my
sister, that Columbia is a doomed city!' (Simms 38-39; cf. also 85).

"Major FitzGibbons ... presented himself to the reverend mother as a Catholic, [and] he offered any
necessary help.... [H]e insisted earnestly, telling them that the ruin of Columbia had been determined; or
that at least the army thought so, and that he himself doubted if one house would be spared" ("An Ursuline
Nun," SCWC 289-90).

"[T]he cavalry officer proffered assistance to the mother superior, as an `individual' .... He continued to
press his services, telling the mother superior that Columbia was a doomed city, and the whole army knew
it, and he doubted if a house would be left standing" (Sarah Aldrich Richardson, SCWC 299-300).

"Long before the army left Savannah, a lady inquired of one of the Federal Generals in that city, whither
she should retire—mentioning her preference of Columbia. His reply was significant. 'Go anywhere but to
Columbia" (Simms 85).

"A Federal officer whom she [Mrs. John Church] had known well in former years, and who had befriended
her in Savannah, had advised her, while giving her her passports, not to be caught by the Union Army in
any city or town of South Carolina, and most especially not in Columbia—`it was the cradle of secession
and must be punished"' (Harriott Ravenel, SCWC 321).

"[I]fa number of men were fighting over a trunk or a closet, spoiling more than they stole, and I would go
and stand by, not saying a word, but looking on, they would become quiet, and would cease plundering, and
would sometimes stop to tell me they were sorry for the women and children, but South Carolina must be
destroyed. South Carolina and her sins was the burden o f their song" (Harriott Ravenel, SCWC 325).

"Some of the officers who were quartered in a house nearby looked in about this time, but said that,
though they were sorry, they could do nothing—the night was the soldiers'; they could do what they liked,
under orders" (Harriott Ravenel, SCWC 327).

"A Federal officer said to me next day [Feb. 18: the day after the burning], 'I knew when General Sherman
sent for the Seventeenth (Logan's) Army Corps that he had black work for it to do' (Mrs. S. A.
Crittenden, SCWC 331).


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