Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 14: No 1) >> Verification of Simms's Account of the Burning of Columbia >> Page 34

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Page 34

Secondary Scholarship | 2006
Transcription Rockets set off in various quarters of the city and reveille sounded at dawn as signals which began
and ended the burning:

"Just before the conflagration began, about the dusk of evening, while the Mayor was conversing with one
of the Western men, from Iowa, three rockets were shot up by the enemy from the capitol square. As the
soldier beheld these rockets, he cried out:
`Alas! alas! for your poor city! It is doomed. Those rockets are the signal. The town is to be
In less than twenty minutes after, the flames broke out in twenty distinct quarters. Similar
statements were made by other soldiers in different quarters of the city" (Simms 58).

"Sure enough, with the bugle's sound, and the entrance of fresh bodies of troops, there was an
instantaneous arrest of incendiarism. You could see the rioters carried off in groups and squads .. .
The tap of the drum, the sound of the signal cannon, could not have been more decisive in its
effect, more prompt and complete. But two fires were set, among private dwellings, after sunrise ..."
(Simms 74-5).

"[Alt nine precisely my mother called to me.... 'Four rockets have gone up, one at each corner of the
town, all at the same moment.' Martha [a servant] groaned. She had evidently been told more than she
cared to tell. 'That's it, Miss; Lord hab missy on us! It's beginning.' [Ten minutes later] the sky . . . was
already glowing with light, and flames were rising in every direction" (Harriott Ravenel, SCWC 324-25).

"[M]orning was coming, and at reveille our little friend [an Irish Union soldier] told us all must stop... .
As he said, at the first tap of reveille, the men still remaining made for the gate. When the drum
had ceased, hardly one was to be seen. They passed away like ghosts,at the cockcrowing" (Harriott
Ravenel, SCWC 327).

"About 10 o'clock p. in. the signal rockets began to go up, and soon the incendiary fires blazed out. I was
told that squads of drunken soldiers, followed by a rabble of drunken and excited negroes, paraded the
principal thoroughfares, entering about every fourth house with torch and oil, and soon had blocks and
whole streets one mass of living flame" (Mrs. S. A. Crittenden, SCWC 330).

Accounts of the compassion of individual Union officers or soldiers linked to South Carolinians by
non-political loyalties:

"Others there were, in whom humanity did not seem wholly extinguished; and others again, to their credit,
be it said, who were truly sorrowful and sympathizing, who had labored for the safety of family and
property, and who openly deplored the dreadful crime, which threatened the lives and honors of the one,
and destroyed so completely the other" (Simms 75).

• Irish Catholics
"The Irish Catholic troops, it appears, were not brought into the city at all; were kept on the other side of
the river. But a few Catholics were collected among the corps which occupied the city, and of the conduct
of these, a favorable account is given" (Simms 38).

"With the advancing night . . . we found an unexpected protection, namely, a number of Irishmen, a part of
those of Sherman's troops he would not allow to enter Columbia; and this, as the men assured us, was to
prevent them from protecting Roman Catholic property" (Madame Sosnowski, SCWC 271-72).

• Quakers
"Among the guards, we had one named Allen. This young man told father he was of a Quaker family
(father, being a Quaker, was opposed to the war). Allen did his best to protect everything he could" (Mrs.
Mary Janney Leaphart, SCWC 248).