Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 14: No 1) >> Verification of Simms's Account of the Burning of Columbia >> Page 35

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Page 35

Secondary Scholarship | 2006
Transcription Masons
"Some of the Federal Masons were active in endeavoring to arrest the robbers [of the Masonic lodges] in
their work, but without success" (Simms 72).

"[W]e followed the advice of Mr. Strawinski, to have a Free Mason's flag (very hastily manufactured) on
the front door and rear passages; and they received soon after the curses of several troops of soldiers,
saying but for those `rags' the house would be burnt to ashes at any moment" (Madame Sosnowski, SCWC

"Toward evening there arrived ... a number of officers; and seeing one of them wearing a Mason's
breastpin, I told him that, being a Mason's widow, I held it to be his duty to protect us from the marauders
of his army. He seemed to hesitate; but, having for such an emergency Mr. Sosnowski's papers in hand,
establishing his former connection with an American lodge, I placed them in his hands, again demanding
protection. The party, however, left without giving us a glimmer of hope, and we looked with terror upon
the declining day, when, to our joy and relief, a young gentleman came . . . , telling us that a squad of men
would presently arrive, and that we should not be disturbed that night" (Madame Sosnowski, SCWC 268-

Sabres thrust between sleeping children
"Of the recklessness of these soldiers, especially when sharpened by cupidity, an instance is given where
they thrust their bayonets into a bed, where they fancied money to be hidden, between two sleeping
children-- being, it is admitted, somewhat careful not to strike through the bodies of the children" (Simms

"Before this, the children had had a great fright, for some of the men had rushed up to their bed and, after
pulling them about, had plunged their long knives repeatedly between them into their mattresses, to find if
anything was secreted in it, thinking that the children were put there as a blind" (Harriott Ravenel, SCWC

Fate of black women, especially in more remote areas:
"The scenes enacted at that dwelling in connection with the negro servants are not fit for female pen to
dwell upon; yet that same soldiery has been lauded to the skies for its moderation and virtues, and has been
styled the finest body of troops in the wortd"(Madame Sosnowksi, SCWC 266-68).

"We have been told of successful outrages of this unmentionable character being practiced upon women
dwelling in the suburbs . . . and two cases are described where young negresses were brutally forced by the
wretches and afterwards murdered–one of them being thrust, when half dead, head down, into a mud
puddle, and there held until she was suffocated... .
The shocking details should not now be made, but that we need for the sake of truth and humanity,
to put on record the horrid deeds. And yet, we should grossly err if, while showing the forbearance of the
soldiers in respect to our white women, we should convey ... the notion that they exhibited a like
forbearance in the case of the black. The poor negroes were terribly victimized by their assailants, many of
them, besides the instance mentioned, being left in a condition little short of death. Regiments, in
successive relays, subjected scores of these poor women to the torture of their embraces.... (Simms 55).

Attitudes towards the slaves
Simms notes that among the Union men there were various attitudes about black men and women, and that
many from the West openly disliked and mistreated them (79-80). Not surprisingly the women's accounts
frequently express concern for the fate of their slaves, whom they could not protect from the aggression of
some of the Union soldiers, as well as gratitude for the loyalty, cooperation and collaboration of slaves and
free blacks. Cf Simms 80; SCWC 216, 221, 249, 263, 309-10, 322, 324, 326, 332).

Assertiveness of women
These accounts also include many stories of women, perhaps overly confident of their status as civilians in
a city surrendered to a "civilized nation," assertively approaching Sherman or other officers to ask or
demand protection, or shaming Union soldiers for their ignoble behavior–a prominent theme in Simms
(Simms 50, 65-69; SCWC 222–Mrs. Fraser; 251–Mrs. Elmore; 253, 306–Sara Richardson).