The Civil War, Day by Day

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman

Columbia Surrenders

Feeling indestructible after his brutal march through Georgia, Sherman pillaged Columbia until two-thirds of the city burned to the ground. In so doing, the general boosted the morale of the Union army, which considered South Carolina the heart and soul of the secession movement.

The general began his march through South Carolina on February 17, 1865. To confound the enemy, he split his army into two wings, so the Confederates would not guess he was headed toward Columbia. For two weeks, Sherman’s two divisions plowed through deep swamps and wet roads, destroying civilian properties along the way. Then on February 16, they arrived at Columbia - where, according to Sherman’s biographer George Nichols, they inflicted upon the capitol “the marks of Yankee shot and shell.”

While Sherman’s army looted Columbia, the city also endured a devastating fire of mysterious origins. Although many Southerners have attributed the fire to Sherman, this claim has never been proven. Nichols maintained that the general and his army “worked with their own hands until long after midnight, trying to save life and property.” Nonetheless, Columbia’s fate was sealed, and its officials surrendered what remained of the city on February 17, 1865.

March's Archived Features:

Monday March 1, 2021
Tuesday March 2, 2021



All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.