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Columbia in Flames, Harper's Weekly, April 8, 1865
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Columbia in Flames
Harper’s Weekly, April 8, 1865

Paper and ink engraving
South Caroliniana Library
University of South Carolina

Excerpt from Eleanor Cohen’s diary. Columbia, South Carolina, February 28, 1865:

On the sixteenth [of February] the Yankees shelled Columbia without notice. On the seventeenth the city was evacuated by our soldiers and surrendered by the mayor. . . . As the evening shades drew darker, the sky was illumined with crimson. It was a fearfully windy night, and, as we watched the sky, we heard the awful cry of “fire!” Oh, God, can I ever forget that night? But after a while we heard only Main Street was so burned. We gathered together in a room at the top of the house and, as we gazed, we saw new fires burst forth in every direction. The flames were seen, leaping and dancing, assisted by the winds in the work of destruction, and the air was filled with torpedoes, shells, hand grenades, and all the most instruments of evildoers. The exultant shout of the infuriated soldiers met the ears, and from every heart went up to God a prayer that we would lull the wind, stay the flames, and put mercy in the heart of our foes. Vain hopes! As well might we hope to have mercy from a lion.

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Last updated: Wednesday, June 21, 2006