This historic guidebook offers an informed tour with driving directions to 70 sites in and around South Carolina’s capital. The text is complemented by 50 photographs and illustrations of the featured sites and the people associated with them.
I would have liked a map showing all these attractions, but the author’s instructions are clear and concise. Besides, a half-century after Alice Cromie’s groundbreaking Tour Guide to the Civil War (1964), I guess we’ve all got GPS.
Columbia’s war history centers on the arrival of Sherman’s army on Feb. 17, 1865. The Yankees had already been punishing the state in their march from Savannah because, as author Tom Elmore himself says, “South Carolina started the Civil War.” So a lot of Sherman’s men already had it in for Columbia as they entered the city.
The burning of cotton by retreating Confederates, a prevailing high wind, Yankee vengeance, and discovery of stores of liquor were the chief causes of the downtown fires of Feb. 17-18. I would add that many of the Federals had already witnessed — and taken part in — the destruction of a major American city; Sherman’s men had burned a good part of Atlanta three months before.
When it was all over, South Carolina historian William Gilmore Simms counted 800 structures demolished in the conflagration.