Wednesday, February 22, 1865
As J. B. Jones anticipates, Wilmington, NC fell to the Union on this day. General Sherman had taken Columbia, SC on the 17th. Though he denied ordering it to be burned, when his troops left, Columbia was in ashes. Emma LeConte had no doubts the hated Yankees were responsible for firing the city.
J. B. Jones
John Beauchamp Jones (1810-1866) was a writer who worked in the Confederate War Department in Richmond during the war. His diary was published in 1866 as “A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary at the Confederate States Capital.”
Yesterday the Senate postponed action on the Negro bill. What this means I cannot conjecture, unless there are dispatches from abroad, with assurances of recognition based upon stipulations of emancipation, which cannot be carried into effect without the consent of the States, and a majority of these seem in a fair way of falling into the hands of the Federal generals.
To-day is the anniversary of the birth of Washington, and of the inauguration of Davis; but I hear of no holiday. Not much is doing, however, in the departments; simply a waiting for calamities, which come with stunning rapidity. The next news, I suppose, will be the evacuation of Wilmington! Then Raleigh may tremble. Unless there is a speedy turn in the tide of affairs, confusion will reign supreme and universally.
We have here now some 4000 or 5000 paroled prisoners returned by the Federal authorities, without sufficient food for them, and soon there may be 10,000 Federal prisoners from Wilmington, which it seems cannot be exchanged there. Is it the policy of their own government to starve them?
Emma Florence LeConte (1847-1932) lived in Columbia, SC and witnessed Sherman’s march through the city.
I meant last night to write down some description of what I had seen, but was too wretchedly depressed and miserable to even think of it.
Yes, I have seen it all – I have seen the “Abomination of Desolation”. It is even worse than I thought. The place is literally in ruins. The entire heart of the city is in ashes – only the outer edges remain. On the whole length of Sumter Street not one house beyond the first block after the Campus is standing, except the brick house of Mr. Mordecai. Standing in the centre of the town, as far as the eye can reach nothing is to be seen but heaps of rubbish, tall dreary chimneys and shattered brick walls, while “In the hollow windows, dreary horror’s sitting”. Poor old Columbia – where is all her beauty – so admired by strangers – so loved by her children! She can only excite the pity of the former and the tears of the latter.
With very few exceptions all our friends are homeless. We enter Main Street – since the war in crowd and bustle it has rivalled a city thoroughfare – what desolation! Everything has vanished as by enchantment – stores, merchants, customers – all the eager faces gone – only three or four dismal looking people to be seen picking their way over heaps of rubbish, brick and timbers. The wind moans among the bleak chimneys and whistles through the gaping windows of some hotel or warehouse.
As we passed the old State house going back I paused to gaze on the ruins – only the foundations and chimneys – and to recall the brilliant scene enacted there one short month ago. And I compared that scene with its beauty, gayety and festivity – the halls so elaborately decorated – the surging throng – with this.
The negroes are flocking in from the devastated country to be fed. Mayor Goodwyn has ordered them to be sent back, as the town is threatened with starvation. Indeed I do not know what will become of us unless relief comes in, from Edgefield or Augusta. In every other direction we understand the country is a desert – Orangeburg, Winnsboro’, Chester, Camden – all in ashes. Incarnate fiends! And Sherman! – “O for a tongue to curse the slave.”