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tv   The Civil War  CSPAN  February 28, 2015 10:00pm-12:25am EST

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following the announcement, you can see all 150 winning documentaries at >> you are watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend on cspan3. to join the conversation, like us on >> on february 17, 1865 columbia, south carolina surrendered to the union army. next, a discussion at the university of south carolina on the city's destruction, fall, and recovery. >> good morning. welcome to our panel on "columbia burning: a sesquicentennial reappraisal." my name is don doyle. i will make a few introductory remarks.
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i want to thank those for all they did to make this such a success. not just this panel, but the entire event. i think it has been a wonderful example of how to commemorate a painful episode in this city's history. thanks especially to jessica whose idea it was to do something for this commemoration. we met over lunch, and from there it grew. we partnered with historic columbia. sponsoring this event also is the history center at the university of south carolina. another contributor was the graduate school at the university of south carolina. thank all of you for your help and support.
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we brought four scholars together. we are meeting almost exactly at the time, 150 years ago, that the union troops were crossing the river and coming towards the city, toward that moment at 10:00 in the morning when the city was formerly surrendered. we are meeting right here on market street. i am not an expert on this event in civil war history. i have written a book on the civil war called "the cause of all nations: an international history of the american civil war." i will make a few comments about the international context of this event. but i want to spend some time before introducing the speakers to talk about the historical
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context of this day. february 17 was a day of terror and destruction, of disaster and vengeance. it was also a day of liberation, emancipation. and the beginning of peace. it was a day of reckoning for the birthplace of secession. it was here in 1860, that the south carolina succession convention met before they moved to charleston to pass the resolution to withdraw from the union. many of the speakers will address the legacy of this day. i will provide some historical context for the events leading up to that day. after lincoln's victory in november, 1864, it was clear to everyone that the union was
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going to sustain the war until its bitter end. not only to defeat the rebellion militarily, but to destroy slavery, which the republicans saw as the root cause of the rebellion. the stakes of war had heightened tremendously. at the end of january, congress passed the 13th amendment, which would end slavery everywhere forever in the united states. it went to be ratified by the states of the union, and whether or not the south would be included in that was up for interpretation. earlier in the month, general william tecumseh sherman had issued field order #15, which promised to confiscate lands and
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redistribute them to the newly-free former slaves. this was the origins of the "40 acres and a mule" idea. the world was watching a new kind of warfare unfold in the american south. massive citizen armies pulled from civilian populations of two democratic societies, nearly 3 million men in arms. 10% of the combined population. nobody told them about the democratic peace theory, which is so popular in washington circles these days. sherman's march and the burning of columbia is as much about young men in war, wreaking vengeance upon helpless civilians, but there was also strategic purpose to the destruction. they aimed at destroying the
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capacity of the south to wage war. to destroy railroads and factories, to emancipate and arm slaves. the march was also designed to demoralize the south, the civilian population in particular, and to demonstrate to the southern people but also to european powers -- here is my international history -- that the confederacy could no longer defend itself. confederate government buildings could be destroyed, along with railroads, and the homes of confederate leaders, to demonstrate the power of the union. these were strategically targeted for destruction. in america's war with itself, the world witnessed the first steps on the road towards total war that would unfold in the 20th century. wars that would expose women and
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slaves to what sherman called the “hard hand of war.” the burning of columbia took place exactly two weeks before the february 3 peace negotiations that took place at hampton road. i think that is an important precedent to what happened on february 17. confederate commissioners were sent to hampton road and they negotiated for four hours the possibility of peace. as the confederate commissioners came through the lines, soldiers from both sides came out of trenches and chanted, “peace! peace! peace!” there would be no peace. jefferson davis had no intention of surrendering, even as the confederate army began deserting in massive numbers. davis had a secret plan.
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jefferson davis had no intention of surrendering, even as the confederate army began deserting in massive numbers. davis had a secret plan. in december, he and the secretary of state of the confederacy, had sent a man to europe in a last-ditch effort to save the confederacy by offering to emancipate the slaves in exchange for foreign recognition and aide. as sherman's army advanced toward columbia, he was midway across the atlantic to meet with napoleon the third. even after richmond fell jefferson davis refused to surrender. he took his government by rail and wagon into the carolinas finally into georgia. the idea was that if britain or france was to intervene, there had to be a government they would recognize. even after lee's surrender, lincoln's assassination was intended to reignite the south's will to fight. general hampton pleaded with jefferson davis >> do not give up the fight. if you should propose to cross
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the mississippi, i can bring good men to escort you over. we can still make head against the enemy. >> so, they were going to join the french who were protecting maximillian and take a last assassination was intended to reignite the south's will to fight. general hampton pleaded with jefferson davis >> do not give up the fight. if you should propose to cross the mississippi, i can bring good men to escort you over. we can still make head against the enemy. >> so, they were going to join the french who were protecting maximillian and take a last stand in texas. davis responded by writing to his wife, saying he was heading to mexico. back to february 17, columbia
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was surrendered on this morning, 150 years ago. until then, the confederate military had fought forces south of the city. they shelled their encampment the night before on the west bank of the broad river. they burned bridges across the rivers into the city. wade hampton promised to defend the city if he had to. civilians feared sherman's troops and a horrific urban battle. many that were left behind now cheered the arrival of the union army, something we might not expect.
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one union witness described it this way -- >> general sherman accompanied by others had a brilliant cavalcade, they rode into a scene of enthusiastic excitement. negroes were grouped along the streets, cheering and singing and dancing in the exuberance of their newborn freedom. one of them shouted, “at last, our saviors!” >> among those welcoming sherman where the union pow's, those who had been removed to the lunatic asylum, where they were kept and imprisoned. that scene of celebration was to change dramatically. all the ingredients for disaster were there.
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young soldiers celebrating victory, slack discipline, lots of whiskey, and desire for revenge against south carolina and columbia. then there was fire. high winds, a combination of willful destruction and vengeance with a force of nature. there were investigations, charges, countercharges. it is essentially a debate that is lost in the fog of war. whoever set the fire, it burned through the night into the early morning of february 18. smoke could be seen for miles. the sun came up on a city of ruins. that morning was also the terrible end of a long and costly war. it was the coming of peace and the painful rebirth of a new
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city and a new south. william faulkner, writing of a similar day of destruction in mississippi, described "the black and jagged jumbles of brick wall enclosing like a ruined jaw, the columns were blackened and stained, being tougher than fire, and now the town was as though insulated by fire, perhaps cauterized by fire, only the undefeated, undefeatable women, vulnerable only to death, resisted, entered irreconcilable.
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scabbards in which no sword repose. they returned to a homefront that had already surrendered, so that in an almost fated twilight of the land, the appomattox made no sound.” faulkner would have been even more inspired had he lived in columbia. it is my pleasure to introduce our first speaker. at the end of their talks, we will turn it over to questions and comments from any of you and we have plenty of time for
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that. so keep your questions ready and we will turn to those at the end. our first speaker is anne sarah rubin. she is a professor at the university of maryland baltimore county. she received her ms and phd from the university of virginia. her first book is called "a shattered nation: the rise and fall of the confederacy, 1861-1868." it received an award from an organization of american historians, a prestigious prize for the most original book on the civil war era. she has recently been president of the society of civil war historians.
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her most recent book is "through the heart of dixie: sherman's march and america." it is a study of the march and how americans would remember this march. it will be on sale afterward. i encourage you to bring your credit cards. she has produced an online companion to the book. let's welcome anne rubin. [applause] >> thank you all very much for coming. i want to offer my thanks to don doyle and tom brown for inviting me and being such wonderful hosts. i'm honored to be in columbia for this anniversary. who burned columbia?
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if we knew the definitive answer, i am not sure we would be sitting here today. we know who started many significant fires in history. we blame mrs. o'leary's cow for the great chicago fire. the great fire of london began in a bakery on pudding lane. we blame the british for burning washington, d.c. in 1814, and the earthquake in san francisco in 1906. maybe we don't know because this fire happened in the middle of the civil war. but we know that the union army burned atlanta. who burned columbia? “sherman and his fiendish hell hounds.” “sherman and his demons.” “sherman and his army of villains,” wrote grace brown elmore.
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“sherman and his demons.” “sherman and his army of villains,” wrote grace brown elmore. what did sherman say in reply to these charges? in his official report, sherman blamed confederate general wade hampton. as he explains, hampton had ordered that all cotton should be moved into the streets and
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fired, to prevent us from making use of it. the bales were cut open, free from the ropes and backing, and tufts of cotton were blown about in the wind, so as to resemble a snowstorm, and these piles were burning. as night fell, and wind picked up, the fire spread beyond the efforts of soldiers to control them. sherman argued, union soldiers deserve praise for saving so much of the city and caring for the newly-homeless. “furthermore,” sherman went on -- and this i think is the root of so much anger and resentment -- and without hesitation, he wrote, “i charge general wade hampton with having burned his own city of columbia, not with malicious intent or as the manifestation of his silly roman stoicism, but from folly, and want of dissent and filling it with cotton and tinder.” not only did general wade
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hampton burn columbia, but he didn't even do it for a good reason, is what sherman seems to be saying here. like a careless boy playing with matches. this wasn't just placing blame this was an insult. sherman did admit to some union men -- although he does this nonchalantly -- his officers worked only to put out the flames, he explained, and those who didn't do that include officers who were long imprisoned there. in short, columbians brought this vengeance on themselves. there might have been some bad apples adding to the trouble but the key here is that none of this was done by orders. not surprisingly, other union soldiers echoed sherman's claims.
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in short, columbians brought this vengeance on themselves. there might have been some bad apples adding to the trouble but the key here is that none of this was done by orders. not surprisingly, other union soldiers echoed sherman's claims. “the destruction of the city was against the wishes of our commanders, and was originally owing to the fires set by their own people and dealt with the expectation that the city would burn.” “and,” he continues, “on the other hand, why johnson beauregard hampton should be such unmitigated fools as to wish to burn columbia is more strange. “and,” he continues, “on the other hand, why johnson beauregard hampton should be such unmitigated fools as to wish to burn columbia is more
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strange. yet i know the facts to be as i have stated, as i was one of the first to enter the city and have been here since.” osborne is very clear about this. like osborne, two officers on sherman's staff made the same connection. in a diary entry, major hitchcock emphasized that columbia did not burn by orders, but against orders, despite the effort on our part to save it. hitchcock also mentions the large quantities of liquor available in the city. it was often given directly to the soldiers. in hitchcock's view, the fire came partly by accident from the burning cotton, partly by design by the prisoners, and by our
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drunken men. major george nichols told a similar tale in the story of the great march, one of the first histories of sherman's march. burning cotton, prisoners with liquor. what nichols is saying is that the citizens of columbia purposefully gave soldiers liquor as they knew what would happen. “as for sherman,” nichols stated, “whatever may have been the cause of the disaster, the result deprecated general sherman. “for however heinous the crimes of our people, we do not wage war against women and children and helpless persons.” what we see here, from sherman and hitchcock and nichols, is the shifting of sherman's blame to the confederates -- not just the general, but even ordinary people. this doesn't seem that surprising. who would admit to starting a fire like this?
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the complicating factor is that sherman never disavowed ordering the city be burned. why would sherman take ownership? and disavow the other? it is an interesting question. one thing is true. for about one decade, sherman consistently blamed the fire on wade hampton's ordering that the cotton be burned. he does this in a variety of forums. in response to a petition to congress. a citizen petitioned congress
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demanding compensation for property destroyed in the fire. sherman reiterated that “cotton started the fire, and that because hampton ordered that all cotton should thus be burned and from what i saw myself, i have no hesitation in saying that he was the cause of the destruction in your city.” in response to this, wade hampton got into the mix. he wrote an interesting letter to a maryland senator. it's 1866 at this point, and south carolina does not have a senator right now. he emphatically denied ordering the cotton be fired, he says that the citizens set fire, and he also denies that there was any cotton on fire at all and federal troops entered the city. he is completely disavowing any involvement.
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“in fact,” hampton said, “i pledge myself to prove that i give a positive order by direction of general beauregard that no cotton should be fired that not one bale was on fire when sherman street took possession of the city, that he promised protection to the city, and that, in spite of his promise, he burned the city to the ground deliberately, systematically, and atrociously.” what i think is so interesting about this exchange is there is this real personal tone to it. this is personal now. this is about honor, reputation, truth telling. sherman always seemed to have the upper hand in this exchange. he cared less about his reputation, or maybe he felt that these accusations didn't do any harm to his reputation.
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he approaches the proceedings with a little bit of a twinkle in his eye. in an 1872 deposition before a mixed commission of britains and americans, sherman explains that he knew he will be blamed for the fire in columbia. and that from the start, he wanted to set the record straight. this is his defense. “if i have made up my mind to burn columbia, i would have burned it with no more feelings than i would a common prairie dog village. but i did not do it. and therefore, i want that truth to be manifest.” once again, he lays blame at the feet of hampton. once again, he acknowledges that some soldiers might have engaged in mischief, but that they did not start the fires. i think he is being quite honest here. if he had wanted to burn columbia, he would've burned columbia. he did it in other places.
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he made these kinds of orders. if he says he didn't do it, he didn't do it. why am i belaboring this point? in part because of what happened next. the prairie dog village quote was in 1872. in 1875, sherman published his memoirs. they are a literary reflection of the man himself. they are direct, candid. sherman, as he had done consistently, denied ordering that the fires be set, blame them on the cotton set ablaze. he described meeting with various women in columbia, offering them food and protection, using this as evidence that he personally held no malice for columbia, and that
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he was not the one who torched it. his logic is basically, if i had burned columbia, why would i help everybody who was burned out of columbia? but then he explains that in his official report -- so that first passage i just read in 1865 -- explaining in his report that "i distinctly charge it to general wade hampton and confess i did so pointedly to shake faith of his people in him, for he was in my opinion boastful." so there it is. “i did it pointedly to shake the state of his people in him.” the psychological warfare that so much of sherman's march was about.
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i think it is this quote, this passage, that explains why the controversy still endures. this one offhanded remark doesn't calm his critics, it inflames them -- no pun intended. it is the burning of columbia that cemented his reputation as an uncaring demon. with atlanta, he had already evacuated all the civilians. that wasn't so caring either but. truth be told, he was "more careless with fire" in columbia than with georgia. sherman was charged with
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hypocrisy, defending wade hampton's honor and noting that this is the only incident of such barbarity, his effort to escape responsibility might be more successful. davis is not entirely wrong about that. with this one passage, sherman undermines his own credibility. sherman's memoirs come out in 1875, and there are all kinds of books dedicated to debunking his memoirs, books dedicated to debunking the debunkers. it is all just as the lost cause is flowering. it is this moment that transforms sherman into the great villain of the lost cause. what is interesting, too, is that there is a diversion is
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between historians and popular imagination. historians, beginning with james rhodes, through gibson and barrett, all have drawn the same conclusion about columbia. both sides are at fault. the confederates did fire the cotton, and the union did let the cotton burn. there is more than enough blame to go around. and yet, this doesn't seem to be a good enough explanation for so many people. there is almost -- there is a sort of passive voice inherent in this. is it because if everybody is to
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blame, then nobody is to blame? is there some utility to the long-standing sense of victimization that i would argue has permeated columbia, in a real contrast to atlanta? it struck me that atlanta largely moves on, gets over being burned, accepts and that is the thing that put atlanta on the map. columbia clings to it with more anger. is it that? who burned columbia? 150 years later, it depends on who you ask. thank you. [applause]
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>> thank you very much for those stimulating thoughts about that problem of deciding who lit the match. our next speaker is a wonderful historian who comes to us from massachusetts by way of texas, california, the southwest. megan kate nelson is a writer and historian. she has written for the “new york times” and for the “civil war times.” her phd in american studies comes from the university of iowa, and she has taught at texas tech university, harvard and brown.
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she has written two books. one you will find fascinating is "ruin nation: destruction and the american civil war." her other book was published in 2005. she is working on a third book. i am looking forward to that one. she is also the author of an interesting, slightly saucy blog called "historista." it examines the cool and weird ways people engage with history. please welcome megan kate nelson.
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[applause] >> perfect. excellent. i would like to echo thanks for bringing us here today. thanks to all of you for coming out on this dreary day to listen to us talk about destruction during the american civil war, which is one of my favorite topics. it was a beautiful day in late may 1865, when brown, a treasury
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agent, stood on the west bank of the congaree river and looked up at columbia. “the city,” he wrote, “presents a fine appearance. finer to me and the effects of sherman's bombardment and torch. we could see hundreds of chimneys against the sky, walls without roofs, it was a glorious sight. i luxuriate, i delight, i enjoy the site of all of this havoc and ruin.” this response to the ruins of columbia from the union official probably does not surprise you. brown's elation was routed in the symbolism of the ruined city for the northerner. the destruction represents the death of the confederate cause. brown's wording, his description
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of the ruins as chimneys against the sky and walls without roots suggest that he enjoyed viewing the destruction not only as proof of a union victory, but also as an aesthetic experience. what may surprise you is that there were some columbia residents who felt the same way, who saw the ruined city as a place of sublime and melancholy beauty. that they responded in this fashion illuminates a complicated way that civil war americans understood the war and its violence. take mary weldon. she came to columbia in 1863 after the union bombardment of charleston. she was living with her family a few blocks from main street in february, 1865. when it became inevitable that they abandon her house, she gathered her family and household items, and as they fled from the home, the entire
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family stopped to watch a mansion burn to the ground. “one of the grandest scenes of this mammoth moment was the burning of a house. the building was surrounded by an arched colonnade, consisting of 39 columns, extending from the roof to the ground. these were massive brick works which stood while the dwelling within burned. the fire seen through the arches was grand beyond description. it was an illuminated picture, such is seldom seen in real life.” so despite her fear in that
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moment, and the fact that she was a victim of these violent acts, weldon reacted to the destruction of the house aesthetically. she actually stopped in the street to watch this house burn. the scene was captivating to her because of its visual contrast between the red flames leaping and the black smoke and the immobile solidity of the white columns. part of her pleasure in the scene was also due to its novelty. it was “an illuminated picture seldom seen in real life.” that she would see the burning house as an illuminated picture is really fascinating. it reflects the fact that during the antebellum period, american painters had embraced the ruin as a subject. this painting is the last canvas from a five painting group that the artist finished in 1886. it depicts the rise and fall of this imagined empire, and this is its end, with its single column and its ruins being
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overtaken by nature. engravers reproduced images. they were cheap enough that even working-class americans could buy images of ruins to decorate their home. by 1861, ruins were accepted elements of the landscape scene. americans enjoyed contemplating ideas that the rubble embody. the fall of empires, the drive of nature, the romanticism of failure.
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they also had the language to describe ruins and the ideas they evoke. during the antebellum period middle-class americans were familiar with the term sublime which denotes vastness or awe-inspiring grandeur, and the word picturesque, which suggested pleasing contrasts of forms. most of the time, they used the word grand to convey both of these elements at the same time -- the sublime and the picturesque. in the 1860's, americans applied this language to civil war ruins. northern and southern artists produced illustrations and paintings and especially photographs depicting wartime acts of destruction, including cities of fire and the ruins that resulted. you have probably seen george bernard's photographs of columbia's ruins.
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i believe this is the image printed on the banner for this conference. this is a view of main street taken from the steps of the capitol in the days after the fire, which is included in george bernard's album of images from sherman's campaign in georgia and south carolina. he is a northern photographer. not all reproductions of this image look like this. he was one of our first prolific photoshoppers. it has clouds in it. in early photography, because he
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was focusing on the city, the sky just looks matte gray because of the exposure. so he took pictures of clouds and he spliced them together. photoshopping. it was a southern photographer who took the most comprehensive set of images of the city's ruins in the days and months after the fire. this is his photograph of main street from the same spot. it is a little closer to the fence, but this is an interesting component of civil war photography visual production. there became sites where people would take images. so we see a lot of images like these produced over and over again for artists, as these were the pictures you had to take the iconic places. again, because there was something about them that was
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aesthetically pleasing. the reason that main street is aesthetically pleasing is that you get the long view. you can see main street extending into the distance, not unlike a river, with the ruins next to it. you can see the profile of those chimneys and the sky, that brown loved to look at so much. richard wearn immigrated from the isle of man and moved to columbia in 1869. he opened a photography studio. he took at least 19 photographs that we know of of columbia's ruins after the fire. the south carolina library owns originals of all of these. all of these images were taken from their digital collection which they have online. you can scroll through them and look at their details.
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he sold these images printed on small cards. so like, the size of a business card. these images i am going to show you, you can see the nature of the card, the way the paper is sort of torn and how it has been handled. this technique had been introduced in 1859, so right before the civil war began. they became a popular antique form of photo reproduction. but he chose to sell images of columbia's ruins suggests that both he and his buyers saw them in a number of ways. as documentary images, here are the ruins that you need to see
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so not unlike the list of ruins in the text for sale outside. also, as aesthetic objects views that are enjoyable to look at, and also as war souvenirs. this is his photograph of the clarkson house. as you can see, he took this image from across the street and at a slight angle, so that the viewer can take in the many columns that had so impressed weldon on the night of the fire. this is an interesting choice, i think he was trying to view the entire structure. the fact that he took it from an angle, a lot of time we talk
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about images being the depiction of reality, but as you all know, we always frame the shot. you move it into position, what is the thing that looks good that is the angle. that is the artist in you coming out to engage with the scene aesthetically. this is what he was doing. what this means is that the columns in this image are almost obscured by these trees. this is an interesting choice that he makes. i think it is because he wanted to include the entire building. that he includes the trees creates another contrast between nature and the ruins that evokes a sense of recovery in the midst of destruction, that we will rise from the ashes, right? weldon and the photographer were not the only residents
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interested in the ruins. in may, 1865, emma leconte went for a walk with friends and family members. her father was a scientist at columbia college, and she wrote an eloquent and impassioned diary of her wartime experiences that many historians have used in their studies of the civil war. leconte had watched the fire start from her house on campus. “my god, what a scene. imagine night turned to day, a copper colored sky across which swept columns of black, rolling “my god, what a scene. imagine night turned to day, a copper colored sky across which swept columns of black, rolling smoke, glittering with sparks of
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flying embers, while all around us were falling slick showers of burning flakes.” such great language. you can see what we love her. on the day after the fire, leconte was in shock. by may, she was despondent. she had not written in her diary for weeks. “the fall of the confederacy so crushed us, that i did not care what became of me.” that evening, as she walked through the burnt district, the city appeared to her very beautiful and melancholy. they did not talk much as they went across the rubble. “as far as the eye could reach, only spectre-like chimneys with a mysterious, mellow softness.” as she wandered onto a street, the scene became more beautiful. “the hampton residences make the most picturesque ruins.” the clarkson house, with the
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columns that look like greek ruins. she enjoyed this interplay of moonlight and ruins and associated them with melancholy. she was transported through time, imagining the clarkson house to be an old greek ruin. substitution was a satisfactory discursive turn for southerners. it transformed destruction into an aesthetic of the ages. she and her friends walked on to look at christ church. “it was a very pretty little church and makes a lovely ruin. we stood gazing on it in silence for many minutes.” they looked inside at the mounds
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of rubble. church ruins were especially evocative, not only of the past, but also the violence of urban warfare, which destroyed churches as well as warehouses and arsenals, capable of producing more material. sometimes they were destroyed by accident, and sometimes on purpose. this photograph, like his image of the clarkson house, brings nature and culture together. the tree trunks echo the columns of the church, which themselves were meant to mimic architecture. they deliberately reference treetops. leconte's group wandered down
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main street, trying to imagine it as it once was. they came at it from the opposite direction of these other photos, and they ended up standing in front of the statehouse, which did not have a portico or dome at this point, but it "shown white before us." this was the new state capital under construction. it did indeed look like a ruin but what it was, is what cultural historians call a ruin in reverse. a building in the midst of going up, rather than coming down.
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laconte and her friends wanted to climb up to the roof to take in a view of the city to replicate the images of main street, but, as she wrote, “yankees had burned out the temporary floors and their steps, leaving only the walls like a shell.” wearn's view of main street positions the capital at the end of a diagonal boulevard of ruins, which leconte and her friends would have ambled down. this is one of several images that wearn took of the central thoroughfare in columbia. it was the neighborhood most thoroughly destroyed by the fire. in wearn's photograph, the street itself dominates the foreground. the angle reveals the extent of the destruction of columbia's businesses.
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street views like this were also quite popular in ruin photography, and they invite viewers to try to imagine the place as it once was. reassembling the rubble in their minds, the viewers of these ruins engaged their imagination, putting the present and past together in one place. emma leconte and mary weldon's response to the ruins suggest the symbolic flexibility of ruins during the american civil war. they offered residents the opportunity to express deep emotions and to muse upon larger questions. they represented the past but also the future and they provoked fury and hatred, but
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also sadness, sympathy, and generosity. columbia's ruins revealed that warfare is a process of transformation, turning destroyed cities into scenes of grand and terrible beauty. thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you, megan. >> thank you, megan. our next speaker is caitlin verboon. she is finishing a dissertation called “urban encounters: race space, and citizenship struggles in southern cities, 1865-1877." she will take us beyond the fire of february 1865 to the reconstruction era. she is originally from chapel hill, north carolina.
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she has a long association with columbia. she was the historic columbia foundation's 2012 scholar in residence. her dissertation and her first book grapples with how races lived together and apart after emancipation, when blacks could control where they moved and lived, but before the era of jim crow and formal segregation. columbia provided an ideal site to examine these questions because the fire damaged so much livable space in the city, so that questions about space was put into sharp relief. she has received various research fellowships, and spent
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six months in washington, d.c. as a fellow in african-american history. please welcome caitlin verboon. [applause] >> good morning. i want to echo everyone and thank you all for being here. i am excited and honored to be a part of this reappraisal of the burning of columbia. the fire was the juncture between war and peace, and the impact of war did not end with confederate military surrender. i am hoping that our discussion here will be one of the first of many events commemorating reconstruction, just like we have had so many events commemorating the sesquicentennial.
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in march 1865, julian selby founded a new newspaper. “the phoenix” was a newspaper that rose literally from the literal ashes of columbia. he chose that symbolic name deliberately. they wrote, “like the phoenix our city shall spring from the ashes, and our phoenix shall announce its glorious rising.” rather than blaming the destruction of the city on union troops, the editor laid out the mission of the newspaper. he wrote, “it is statistically for us possible to make the melancholy record so that our son can remember that the whole christian world everywhere may read.” so while official blame may have been hotly debated, white
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colombians in the days after the fire harbored no doubt about who burned it. perhaps more important for us, he perhaps more importantly for us, he understood that in popular imagination, this fire was likely to become columbia path defining -- columbia's defining moment with the civil war. today, i want to do three things. i want to look at some ways that columbia last -- columbia's residents dealt with the fire. i am setting the scene for the
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spring of april 1965 -- 1865 and look at how reconstruction development happened. how did it change into changes in the city? the fire has been called the seminal event in columbia's history, by people like sims as well as the people in the last 150 years. what i want to suggest is that the effects of the fire on how columbian society develops during the years of reconstruction was neither as direct nor as profound as that statement might suggest. i will offer some thoughts on whether this widespread discussion altered perception of space and race in columbia. a third to half of the city was destroyed. while columbia's largest residential areas were largely spared, and the central business district was targeted, the fire did destroy many private homes.
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what did columbians do? some fled the city, either voluntarily or at the request of city officials. some moved in with friends and family. some rented homes that had not burned, or even just rooms that had not been destroyed. some had to camp outside in public parks. others even took refuge in the buildings of the inner city of south carolina. even more pressing was the fact that the fire destroyed so many of the provisions of the city. so starvation and suffering seems to daily stalk columbia. sherman actually left 500 cattle grazing in the city, but the mayor complained the cattle were so skinny that they were just dying rather than feeding anyone. other columbians complained, for example, one wrote, there is little food to be hired, and we have all aims in common, drawing
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rations from the free market and living on the charity of those who have more than we. a columbia woman writing to her daughter in charlotte concurs, saying, what we are to do for provisions, i don't know, and nothing doing to make any money, and no prospect of anything. i wish you would send potatoes because i cannot get one to plant. not one seed in the ground yet. the lack of transportation and the destruction of the countryside around columbia made the situation even worse. columbia not only had to feed their own residents, but there were people flocking from the countryside to seek relief there as well. city officials cobbled together a network of ad hoc committees run by the city, run by private organizations or by benevolent associations. cities had not been destroyed by fire like augusta. these provided basic necessities
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either free or at minimal cost. but they soon found themselves completely overwhelmed by the sheer scale of necessary relief. months after the city fire, they decided to petition the federal government for assistance. the arrival of the federal organization designed to help with the transition from slavery to freedom arrived in the city so it seemed reasonable that some relief would be had at the hands of the federal government. the freemen distributed aid to both black and white olympians in the city. -- black and white colombians in the city. -- columbians in the city. they actually reported that in 1867, demands for relief went up. two most white columbians, the fact that they have been forced
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out of their homes -- they are relying on outside organizations for food and basic supplies. the city looks like this jumbled mass of disorder and chaos, and this disorder really destabilizes the line between independence and dependence. white accounts of the aftermath are filled with concerns about columbia's exhausted stores, but also their own growing dependency. now i also turned to emma leconte. she wrote in her diary in 1965 as long as we could keep body and soul together, father would not borrow from anyone, but to be under obligation to a yankee? the yankee rations are only drawn by people in actual need or that have no self-respect. her notes mirrored those of other columbians who feared for the broader changes that this growing dependency might bring about in their city and larger southern society. the reason this seemed to threaten the actual basis of society is that antebellum society was organized around the
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unit of the household, and a household was defined as the male household head and all of his dependents. that would be his slaves, his children, his sisters, his wife, and a southern man was not fully independent or a full citizen until he had dependents who depended on him. this independent -- this private dependence gave him private authority in his household, and that translated directly into public power. the civil war and emancipation disrupted southern households in the way i was talking about, especially in columbia, because
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it forced people out of their private homes and into these new public spaces. what this means is that the entire power structure in columbia is really influx in the weeks and months following the fire. food and housing shortages is not just a white concern. it affects black residents as well. but where white residents saw chaos and disorder, black residents saw freedom and opportunity. i want to look at one particular instance, where african-americans in columbia used the conditions that were brought by fire, war, and emancipation to define citizenship in a meaningful way. in 18 67, william beverly nash a prominent black columbian who would go on to hold many important positions -- he petitioned the municipal government to admit two lakh residents of the city all house. given the shortage of space and resources -- people are still drawing their rations from the
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bureau. nash understood that the importance of lack access to this physical space -- he took on the city government in order to secure that access. at first, city government officials ignored nash and his petition. but when the freedmen's bureau gets involved, the mayor, who is now theodore stark, rejects nash's petition in no uncertain terms. he writes, why in the hell should he allow them entrance? he considered african-americans to be the "pet lambs of the government," and said the city had no responsibility for them. even though black and white citizens received aid from the freedmen's bureau, stark ignores that white residents are also benefiting from federal government presence. nash and the freedmen's bureau says, you are barring these men solely because they are african-american. stark did not deny that. instead, he offered a financial reason to justify his
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dissemination. access to institutions like the alms house, he argued, was not an automatic right for anyone regardless of skin color. instead, admittance was reserved for taxpayers, because it was their dollars that supported institutions like the on's house. he discursively turned this governmental public space that is supposed to be for the benefit of all the citizens into a new kind of private space in which you had to pay a membership fee, taxes, in order to access. stark actually claims that because only 118 black columbians pay taxes, no blacks are allowed entrance. the freedmen's bureau and mash and other leading members of the black community, they do not fall for this argument. they pointed out that black people were taxed the same as white people, and 118 black columbians had actually paid taxes. additionally, there were plenty of white columbians who were defaulting on their tax
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payments. if you look at any of the newspapers, they are full of these auctions of property because the taxes have not been paid. but stark does not use those white taxpayers to deny anybody access to the almshouse. some black columbians were even more explicit, and announced that if they were not going to be allowed into access these government spaces, they would stop paying any taxes at all. the argument backfired on him. the fact that any black columbians pay taxes at all, in the view of the freedmen's bureau and black columbians, made them eligible for all government services and spaces. this is not to say that black columbians valued independence any less than white columbians. black columbians struggled against persistent accusations that they were idle, dependent vagrants. but if dependence remained
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distasteful, demanding government services and access to the governmental public space became an important way african-americans claimed citizenship after the civil war. only a citizen could demand service from the government, and in the devastated urban environment of columbia, these demands could mean the difference between life and death. so while stark' is always cloaked in financial concerns, it amounted to repudiation of black people's claims to citizenship. taking place against the backdrop of the urban growth you saw so many images off, these conditions seemed directly brought about by the ire because columbians could measure the destabilization of their society in the number of people who were displaced, in the number of people who were going hungry, in the number of people who were standing in line to receive their free rations. it is hard to overestimate the effect of the burning of columbia on the minds of white columbians area in this general environment of white columbia. it was a devastating and memorable experience for everyone involved. there are so many accounts of this night of terror.
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the columbians published accounts of it. they write about it in letters in diaries. they talk about it on the street corners. the cultural importance is really undeniable. but cities across the south face the same sorts of destabilization of power structures, and even in cities that were not touched by fire. the destabilization manifested itself in a thousand different ways. in north carolina, former members of elite society found that after the civil war they could no longer use the capitol building for their own meetings. black people everywhere redefine relationships between the
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government and the governed. they began to demand access to spaces like the columbian on's house all over the south. in raleigh, north carolina, they claimed their rights to be admitted to the state lunatic asylum. i want to suggest that columbian experiences resemble other cities more than they diverged during reconstruction. it is just that the stakes seemed so much higher in columbia. what i want to suggest today is that instead of looking at the burning of columbia as this revolutionary event, we should really look at it as a or's that magnified and accelerated changes that were occurring all over the south, while faith, race, and citizenship in twine in emancipation across the region. the fire in columbia made this connection visceral. black political, legal, and social rights became entangled with the loss of white control of physical spaces in the city. the fire set up a context which connected public space, black
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citizenship, and resource competition, and brought the larger issues of reconstruction into sharp relief around a single disaster. what it really does, and its lasting importance, is that it made freedom look like a zero-sum game in which any rights gained by black columbians were directly lost by white columbians. thank you very much. [applause] >> thank you very much, caitlin. our fourth and last speaker is my colleague tom brown, with the history department of the university of south carolina where tom teaches courses on civil war and reconstruction. tom is educated at harvard three times over. he has a bachelor's degree, a law degree, and a phd from harvard. he has written extensively on the civil war period.
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recently, an edited book called "remixing the civil war: meditations on the sesquicentennial," and another on the public art of civil war commemoration. but his latest book is the one you want to get a hold of that is just now coming to market. it will be for sale after the event today. out here in the lobby. that is "civil war cannon: sites of confederate memory in south carolina." he is also the principal consultant for historic columbia, it on the historic woodrow wilson house. this is a rare interpretation of this troubled period in the history of the south and the nation, reconstruction. today, tom is going to talk about the reconstruction of the south and columbia. please welcome tom brown. [applause] tom: thank you very much, don,
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for that generous introduction and advertisement. i would also like to thank jessica and tone for the work they have done on this event. john shearer, kerry phillips and everyone out historic columbia for all they have done over the past month in the sesquicentennial observance. today, february 17, is perhaps the most memorable day in the history of columbia. february 17, 1865. the memories have become the starting point for the wide variety of cultural productions, beginning with reminiscences and photographs that megan showed us, through writings by people who lived through it, like mary chestnut, and continuing through the events of the past month. i would like to talk about those
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memories in the question and answer period, but what i want to focus on at this point is there are lots of ways to be memorable, and memorable does not always mean pivotal. looked at from a lot of vintage points, it is hard to see that the burning of columbia had a particularly large impact on its history. to be specific, what i want to focus on is the idea that the burning of columbia would not particularly be a big factor in the failure of reconstruction in columbia. to the contrary, reconstruction in columbia went a lot better than it went elsewhere in south carolina. that is not to say that the burning of columbia is not part of a set of feelings of hostility that were very real. there is a lot of emotional
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history of the civil war and reconstruction era. slavery built a profound racial antipathy and deepens that antipathy. secession inflamed passions. the war deepened bitterness. the fire offered residents of columbia a focus for this, a way to identify it with a single moment, especially for those who had lost so many valuable possessions. no talk on this subject is complete without a quotation from emma laconte. [laughter] i will offer my ante. she writes shortly after the fire, before they came here, i thought i hated them as much as was possible. now, i know there are no limits to the feeling of hatred. it is easy to jump from a quotation like that to imagine a little history of reconstruction and resistance to
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reconstruction. you can make that history quite identifiable in particular people. robert k. scott, for example commanded a brigade in sherman's 17th core. -- 17th corps. he became the state commissioner of the freedmen's bureau in south carolina after the war. he was elected governor in 1868, and served in that position until 1872. as we have heard, the figure who at the end headed the confederate defense of columbia was hometown military hero wade hampton, whose family had a number of houses burned on this day 150 years ago. he of course winds up leading the resistance to reconstruction as the redeemer governor. but tidy as that story is, my major point is that the
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resistance to buy racial democracy in columbia -- to biracial democracy in columbia is different than in the country of south carolina. -- the upcountry of south carolina. violence prompted the u.s. army to fight the ku klux klan. the arrests were almost all in york and spartanburg counties. the trials, however, were held in columbia, which underscored the contrast between the relatively peaceful capital -- the completely peaceful capital -- and the bloodsoaked resistance elsewhere in the state. a good demonstration of this contrast and our landscape is the randolph cemetery, a product of the violence of 1870-71 which prompted local african-american leaders to look over the political terrorism of the last several years in the landscape.
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they turned back to the assassination of benjamin franklin randolph in 1868. randolph was in the state legislature. he had previously lived in charleston. but he was buried in columbia after a funeral at bethel church. after the violence of 1870-71, or in the midst of continuing violence, republicans planned a monument to randolph. there was a dedication ceremony at what was then part of elmwood cemetery, in february of 1871, which was a major demonstration of interracial politics in columbia. it featured a parade with the militia, the highly controversial black militia. including a unit named after
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randolph, the randolph rifles. a variety of political dignitaries, black and white. elmwood cemetery sold the land to randolph cemetery to make randolph cemetery, which is a good, landscape example of the ways in which reconstruction created lasting black institutions. randolph is a reminder that columbia was not as violent as other places. political leaders stayed in columbia because it was safer here. it is not just that columbia was a safe haven, but there was a real moment of opportunity here. i want to give you two snapshots from the burning of columbia. first, a man named william librant enlisted early in the war in a regiment formed mostly of people who lived near each other. this regiment was formed from people who lived in central ohio. near the town of newark. the colonel who organized it was
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from newark. his name was charles woods. librant was a musician, and he headed the regimental band. eventually the army reorganized the bands. they made the brigade level units rather than the regimental units. they started off three or four regiments. he becomes the leader of a brigade level band. in that role, he finds himself in columbia on february 17 1865. he would have been stationed across the congaree river during the occupation of columbia although he certainly may have wandered in. his old neighbors, his friends the 76th ohio, was in the heart of the action. william would pass brigade, and his brother's first division -- this is the brigade sent into the city as the fire begins to get serious in the evening, and is here from a clock in the
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-- 8:00 in the evening until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. if he was not personally in the city of columbia that night, he certainly knew many people who were. after the war, he went home to ohio. in 1867, he decided to reenlist. he was assigned to a unit stationed in columbia, where the army had become basically a goodwill delegation after the transfer of power from the military units that oversee the election of state government under a new constitution, after the military transfers power entirely to civilian government. he started up a series of afternoon band concerts that were tremendously popular.
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concerts three times a week. it was a fixture of social life in columbia. at the end of his term of enlistment, he decided to stay in columbia. he opened a music store. he was a central figure in the music life of columbia. he handled bookings for the major musical venues in town. he became the bandleader for the firemen's band, a natural continuation of his work at the post. it was his work that the leader of the herman's band -- of the firemen's band that brought him to the state fair in 1871, the third since the end of the war. the state fair was an institution that developed beginning in 1869, explicitly as a vehicle for organizing resistance to reconstruction for bringing together with around the state and speaking about resistance to reconstruction. the key to your in developing the state fair is d. wyatt aiken, generally thought to have arranged randolph's murder.
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he was arrested for it, but not tried. this rather sinister backdrop to the state fair only highlights how notable it was that librant was there with his firemen's band, this veteran of sherman's march, for a competition to identify the best band in the state. and in the finals, his band played a couple pieces, and then there are a couple of pieces from thompson's band. thompson's band was a black group that played at the marches of the randolph rifles, sessions of the black vigilant fire company, and the republican state convention. i think the leader of thompson's and was a member of reynolds rifles. one of the judges in this competition is william henry orchard, a popular local musician, a longtime teacher at columbia female college, no
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w columbia college. his house on taylor street was burned in 1860. orchard was well known in the community, got a lot of community credit for saving the building of the college. there were two other judges. one was a union veteran. one was a confederate veteran. these judges give the price to -- prize to librant's band. but the columbia phoenix recognized a highly complementary notice of thompson's band. this interracial competition in this environment suggests the kind of promise of reconstruction, the wedge of reconstruction. one more story of this kind. as we have heard, the heart of the fire district was main street, which was very heavily burned.
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and had to be very heavily rebuilt. of the many buildings that go up on main street in the decade after the fire, the most important what's what is now our city hall, the federal post office and courthouse, organized by congress in 1869. no building symbolist reconstruction were dramatically than the rural courthouse and post office. the federal courthouse serves the judiciary that had been dramatically in power during reconstruction to safeguard civil rights. before the war, the numeral courts were mostly a neutral playing ground in lawsuits between residents of different states. after the war, the variety of legislation, the civil rights act of 1866, the enforcement act of 1870 and 1871, the removal act of 1875, the creation of the department of justice -- all of these things make for a new kind of litigation that is going to center on cases that will define and protect american citizenship. the post office similarly
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symbolized reconstruction and patronage that was essential to building up a political party, the basic instrument of grassroots political mobilization. shortly after the president's inauguration in march 1869 grant named ex-slave charles m. wilder the postmaster of columbia, one of the first african-american postmasters in the country, and a symbol the republican coalition was going to recognize african-american voting with patronage. while there was an enterprising businessman as well as a republican activist, very much like nash. wilder personified a bridge to partisan and racial divisions. apart from its eventual uses as the post office and the courthouse, just the process of building what is now city hall had implications for
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reconstruction. a nice building, and expensive building. building it created lots of patronage. the first money to build it was administered by a columbia native who was a white republican, the merchant cyrus h. baldwin. much of the money he was dispersing -- it is a three-story granite building. most of it was going to free artisans, to stonecutters. these stonecutters personified the idea of the dignity of labor that was the foundation for republican anti-slavery ideology. this idea that labor is dignified and slavery is antithetical to that. the construction of the post office and courthouse compelled columbia to the center of the controversy over the eight hour day. in the aftermath of emancipation, worker demand for time to maintain family relations, time to develop self cultivation, labor -- eight
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-- time for leisure. eight hours for what we will that was the slogan. it was insistence on the dignity of labor. congress provided for an eight hour day for federal employees and contractors.. the johnson administration let federal contractors cut wages by 20% when they went from a 10 hour day. the grant administration said, do not do that, but they did not do it with much force, because conservatives protested that regulating working hours interfered with freedom of contract. the stonecutters went on strike for an eight hour day in april of 1872. they obtained the support of president grant for their position. grant issued his proclamation again with more teeth in it. the building of city hall, the post office, it goes on. the project comes to an inspiring conclusion on july 3 1875, when the crew voluntarily stayed over time to raise the
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flagstaff from which the united states flag began to fly on the 10th day, over the formal -- former cradle of secession. after finishing the installation, the group assembled in the spacious main room of the post office to conduct a mock trial in which they sentence the master mechanic in charge of the site to wear for the rest of his life a massive and elegant gold watch, inscribed with the appreciation of his fellow workers. charles e. kirk was a columbia native, a former confederate officer. he was a lieutenant throughout the war. he was an admirer of benjamin franklin parry, the greenville unionist who serves as the first postwar governor. kirk hospira'tis patient in this -- kirk's participation in this event, like the friendly band competition in the state fair in november 1871, suggests the
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local potential in reconstruction. rubin makes the excellent point in her book, white southern memories of sherman's march tended to run together with memories of reconstruction. this conflation of sherman's march and reconstruction has served a polemical purpose imagining reconstruction as some destructive process from which white southerners understandably and unanimously recoiled. that is not the case. reconstruction was a highly constructive process, that at least in columbia showed real promise of succeeding. the annihilation of that promise, which featured wade hampton working with radicals around the state, with an event that columbia celebrated for decades with the kind of effort with which we are marking the burning of columbia now. and at this point in the history
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of the city, i am pleased to see the community putting so much effort into the period of opening promise, instead of the period of shutting down promise. thank you very much. [applause] don: thank you very much, and thanks to all of you for , i think, just wonderful papers. these were unscripted. we did not tell them what to address. we just brought in the best historians on this period. but they have also left lots of topics untouched, and i am sure will put lots of questions in your minds. we have plenty of time now for our continued q&a period for most of the next hour. i invite you to raise your hand. i will call on you. please introduce yourself. tell us to whom you are addressing your question, if it
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is a particular panelist, and state your question loud and clear. i will repeat it if it is not audible to everyone. you have one microphone here that we can pass around. anyone with a question in mind that would like to address the panelists? yes, we have a mobile microphone in the audience. >> fascinating talks. i want to go back to the issue you brought up a couple weeks ago, tom, about the burning of atlanta, its memory, and the burning of columbia. you brought that up. maybe you can focus on that. but what is it? what is the difference between these two? why is it so much columbia focusing on this? is it because of hampton being insulted by sherman?
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or is it something more ingrained that makes them different? tom: to reprise quickly, i think there is a variety of factors that go into it. it is significant that the burning of columbia happens near the very end of the war, and so it is possible for these pictures of the kind that make them showed to get out. there is much more proliferation of that kind of industry then there is in the case of atlanta. i think a big part of it is the postwar trajectories of atlanta and columbia. relatively similar cities in the war. columbia is 4/5 as big as atlanta at the outbreak of the war. after the war, by 1880, atlanta is four times as big as columbia. atlanta is addressing a national audience, trying to attract national tourism.
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it is selling a message of resurgence. which is not to say columbia was about stagnation. but it was addressing a local audience. in that local audience, the local politics did not always go very favorable for columbia. elites, in many cases, overwhelmed by a agrarian insurgents or organized labor politics. there was much more to be down about, and so they cultivated a landscape of ruin, whereas atlanta built up a landscape of monuments. >> i think also the context is very different. the thing about atlanta is, it is destroyed partially three different times, first in the
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battle of atlanta, in which union forces surround part of the city and start shooting shells into the city center, then when the confederates abandon atlanta, they do their own defensive burning, which was quite common and has been are raised in the history of a lot of the civil war, that confederates were responsible for a lot of that, because that was considered a normal and justifiable military tactic. you wanted to keep your war matériel out of the hands of the enemy, right? they did a lot of different burning. union occupation, which you do not see in columbia at all -- how long do they stay here, two days, as opposed to several months in atlanta? and they deliberately went around the city and use their engineers in atlanta to set explosives at specific sites and then set them off and burn the city down. the burning of atlanta is actually a four-month process, as opposed -- columbia is spectacular because it is one day of heavy destruction.
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i think it is about the same kind of percentage of the city in each city destroyed in that case. anne: i would just add -- what is interesting -- we are sitting in columbia, so we are all very focused on the burning of columbia. the broader cultural memory of sherman's march and the war is much more focused on the burning of atlanta, even though it is misperceived misunderstood miss constructedsconstructed burning of atlanta. i think you can never underestimate the impact of gone with the wind, which so shaped the way we look at the war. of course, that all takes place in georgia. it is an interesting dichotomy.
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even though columbia seems to be more resentful, and to cling more to its burning, it remains the less well-known burning. don: very good. other questions? yes, sir. back here. wait for the microphone here and then everyone will be able to hear you. thanks. >> this is for miss rubin. per your comments about the blame game for columbia, i would like to share a quote from you. general sherman at war. he writes, the mass of evidence leads to an obvious judgment. columbia would still have burned. the numerous fires set by sherman's troops, sherman or any other general instigating the fire, they let a multitude of arsonists in each town. i would like to hear your thoughts on that. megan: i am not familiar with
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that quote. -- anne: i am not familiar with that quote. i do not know if columbia would have burned. it would not have burned to the same spectacular degree. sherman and his men took as their mission to burn war matériel, government buildings things like that. it is very possible that those would have burned. one of the big misconceptions about sherman's march had to do with the degree to which private homes were destroyed. that being said, there is a -- how do i want to say this? in the georgia park, most of what is destroyed our outbuildings, jim houses, farms. they do not burn a lot of private houses in georgia. in south carolina, however because the men are angrier and
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there is a real vengeful attitude toward south carolina and sherman disingenuously writes, i decided not to restrain the men from this vengeful attitude, because i thought that would impair their vigor. it is more personal and south -- in south carolina, and there is more burning of private homes. i still do not think -- i really have to say i do think that the burning cotton starts the fires, and once there are already fires, it is much easier to let them burn. >> i am the author of "sherman's invasion of south carolina." in my research, i found three interesting quotes implying that general logan told them to burn columbia. melvin grigsby, a pow, wrote that he climbed on the high bank beside the road, and watched to see where it was blowing. he would waive his hat and call three cheers for south carolina after each discharge. another wrote, i went down to the bank of the river and fired shots. general logan told us to pitch
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in and i are only one. he fired one shot from the batteries. they do not fire on us. he said he would burn it anyway. logan was heard that night saying, go and you will certainly be burned tomorrow. there was a major general singing a popular new ditty. if i do not burn you, i will be dammed. anne: i am not disputing there were union soldiers that set fires. but for every quote that john logan gave in order to fire, you have an equivalent quote of a union soldier saying, we were never given orders to fire. i am not disputing that union soldiers bear blame for some of this fire. don: let's see.
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we have another question from this gentleman here. yes? you are standing up. we will get to the others. we have time. >> i have a question. it is my understanding, from reading tom's book and other books, that a guy named beauregard was in command of the district of south carolina and other states, and was in command in columbia until the morning of the fire. hampton became a lieutenant general that morning, and he was given command of the city by beauregard because beauregard was leaving. his first order was, don't set the cotton on fire, which was spread among his men. his reason was, it would make the city burn. and then he left. he was gone by 8:30. why him? don: if you want to --
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anne: i am as flummoxed as anyone else. do you mean why do they set the cotton on fire? >> [indiscernible] sherman, and what he was trying to do. there was all this politics. anne: i think that is right. i think part of the reason hampton gets blamed is, there is a difference in views. sherman says in 1975, i blamed hampton because i knew it would make people more upset. honestly, i do think that if it had made more sense to blame beauregard, sherman would have blamed beauregard. but hampton -- there is a utility in that. megan: and certainly would have been convenient and a circular theme to come back to beauregard, because he either on
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fort sumter. if there had been a p.r. person in charge of this thing, they would have gone after beauregard. it is hampton who writes a letter to sherman, right? so when anne is talking about this exchange of blame as a mutual -- almost like a literary dual, like an epistolary duel, where they are sending these letters back-and-forth, blaming each other, and it that's escalated because hampton is a politician, and everyone keeps bringing it up again and again because these guys are pretty high profile. there is a first exchange of accusations in the letters. i do not think beauregard ever
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sends a letter to sherman about this particular event. that is the piece that sort of gets all of the play. don: good. we have some other questions. let's take one from the gentleman standing here. we will take all the others in due time. >> this is more or less a follow-up on your quotes. i encourage folks that want to read further -- if the question is the burning of columbia, who and why, captain george packer and ohio soldiers -- i would not suggest -- don: speak right into it. >> i would not suggest reading any other southern views at the time, because they might not -- they might be considered biased. captain pepper is from ohio. young william lyle was from the 76th ohio. this is what he wrote to his folks five weeks after his --
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after the burning. i have got a nice opera glass made of pearl, and a net can ring of silver. i captured them in columbia when the city was on fire. what a horrible sight it was to see, etc., etc. the soldiers were bound to burn the secessionist place, and they done it. as the fire was reaching, the -- as the fire was raging, the men were pillaging the stores, breaking them open. then they tell us a whole bunch of things that they got. mr. middleton got a splendid lady's gold watch and a complete set of silver spoons. a great many of our soldiers burned to death by being drunk in the houses that caught on fire. i saw the corpse of one burned to a crisp after the fire lit his gun and cartridge belt on fire.
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our soldiers always said, if they ever entered the place, they would burn it. it was a vengeance thing. the capital, the source of secession. we are 150 years later. but i think testimony like this answers the question. tom: no question there was a lot of vengeance. there is a hand up back here. >> and wanted to ask a question. i was primarily directing this at dr. rubin and dr. or nelson. what are your thoughts on the connections between rumination ruins, relics, and national identity, and the creation of it in this century. thank you. -- the creation of nationalism, particularly in the century. thank you. >> [indiscernible]
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[laughter] anne: i will let you start. you handle the relics. megan: that is a nice follow-up to this quote. the looting of houses and the taking of souvenirs was common in all theaters of war, taking these objects and sending them home, and all soldiers did it, northern and southern. and by doing this, they transformed what is a kind of domestic object, and someone's belongings, and often something very emotionally tied to their lives, and they turned it into a kind of relic, into a sort of fetishized piece of the past saying, this is from the ruins of columbia. the more powerfully ruins of
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columbia become, the more powerful the objects taken from that waste. and it attains all that. those objects come to embody the destruction itself. they are part of the ruling. and they get dispersed across the nation. the fire has already done the work of destroying things and making -- as caitlin was talking about in her paper, making private spaces public. we see this in disasters. suddenly, you are seeing into people's homes. walls are torn off and you can see into people's living rooms and it seems wrong. it creates this entrée for people to come in and take items. they gain this real power. depending on who takes it, it can symbolize all sorts of things, including union victory or confederate defeat, which is your connection to nationalism. i am not sure if this answer has touched every single subject every single huge subject that
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you asked about. but the souvenir taking and the looting were an important part of this process not only for sherman's march, but the war in general. wherever soldiers went, they knew that this was an important and vital part of their life experience, and they wanted to commemorate it themselves, and they often did so by taking things from other people. anne: in terms of the nationalism, a lot of what i argue in life first book is that the confederate nationalism that emerges during the war transforms during the postwar years into what i call a sentimental or emotional nationalism. they are, i think, there is a power in these relics, in a sense of victimization on the part of white southerners, that becomes a way to hold themselves apart from the nation. i think woodward wrote in the 1960's, in irony and southern
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history, that the south was the only american region that had the experience of loss, and that becomes a key element to southern nationalism or regionalism after the war, this newfound southern identity. the last piece of it, in terms of the taking of relics, is that a staple of reunion and reconciliation asked narratives, starting in the 1890's, is the return of relics. you are returning something. personal objects get returned. there are all kinds of stories. i took an object off of a dead confederate, and 20 years later, i came back and found his family and made them whole by returning this object. don: tom brown had to leave. he is teaching his students at this moment. he is not escaping any questions
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here. but let's see if we have some others. a hand up here. >> what was the condition of the civilian population of columbia prior to the fire? was it flowing with refugees? was there any shortage of food? was it widespread? was suffering limited? caitlin: this is a reason i think the fire becomes a magnifying force instead of revolutionary.
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somebody actually estimates that the population of columbian devils -- of columbia doubles in 1965 alone. i think that is an exaggeration, but it speaks to the larger issue. there is already a shortage of housing and probably food. charleston is sending their families, their furniture, their valuable alcohol to columbia. they do not start evacuating that until a day and a half before sherman arrives. there is already this sort of heightened condition in columbia. don: i understand many slaves were brought here, refugeed, because they assumed it would be the low country, charleston, that would be the main target of the union march, the invasion. sherman deceived them in that sense, and went not for augusta, not for charleston, but for columbia. we have a question. >> this is for dr. rubin, and i want to offer up a traditional old-fashioned military kind of explanation for why sherman would say, i ordered atlanta burned, so why wouldn't i admit to burning columbia? this is a disciplined fighting force that he has had in the field for years.
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he is very proud of them undoubtedly. this is the first instance i can see as a military historian where he loses control of elements of his army, large elements of his army. a breakdown of the kind that would make any military commander kind of ashamed. they would not want to admit to this, to the public or other people of power. can you respond to that? caitlin: -- anne: that is interesting, the notion that sherman is not fully in control of army in columbia. i think there is an element to which that is true. there is also an element to which sherman is not in control of them because he has chosen to not be in control of them. i think that if sherman wanted his main controlled, he would have. he issues this sort of generic do not burn order.
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but i think there is a lot of evidence -- i am kind of think of the word i want to use -- flexibility. there is an and him and flow in the amount of control sherman has over his man. he will loosen it and tighten it, and order his subordinates to loosen and tighten control. i do think you are right. i do think this is a particular weight for sherman's army. if they are out of control -- this is as close to out of control as they get. you see he really wants them to put the gloves back on when they go into north carolina, and he sort of issues in order to that effect. that is not effective, as sherman would have wanted it to
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be. >> the one thing he did not calculate, either controlling them less or having some sort of impact on their actions -- i do not think he could account for the large amount of combat veterans. anne: there is a lot of liquor in columbia. i do not mean to come across as some sort of sherman apologist. in the interest of fairness, i think he also could not account for the weather in columbia. there is a fierce wind blowing. there are factors out of his control. i am fascinating that -- fascinated that we are still fighting the fight, and, even though most historians believe everyone burned columbia. i tell my students, the more -- the war burned columbia. i mean, this is sort of the
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point of my book, right? the war burned columbia. the question is, why do we want to place blame? why do we not want to admit that everyone is at fault in this war, is what i find interesting. don: could i intervene briefly? we have talked about an ambiguous source of the fire and the combination of april. pillaging is not, and taking things. another transgression that we have not really taken up yet was rape. i know that harry stout, in his book, a moral history of the civil war, focuses on columbia. i wonder if any of you could talk about those instances, and what was the extent of it, and what do we know about rape in columbia. there was one particularly brutal incident involving an older black woman. there was one particularly
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-- >> i think in general we do not know enough about the use of sexual violence during sherman's march and during the war in general. the evidence, the kind of evidence historians like to use is generally pretty thin and it is unusual -- this case or a well-known case that comes out of milledgeville, also a white woman being raped. it is the only case i have come across where multiple people know the story and multiple people talk about the story. i think the court-martial records are pretty thin. i talked to someone pretty familiar with the court-martial records. the other issue is that -- knowing what we know about soldiers and violence and race during this time, i think we can pretty safely assume more african-american women were
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subject to sexual assault than white women. but one thing i would like to say and this goes back to what don said at the beginning when he was talking about sherman and the birth of the total war, it is important to keep in mind that sherman's total war is not the total war of the 21st century. this is almost exclusively a war on property. this is not a war on people's bodies. sherman and his soldiers are not rounding up groups of southern civilians and shooting them. i think that is important distinction to make. >> we have a question. hold for the microphone. >> i look forward to your
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forthcoming book about the west during civil war. have any of you looked at sherman's reputation in light of his future service out west and how he conducted military operations? does that offer any insight on the burning of columbia, and i think your comment about waging war on property, not people is particularly relevant here. >> i know a lot of historians talk about the trajectory of the civil war, that this is the u.s. military turns from the reconstruction south to the west to fight against native americans. and sheridan and william tecumseh sherman at the lead in that fight and you can see from
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their civil war experience why that might be. they are experts in hard war. the reason i have a problem with the story and how we usually tell it, it ignores the war in the far west, the southwest, and the mountain west where native americans were waging war against union and confederate armies as they tried to fight each other and it does not take into account sherman and sheridan and other military figures are learning -- you know, hard war exists in the american past, in american history and military history with engagement in native american groups. there are smaller details. they attack one another's resources. they use the raid instead of the all out battle. all of that is very complicated and part of the military history and the cultural history in the u.s.
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but i love the quote that anne had. i had not heard that before. sherman said if you wanted to burn columbia, he would have burned it like a prairie dog village. he saw prairie dog villages in the west during his service and when he comes back to write his memoirs, they are inflected not only by his civil war service, but also his service in the west. i think it is important to note, there was a comment earlier about southern sources being biased. all civil war sources are biased. it does not matter what it is. if it is a diary if it is a , military record -- they are all written by people like us who have prejudices and left things out and depicted events in specific ways, often weeks and months after the fact, and what i think is interesting about these sources in sherman's
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march in particular in georgia and south carolina is they are moving very quickly, and they are not staying in one place for very long, which does not give soldiers time to write the long diary entries and letters that they are writing in other theaters of the war and other engagements and this shapes the way that we view and understand those conflicts, right? the sources have a different kind of inflection. they are not as sustained as other sources in other fights. just so everyone keeps that in mind. historians -- we all try to keep this in mind all the time. there is not just one soothsayer on one side of this conflict or one true type of source. they are all biased in some sort of way. >> anyone else? i see a hand up here.
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and then we will get to the two of you. i want everyone to have at least one question before we get to the second round. >> hello. thank you again for all of the wonderful presentations. i have always wondered what mayor goodwin's rolled may has -- role may have been in any of this, or if he was just pushed out of the way. what brings me to that, the letter that he wrote to the governor after the burning of columbia where he asked for men and guns to put out violence. and also the guns that were left, i guess by sherman's troops. in the days and weeks directly following the burning, those hints at violence. i wonder if any of you might speak to that. >> i don't know of any specific outrages happening in columbia but i think it speaks to a sense of disorder and chaos. oftentimes it looks like what appears to be violence to white
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southerners and what colombians is not necessarily like ku klux klan outrages or to that effect. i know that goodwin issues a proclamation trying to stop african-americans from moving around. you had to have a permit to cross the river if you were black. you had to have permission from someone already in the city. i think a lot of that is about a loss of control that looks very violent. i do not know any specific outrages. >> we had another question here. did you have a question? just a moment. ok. >> do we have a pretty good idea and a many of sherman's troops actually came into the city of
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columbia? you know, we hear 60,000 troops, but i imagine a lot of them stayed on the left of the river and maybe somewhere on the other side -- maybe some work on the other side. do we know how many came through? how many marched down the streets? >> [indiscernible] the 15th and 17th? probably about half. probably about 30,000. but i will tell you honestly, i have not looked at that. i do not have a good answer for you on that specific topic. i'm sure it was not all 60,000 but -- >> [indiscernible] >> 14,000 sounds good. ok. >> her and then right here, in the gray sweater. >> hi, i am just curious about what we know about, one, how many african-americans were in the city when the burning
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occurred, how many of those left, and then what their experience was like for those who stayed. do we have information about that? is there evidence of that experience? >> this is that question where i wish we have the evidence. i wish that somebody took a census in columbia or any southern city every year. 1865 is a huge year of movement, and 1851 through 1869, equally large numbers of people are moving in and out of cities -- between cities, rural, urban, but unfortunately the real hard
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data we have from 1860 and 1870. i can say that the black population did rise significantly and i suspect it rose more dramatically in 1865 and has gone down again by 1870. partially through vagrancy laws and they were pushed back to the countryside and the principle of -- and forced to sign contracts through the municipal authorities and the freedmen's bureau is getting on that also. and there are just not as many job opportunities as black southerners wanted there to be in southern cities, and a lot of the initial movement is this initial movement that was maybe never meant to be permanent. and also, remember, columbia is in the middle of this agricultural region and the black population and the white population also increases significantly. >> let's see. there were other hands up also. yes, sir?
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>> this question is for dr. nelson. i'm curious to know in your experience the extent to which newspaper illustrators of the time may have shared in that aesthetic that the photographers had? i'm curious. >> oh, yes. the advantage that the illustrators had was they could depict action. there is only one photograph that i know of that actually shows a building burning because you can't capture -- and all you see is it looks sort of foggy. you can't capture motion and photography at this point in time. the exposure time was too long. it just ended up fuzzing. so, the illustrators have given us all of the images we had of cities on fire. there is a famous image -- i
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believe it was one of the wode brothers, maybe william wode. you see the entire foreground is filled with civilians and all of their stuff. all of their domestic belongings. you can see the process that the city is on fire and the first phase of destruction, which is the emptying out of the houses and making the private space public in that sense. but definitely illustrators, of course, were perceived to be artists, as photographers were. although these civil war american did see photography as more truthful than the illustrations. and many illustrations we have are based on photographs. there is a spread in "harpers" after antietam that consists all of these famous images. if you know about photography,
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you know all of these antietam images that gardner took, brady took on the field, but they added people walking, and they added other elements that could not be captured by the photographs themselves. it's an interesting interplay between the illustrators in the photographers. there are two different groups of people, but they both travel with armies on both sides. northern and southern. although there were many more northern artists and photographers than southern. >> i want to piggyback on that and talk about george barnard, america's first photoshopper. he was along on the march, but he does not take any photographs on the march. he does not have time. he does do illustrations along the way.
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my understanding with the columbia photograph is he came back in 1866 and took those photographs. what he does though, he puts together the photographic record of sherman's campaign. he does the atlanta campaign photographs of the atlantic campaign, photographs through atlanta, the ruins of atlanta, photographs of savannah, and then he adds in from his 1866 trip ruins of columbia and he also puts in ruins from charleston, including -- he gives us the pinckney manage -- the pinckney mansion that burned. so he is a really powerful shaper of what we inc. sherman's
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march was all about, but not necessarily was all about. >> we have a follow-up comment back here. you are asking about the rape thing. dr. thomas lowry says 750 union soldiers were court-martialed for the duration of the war for that. sherman himself says that he only knows two rapes. simms implies that were probably gang rapes of slaves in columbia. >> i think that is the account that harry stout referred to in columbia. >> huh. >> caitlin, i believe my question is for you. i am somewhat of a civil war buff. my name is a net cummings -- annette cummings. before i retired, i worked in diversity and inclusion. my feeling is you have to understand the civil war in order to understand the current situation in this country, and particularly in columbia. you mentioned that there ought
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to be some sort of commemoration for what happened during reconstruction. what would that be? i think it's a really wonderful idea, but i'm just curious. what would that be? >> that's a great question. i do not have a specific plan, but unfortunately we cannot put a plan into action today. oh, jessica has a plan. >> i do not have a plan, but -- [indiscernible] to come up with a comprehensive examination. >> and of course, there is the wilson house.
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>> and i think the national park service is bringing together a lot of historians to consult with them on how they might possibly do that and where they might possibly do that, because this is -- you know, the civil war has all of these site. -- all of these sites, right? we had cities, towns, all of these places that can serve for commemoration. reconstruction does as well, but they are not as obvious and they are also -- many of them are no longer in the landscape. so, they are discussing those kinds of things. where would we put a site like that? and how would we interpret it? it is an interesting challenge. there was a big kerfuffle -- not a big kerfuffle, but there was a kerfuffle. in "the new york times," stopping the construction in april with lincoln's
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assassination. there was supposed to be a panel where we were discussing that and they were continuing that into the construction -- the reconstruction period. the word on the street is that is not going to happen and i think that is a real shame. this is a time in our history that is not as well-known as it should be in all of its particulars. >> tom brown suggested a couple of sites for commemorating reconstruction, the city hall and courthouse. that might be one place to begin. we have one question here. >> yes, i want to follow up with that question. a lot of my research has touched on this and have references to
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the low country. i can tell you in 2003, there were attempts to convert several sites in south carolina into a national park service multisite kind of park you would be able to visit and have multiple trips to. i have heard that this may be back on the table for evaluation. since this is for reconstruction, i think this would be a really good site. i think some of these sites with black power would be really important to taking -- to speaking to this narrative. i guess what i am wondering is why 150 years later, sherman who was evoked in this campaign to not create this national park service site, and he was equated with terrorists and terrorism.
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so, i guess my question is, 150 years later -- why are we still debating in public memory this issue? when we know that historians have overturned this decades ago, both sherman's march and reconstruction? i am wondering how connected they are, if we see sherman as the beginning of reconstruction, and do we need to look at everything as a failure from that point on? that is more of a comment. i don't know if you have anything to respond to that? >> wow. that is a big last question. i would say the reason we are still talking about it 150 years later is that there is so much cultural power in the stories that are passed down and these older histories that are sold. the scholarship is in one place.
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the academic community is in one place. the popular narrative and the popular histories are in a very, very different place. working on my book, i read as many novels about sherman's march as i could and i was struck that so many published, even in the 1980's and 1990's , not terribly well known usually, still hugeewed to the moonlight and the magnolias image. in many ways the plots were straight out of the 1870's. to end on an upbeat note, i think as we approach reconstruction, this is a moment of tremendous opportunity for us. there was no centennial of reconstruction. and i think that this is the
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moment where we can, in the years going forward build on this momentum and start to grapple with the very thorny question of reconstruction. >> i want to add that one reason we are still talking about this, especially reconstruction, is it is not easy and there are no clear answers. there is a lot going on. for better or for worse, both academic historians in the public think about war as being two sides. there is a winner, there is a loser, and in reconstruction there is no clear good guide. you can find individual villains.
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you can easily find the good guys behaving badly. it does not lend itself to easy commemoration. which is why i was hoping there would be more discussion then there might not necessarily be to tie it to a specific place then there has been. >> thank you all very much. i think -- is there one more question? are we all finished? [laughter] thank you very much, all of you. [applause] now please join the authors in the lobby for the book signing. tom brown's book is for sale but he will not be here to sign it. you can come back later. thank you. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> the civil war airs every saturday at 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. eastern time. to watch more of our civil war programming at any time, visit our website
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you're watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. >> next weekend marks the 50th anniversary of bloody sunday. each night at 8 p.m. eastern, we will show highlights of our coverage. here is john lewis reflecting on selma 50 years later. >> for the first time in my life i walked across the bridge and what struck me, as you get to the top of that bridge, how much you could see, how much there was before you ran into those alabama state troopers. it struck me because my first thought was


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