There has been considerable discussion lately about the federal government’s potential use of the U.S. Army against American citizen civilians. It might be worth a moment to pause and remember February 17, 1865. On that winter day, the U.S. Army, with malice aforethought, robbed, raped, and burned out the white and black people of the beautiful city of Columbia, South Carolina. Although the city was undefended, had already been surrendered, and was of no military significance. Besides many homes, businesses, beautiful gardens, warehouses, and churches, deliberately set fires consumed, after looting, an Ursuline convent school, a Christian art collection, printing presses, a scientific museum, documents and relics of the American Revolution, and the means of subsistence of thousands of women and children. And the U.S. Army long denied responsibility, although everyone knew that was a lie.
Clyde N. Wilson is a contributing editor to Chronicles. A retired professor of history at the University of South Carolina, he is the author of numerous books, including Carolina Cavalier: The Life and Mind of James Johnston Pettigrew and Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture. He is the editor of The Papers of John C. Calhoun.