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 the Emeritus Distinguished Professor of History at the University of South Carolina and a Contributing Editor to Chronicles. Dr. Wilson is best known as the editor of the 28-volume documentary edition of The Papers of John C. Calhoun. He is the author or editor of a dozen other books—including Carolina Cavalier: The Life and Mind of James Johnston Pettigrew and Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture—and has published over 700 articles, essays, and reviews. He is also the co-owner of Shotwell Publishing.