Columbia Captured!

“I ran upstairs to my bedroom windows just in time to see the U.S. flag run up over the State house. O what a horrid sight! what a degradation! After four long bitter years of bloodshed and hatred, now to float there at last! …The troops now in town is a brigade commanded by Col. Stone. Everything is quiet and orderly. Guards have been placed to protect houses, and Sherman has promised not to disturb private property. How relieved and thankful we feel after all our anxiety and distress!”

So wrote Emma Florence LeConte in her journal’s entry for February 17th, 1865. Unfortunately, her relief would turn to grief as roughly one-third of the city was left a smoking ruin by the following morning. Today marks 150 years since Sherman’s army captured the capital of South Carolina, and tonight will mark the 150th anniversary of the massive fires that burned much of the city. Debate continues to swirl regarding the exact details of the fires and who was responsible for them. An interesting article from the February 7th issue of The State newspaper consults a panel of historians and authors on the subject of the Burning of Columbia:

“Who was really responsible for the burning of Columbia in 1865?”


Yet despite the destruction and violence of that night 150 years ago, there were moments of compassion that occurred amid the chaos, as this article from The State remembers:

“Acts of compassion also marked burning of Columbia”


Interestingly, the same evening that the South Carolina capital was facing its trials, a city rivaling Columbia in importance was being evacuated. Charleston’s Confederate defenders and many of its inhabitants pulled out of the city the night of the 17th, allowing the Union to finally capture the city after many months of siege. Thus in just a couple of days in 1865 the two most prominent cities in the birthplace of secession were finally in Union hands.

The 13th Amendment Passes in the U.S. House!

150 years ago this weekend, slavery in the United States was dealt a deadly blow. On January 31st, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed in the House of Representatives (it had passed in the Senate in April of the previous year) by a vote of 119 to 56. The amendment, which formally abolished slavery in the United States, could then be put before the states for ratification. While the Emancipation Proclamation had only freed the slaves in the Confederacy, the 13th Amendment made the abolition of slavery a national policy. The amendment reads simply:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

With just these few words, upon its ratification in December 1865 the amendment promulgated the death of slavery in the United States. The February 1st edition of The New York Tribune described the scene in Congress upon the amendment’s passage, saying “the tumult of joy that broke out was vast, thundering, and uncontrollable.  Representatives and Auditors on the floor, soldiers and spectators in the gallery, Senators and Supreme Court Judges, women and pages, gave way to the excitement of the most august and important event in American Legislation and American History since the Declaration of Independence. God Bless the XXXVIIIth Congress!”

Yet it was clear to some that more would be needed to secure true freedom for the former slaves. Arguing against the disbandment of the American Anti-Slavery Society, Frederick Douglass stated that “even if every State in the Union had ratified that Amendment, while the black man is confronted in the legislation of the South by the word ‘white,’ our work as abolitionists, as I conceive it, is not done.” Douglass had the foresight to realize that despite the major victory that was the 13th Amendment’s passage, there was still much work to be done before blacks in the newly-reunited States would be truly free.

The American Civil War = Internationally Important!

As the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War draws near, the CLAW program would like to draw attention to a couple of works which demonstrate that the conflict had meanings and effects that were felt beyond the borders of the nation at war.

One such book is part of the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Series published by the University of South Carolina Press. In The Civil War as Global Conflict: Transnational Meanings of the American Civil War, editors David Gleeson and Simon Lewis present a collection of essays that explore the conflict as more than just a War Between the States, a war with transnational concerns. The essays in this collection examine the Civil War’s place in a global context as well as its impact on the world beyond North America. 

-Nimrod Tal’s review from The Civil War Monitor:

-William Coleman’s review from Reviews in History:

Another work worth noting is Don H. Doyle’s The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War. In his book Doyle places the war in a global context and explores how much the conflict affected and was affected by international interests. He finds that the Civil War was seen abroad as part of a much broader struggle for democracy, and that the conflict indeed was a critical moment in the global struggle over democracy and democratic ideals.

-Scott Porch’s review from The Chicago Tribune:

The Economist’s review: