185 HISTORY OF THE SEVENTY-EIGHTH REGIMENT O.V.V.I.
resting place they knew not, and not a morsel of food could be obtained this side of thirty miles on either extreme.
The railroad was destroyed and all other means of transportation removed by our army. These poor saddened hearts, we could do little for them to lift the burden of sorrow now pressing so heavily upon them, but bid them look up to Him who was a refuge in time of trouble, and whose ears were open to the cries of the needy. That morning the Corps moved on toward Columbia, destroying the railroad on its way. All unoccupied buildings were burnt; many fine mansions, the abodes of wealth, grandeur and happiness, were deserted by their occupants, and stood lonely, inviting the hand of some plundering soldier to apply the torch.
On the 16th the Corps encamped on the bank of the Congaree, opposite Columbia, which gave rise to heavy skirmishing. They left all their heavy works on this side of the river. The city presented a beautiful appearance. The next day the rebels evacuated the place, having burned all the bridges. That afternoon and night the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps crossed and occupied the city. There was concentrated much of the wealth of the State; the stores and much of the costly furniture of Charleston were brought here for security. The people conducted themselves with becoming demeanor, and treated the soldiers with much courtesy and respect; but very imprudently, yet meant in kindness, set out their wines and liquors to them.
The citizens little thought their beautiful city would next morning be a mass of smoking ruins. There were many things conspiring for the destruction of the city. In the afternoon a furious storm of wind arose and blew continuously with the violence of a hurricane till late at night. All the encampments caught fire and drove the men from the woods. The rebels put fire to cotton and to their commissary, which soon communicated the flames to adjacent buildings. Soon others were set on fire, the wind carrying the flames with unconquerable rapidity. Escaped prisoners and drunken soldiers soon began to apply the torch all over the city, and by midnight it was an ocean of flames. Six regiments were quickly sent to aid the citizens and guard every house, and soldiers from all regiments worked faithfully in rescuing people from burning houses and carrying the sick to safe places.
One of the Seventy-Eighth entered a burning building, and carried in his arms a considerable distance a woman, and with her a child three days old. Many such incidents occurred. One poor mother, in her confusion and terror, forgot her children, who were asleep up stairs. The fire spread so rapidly that almost immediately all entrance was cut off. The frantic mother called to her children from the street, and the screams of the children and calls to mother could be distinctly heard. In a few minutes the flames, in their mad rage, seemed to draw the building from its foundation, and it was consumed with almost the rapidity of an explosion; here and there could be seen persons jumping from the second stories. The faithfulness of the guard saved many from perishing. We have heard of the sacking and burning of cities, but to be a spectator to it beggars all description. It is grand, sublime and terrible. The next morning when riding through the ruins of the city, all was quiet and still as death; broken furniture and charred fragments
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