A dramatic eyewitness account of a city under siege during the Civil War. In the first reissue of these documents since 1865, "A City Laid Waste" captures in riveting detail the destruction of South Carolina's capital city as Gen. William T. Sherman brought his scorched-earth campaign to a hotbed of secession. William Gilmore Simms, a native South Carolinian and one of the nation's foremost men of letters, was in Columbia and witnessed firsthand the city's capture and destruction. A renowned novelist and poet who was also an experienced journalist and historian, Simms deftly recorded the events of February 1865 in a series of eyewitness accounts published in the first ten issues of the Columbia Phoenix. Later that year, he edited the Phoenix text, curbing some of his immediate outrage, and published the material as a pamphlet, "Sack and Destruction of the City of Columbia, S.C." Reprinted here in its entirety and illustrated with a collection of drawings and photographs, the newspaper version of Simms's account offers an unparalleled view into the horrors of invasion on American soil. Simms walked the fire-ravaged streets, interviewing Columbia residents and Union troops.
His record of burned buildings constitutes the most authoritative information available on the extent of the damage. In addition he cataloged widespread looting, atrocities committed against women, the brutal treatment of former slaves by Union soldiers, and the destruction of historically significant documents, works of art, artifacts, and relics. Describing the account as a Southern masterpiece, Simms historian David Aiken provides both a historical and literary context for Simms's reportage. In his introduction Aiken clarifies the significance of Simms's articles and draws attention to important factors for understanding the occupation's impact - the cultural prosperity enjoyed in Columbia prior to Sherman's arrival, the enormity of the invasion itself, the sufferings of the city's residents, and the efforts to cover up crimes and discredit witnesses such as Simms who dared to report atrocities.
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- ID: 9781570035968
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