20 February 1865: “the last of the army is leaving the city”

Item Description: Entry, dated 17 February 1865, from the diary of Emma Florence LeConte, the daughter of scientist Joseph LeConte of Columbia, S.C. She continues to describe the aftermath of the burning of Columbia.


Item Citation: From the Emma LeConte Diary, #420-z, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item Transcription:

Monday Feb. 20th
– Quite early this morning a Yankee entered the yard looking for Henry, who forthwith locked himself in his room. Mother went out and asked the mean filthy devil if he wished to make Henry go against his will. He hesitated a little, and said “no”, but he wished to see him. The soldier – the dirtiest, meanest looking creature imaginable – told mother, when she threatened to send for the guard if he did not leave, that he was one of the guard himself. “Well” said mother “there are two officers at my sister’s house and I will send to them”. The Yankee turned and left the yard. Mrs. Bell tells us that Sherman turned loose upon us a brigade that he had never allowed to enter any other city on account of their desperate and villainous character. And yet they talk now of being ashamed of what followed, and try to lay it on the whiskey they found! Shortly after breakfast – O joyful sight – the two corps encamped behind the Campus back of us marched by with all their immense wagon trains on their way from Columbia. They tell us all will be gone by tomorrow evening. O that we were completely rid of them! and that father were with us.

I might then know what it is to feel happy one moment. Under other circumstances it would have been a wonderful sight to see this great army with its endless trains march by. With the memory of Friday night burned in it was hard to look at them.

A great drove of lean ill-looking cattle was driven into the Campus today – our two cows have not been taken from us. Neither the Roman Catholic, Trinity (Episcopal) or Presbyterian Churches were burnt. It was a miracle the latter was saved – everything around it was destroyed. In Trinity churchyard soldiers were encamped. Of course there was no Service in any of the churches yesterday – no Church bells ringing – the Yankees riding up and down the streets – the provost guard putting up their camp – there was nothing to suggest Sunday. What balmy, delicious weather we have had for three days past – most fortunate it is or there would have been even more suffering. Henry has already cut down two trees in the yard to give us fuel. ***** Mother has just this moment returned from Aunt Josie’s bringing the news that the last of the army is leaving the city. The provost guard has broken up camp also. This leaves the terror of stragglers before us – we expected the guard would remain a day or two. There is no knowing what outrages may be committed. Mother is going to try to get Mr. Thomson to stay here at night. She wants to send me to Aunt Josie’s but I will not leave her alone. We must trust to Henry’s protection.

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