14 February 1865: “It is true some think Sherman will burn the town, but we can hardly believe that.”

Item Description: Entry, dated 14 February 1865, from the diary of Emma Florence LeConte, the daughter of scientist Joseph LeConte of Columbia, S.C. For the next week, we will be sharing entries from Emma LeConte’s diary that she kept during the burning of Columbia. She details Sherman’s entry into town, the burning, and its aftermath in vivid detail.


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

Item Transcription:

Feb. 14th, Tuesday.

What a panic the whole town is in! I have not been out of the house myself, but father says the intensest excitement prevails on the streets. The Yankees are reported a few miles off on the other side of the river. How strong no one seems to know. It is decided if this be true that we will remain quietly here, father alone leaving. It is thought Columbia can hardly be taken by a raid as we have the whole of Butler’s cavalry here – and if they do we have to take the consequences. It is true some think Sherman will burn the town, but we can hardly believe that. Besides these buildings, though they are State property, yet the fact that they are used as a hospital will it is thought protect them. I have been hastily making large pockets to wear under my hoopskirt – for they will hardly search our persons. Still everything of any value is to be packed up to go with father. I do not feel half so frightened as I thought I would. Perhaps because I cannot realize they are coming. I hope still this is a false report. Maggie Adams and her husband have promised to stay here during father’s absence. She is a Yankee and may be some protection and help. Our sufferings will probably be of short duration, as they will hardly send more than a raid. They would not have time to occupy the town. But I cannot believe they are coming! ********* Aunt Josie and all will remain I suppose. Indeed they would not have time now to put into execution their projected flight. Alas, what may we not have gone through with by the end of this week! Ah me, I look forward with terror, and yet with a kind of callousness to their approach.

night – Father says the above is a false alarm. It was only a raid of 300 men which was repulsed by our forces. The evil day is at least postponed.

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