The freedmen unwittingly welcomed the Northern invaders and aided them against their white neighbors; Sherman’s soldiers routinely robbed and assaulted both black and white. The “Fiend of Destruction” wrote on 23 February 1865 to his cavalry commander: “It is pretty nonsense for [Southern Generals] Wheeler and Beauregard and such vain heroes to talk of our warring against women and children and prevent us from reaching their homes.”
Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865
Adhering to the Incendiary Enemy:
“How prearranged the burning of Columbia must have been was proved by the scattering of Sherman’s soldiers in every direction. These soldiers were led by Negroes, who not only guided them, but by whom they must have been already informed of the residences of “prominent Rebels.” The eagerness and confidence by which these creatures, who called themselves soldiers, were animated, was astonishing. They flew about inquiring, “Is this the home of Mr. Rhett?” pointing in the right direction; or, “Is that the dwelling of Mr. Middleton?” also indicating exactly the locality, with many other like questions.
It was surprising to see the readiness with which these incendiaries succeeded in their work of destruction. They had hardly passed out of sight when columns of smoke and flames arose to bring the sad news that another home had been sacrificed to the demon of malice and arrogance.
At length we came in sight of the Clark place. I stood amazed, bewildered. I felt as if I would sink to the ground, yea, through it. I was riveted to the spot on which I stood. I could not move. At length I cried – cried like a woman in despair.
Elegant rosewood and mahogany furniture, broken into a thousand fragments, covered the face of the ground as far as I could see; and china and glass looked as if it had been sown. And the house, what of that? Alas! it too had been scattered to the four winds of heaven in the form of smoke and ashes. Not even a chimney stood to mark its site.
Near by stood a row of Negro cabins, intact, showing that while the conflagration was going on, they had been sedulously guarded. And these cabins were occupied by the slaves of the plantation. Men, women and children stalked about in restless uncertainty, and in surly indifference. They had been led to believe that the country would be apportioned to them, but they had sense enough to know that such a mighty revolution involved trouble and delay, and they were supinely waiting developments. No man, woman or child approached me. There was mutual distrust and mutual avoidance.”
(The Women of the South in War Times, Matthew Page Andrews, editor, Norman, Remington Company, 1920, pp. 259-260, 318-319)