In this edition of his widely acclaimed study, Marion B. Lucas tackles one of the most debated questions about the Civil War: Who burned South Carolina's capital city on February 17, 1865? Before the fires had finished smoldering, Confederates and Federals accused each other of starting the blaze, igniting a controversy that has raged for more than a century. To determine the actual origin of the fire, Lucas sifts through myriad official records, newspapers, and eyewitness accounts. The evidence he amasses allows him to debunk many of the myths surrounding the tragedy. Unlike generations of South Carolinians and students of the Civil War, he does not assign particular blame to William Tecumseh Sherman but implicates both Confederate and Federal troops. Lucas traces the damage not to a single blaze but to a series of fires-preceded by an equally unfortunate series of military and civilian blunders-that included the burning of cotton bales by fleeing Confederate soldiers.
This splendid little volume should put to rest forever the question of who burned the capital city of South Carolina.
Journal of Southern History
Well worthy of examination by all interested in the nature of war and the social, political, and economic ramifications of total warfare. Professor Lucas is to be commended for a very worthy research achievement.
The results of his efforts are eminently satisfying. He brings order out of contradiction and confusion by carefully weighing the evidence and presenting the results of his study in a simple, straightforward, and interesting manner.
...deals with one of the most difficult, most delicate issues of the Civil War and deals with it in an honest, unbiased manner.
"It is doubtful Lucas' book will ever shut down the debate over the burning of Columbia. History spawns passionate debate around here, as we've heard all year. But at least those who read it carefully should benefit from a little more balanced historical background."
A native South Carolinian and graduate of the University of South Carolina, Marion B. Lucas is University Distinguished Professor and professor of history at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.