Experiences During the Civil War

Mrs. Mary Janney Leaphart

I went to the depot the day before Columbia was burned on the 16th of February. My father and mother went with me; but as I got on the train, I looked back and saw mother all alone, so I got out and went back home. After we got home, it wasn’t very long before they began shelling the city. The shells were falling so that we got a stage and horses and hitched up and started out towards the sand hills, got as far as the Hopsons, where we thought that would be far enough, so we went in and asked them if we could stay in the yard. They said no, but we must come in the house; spent part of the next night there and about four went back home. The next morning the Yankees came in. The delegation that went to meet them was composed of Mr. McKenzie, Mayor Goodwyn, Mr. Bates, and Mr. Stork. Mr. Stork is the only one living. These went to the bridge to meet the Union forces, carrying a flag of truce, and surrendered the city, and asked for protection, which was promised. Our house was Janney’s Hotel, on the corner where the Jerome Hotel used to be. It was about eleven o’clock when the Union forces got into the city. People asked for guards; my father asked for guards to protect his property, and they gave them to him, but they did no good. The Negroes were demoralized. Colonel Stone came and took up his quarters at our house, and as nearly everyone had left, father invited Colonel Stone in to tea with us. We were sitting at the tea table when the fire alarm was rung; someone told Colonel Stone, and he said he would go and see; he got up and went out. We never saw him after that.

Among the guards, we had one named Allen. This young man told father he was of a Quaker family (father, being a Quaker, was opposed to the war). Allen did his best to protect everything he could. When the house was nearly falling in, we went to the Hitchcocks. While there, Colonel Cohen, from Augusta, came and sat by me the whole evening, and protected me. While sitting on the Hitchcock steps, the guard Allen came to me and said if there was anything he could bring to me from the house he would do so. I told him I wanted a trunk and shawl, told him where he would find them, and, to my surprise, he brought them. While the place was burning, my parents stayed to see if they could save something. Two of our servants were helping, when two Yankees came in the room and seized father, one on either side, and tried to wrest his watch and chain from him; but he proved to be more than a match for them, and saved it. They saved a great quantity of provisions, about fifty barrels of flour, twenty-four of sugar, several tierces of rice, and hogsheads of molasses, and numbers of boxes of candles. All of this the Yankees took, immediately he had piled it in the middle of the street. When father said to them, “It cannot be possible that you are going to take all of my provisions, and leave my family to starve,” one of them said, “Oh! no; we’ll give you some.” They did give him some rice, flour and molasses, and three sides of bacon. This was divided among our fellow sufferers until we had barely enough to last till father could get supplies from Alston. The piano was saved. The Yankees danced over it, but it was not seriously injured; it was carried into the Lumsdens’ house; we have the piano now. Near midnight, father and mother came for me and said that I must come with them; they had gotten two omnibuses from a stableman, who wanted father to save the horses, who told him to take the omnibuses and put his trunks between the seats; so we did that, and rolled up the beds, etc., and put them in also; saved four featherbeds, four mattresses, etc. As we got in the omnibuses, one of the Yankee colonels rode up and asked where we were going. Father said, “I don’t know where.” The colonel said, “If you go with me, I’ll take care of you; you can go to camp.” Father said he would go.

Colonel Maddox called up an orderly and told him to take us to camp, and tell the general that Colonel Maddox sent them. We went to the camp, and the soldiers tried to steal everything; the orderly had to drive them away by main force.

The camp was at Fisher’s millpond. The orderly told the officer that Colonel Maddox had sent us, and they treated us well. They offered us (father and mother) wine, coffee, and crackers; but I wouldn’t touch a thing; father and mother gladly accepted the coffee. We stayed there until sometime in the morning; we lay down in the omnibus with our clothes on. The next day, they told us that the regiment had to move. The colonel said he would take us back to town; told father to select a place any place he wanted and he would see that he had it. Father said the only place he had a right to go was the Methodist Female College he had given a good deal of money to it. The place was full; we had the use of the dining hall; we stayed there until the following Thursday about a week. The officers were very kind to father all that week; they came back to see that he was not disturbed. They were Orderly Davis Terrell, Surgeon J. W. Hostetter, and Colonel Maddox.

At the end of the week, Caroline Randall, a colored woman (Joe Randall, her husband, was given $5,000 for informing about the insurrection in Charleston), came to us. She owned two or three houses between the Lumsdens’ and the Roses’ Hotel. The Buists and the Lambs lived in the colored woman’s house; they had left before Columbia was burned; they left their furniture, and Caroline came to father and begged him to move in the house where the Buists had lived; said she didn’t want any money; all she wanted was protection. We went there, and carried our belongings; were there about two months, until the ferry was built; and then we went to Mr. Leaphart’s father’s and stayed there. Before we left the college, the omnibuses were taken away from us. Someone brought an order for the horses, and emptied everything we had out; they carried some people North in the omnibuses. The man that went north lost nothing; his house was not burned; but they had relatives there, and went to them.

I carried money in my shoes two twenty dollar gold pieces, one in each shoe. The day Columbia was burned, I said I was going to take a bath and put on clean clothes, so I would be ready for whatever happened. Father brought me the money, and I took off my shoes and put the money in them. Had my clothes on for a whole week. The Yankees were just as gentlemanly as rough men could well be. At the Hitchcock’s, the rabble tried to come up on the steps, but Colonel Cohen told them he would knock their brains out if they didn’t stay away. My father’s bookkeeper Mr. Schuler came back from the war; he lost his leg, and was unfit for service; he also sat by me, with Colonel Cohen, and helped protect me. I didn’t see any bad behavior.

I remember when Hampton left Columbia. It was in the morning before the Yankees came in. Also remember when the cotton was burned; saw the people running with the engines; the Yankees cut the hose; they prowled around and looked into everything. Our best things had been sent to Charlotte; but few things were saved out of the house an armchair, looking-glass, and piano. There were about one hundred and twenty sleeping rooms in the hotel. Father had corn, flour, etc., stored at Alston, where the train had been wrecked. He got a wagon and brought down several loads.


South Carolina Women in the Confederacy. Edited and Published By Mrs. Thomas Taylor, Chairman, Mrs. Smythe, Mrs. August Kohn, Miss Poppenheim, Miss Martha B. Washington, State Committee Daughters of the Confederacy. Columbia, South Carolina, The State Company, 1903.

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