Tuesday, July 28, 2009

South Carolina: Jeff King, Days 5 and 6

It is very easy to tour Columbia and understand the deep feelings of hatred for Tecumseh Sherman in these parts. When you study the complete conflagration that enveloped Columbia, it is extreme by almost any definition. Still, arguably Jackson MS, which became known as Chimneyville because only four buildings remained after Sherman completed his work, was even more devastated at Sherman’s hands.

Be sure to pick up a Civil War Tour map of Columbia at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room at 301 Gervais as some sites are difficult to find — such as the Asylum where many people huddled after the great fire destroyed the city, the Hampton/Preston House (Logan’s Headquarters) at 1615 Blanding, the location of the Confederate Printing Plant (with state marker), Congaree Creek battle site (interpreted), and the surrender rock marking the spot where the mayor of Columbia thought he negotiated a surrender with Sherman that would spare the city. You also candownload a pdf file at www.shermansmarch.com.

The South Carolina Relic Room is flat-out one of the best Civil War museums anywhere. A knowledgeable, friendly staff encourages one to spend a full day in the displays, library and museum pieces. Highlights include the Williams Guards Flag, Joe Wheeler Camp of Spanish American War Veterans Flag, Wade Hampton III’s sword, information on the General Railroad caper, an authentic second national CSA flag, portrait of States Rights Gist, a state flag Sherman captured, expanded detail on Sherman’s March, an actual copy of the famous Charleston paper “The Union is Dissolved,” one of the original 200 Secession Lithographs, a red shirt from the reconstruction political era, period picture of New Hope Church Battlefield, Micah Jenkins sword, Maxcy Gregg’s pocket watch, blockade runner miniature, detailed Hunley information including an operating model with mannequins, several Hampton and Fort Sumter mementoes, a SC First National Flag, Edisto Rifles Reunion Flag, Lexington & Brockman Guards flags, and 1st, 5th, 7th, 16th, 24th and 26th SC regimental battle flags. Finally, a really wonderful relic is the 2nd SC USCT Battle Flag. This is a must-see location.

The State Archives Building at 8301 Parklane Road is one of the most complete state Civil War and historical libraries anywhere. The gift shop is very well stocked with flags and other mementoes to tempt your wallet. The First Baptist Church at 1306 Hampton St. housed the original Secession Convention before it was moved to Charleston due to a smallpox outbreak. The Maxcy Gregg House at 1518 Richland Ave. is used as an attorney’s office. Trinity Episcopal Church at 1100 Sumter St. has the burial sites of most of Wade Hampton’s family (father, son and grandson); Henry Timrod (poet); and, most exciting for me, States Rights Gist.

The First Presbyterian Church at Lady and Marion streets has the CSA Monument made from the remains of a pillar of the Statehouse disfigured by Sherman’s visit. John Hugh, a signer of the Secession document, is buried on the “street” side of the church very near the church’s outer wall. There is a plaque listing CSA soldiers who were members of the congregation. President Woodrow Wilson’s parents also are buried here.
Elmwood Cemetery has two separate Confederate sections that involved the politics at the time. I’m not sure why there is a separate DOC section. Unlike some confederate cemeteries (Camp Chase, Columbus OH, for one) this one is well maintained. The flags are new; the flowers, bushes and decorations fresh. The main section is Section E near where General Maxcy Gregg is buried. I recommend the cemetery guide available at the office. Brig. Gen. Milledge Bonham is buried in his family plot with a southern iron cross. It is one of the few places where you can see all the Confederate flags — the Bonnie Blue, Army of Tennessee battle flag, and all three Confederate States of America national flags — flying together with the SC Confederate state flag.

The South Carolina Statehouse at 100 Gervais St. may be the most detailed in connection to the Civil War of any. There are portraits of the battle of Trevilian Station and Rowland Kirkland’s heroics at Marye’s Heights, Fredericksburg VA, and a bust of Gen. Robert E. Lee inside. A UDC tablet discusses the flag bearers killed in the battle of Gaines' Mill. The statue of John C. Calhoun is awe inspiring. Be absolutely sure to view the south side of the building where Sherman’s artillery forever marked the Statehouse. These pock marks are accentuated by stars. Visit the monument to the old Statehouse burned by Sherman’s troops. The beautiful Confederate Monument and accompanying controversial Army of Northern Virginia Battle Flag are on the west side of the grounds near the boulder to the Jefferson Davis Highway. The equestrian statue of Gen./Governor Wade Hampton dominates the east side of the courtyard. There are brass plaques to all his major battles along the base. The Palmetto Mexican War Monument is one of the most unique and attractive you will see anywhere.
Camping and Restaurants Near Columbia
Sesquicentennial State Park at 9564 Two Notch Road was built by the Roosevelt CCC Program during the Great Depression and is a wonderful state park camping experience. It is easily convenient to shopping, restaurants and the expressway to downtown. Two notes of warning: The front gate is locked in evening hours so if you are going to arrive late call ahead to get the combination to the gate. Second, the lights in the bathhouse are on a timer/motion detector so if you are an early riser like me, be prepared to stand in a dark shower temporarily until you can get the sensor to recognize your door or hand swinging!

The restaurants that stand out in my South Carolina travels is the small chain known as Maurice’s BBQ. One is at the entrance to Sesquicentennial State Park; another at I-95 exit 164 near Florence. The food and service are very good. I particularly like the honey-based yellow sauce on the pulled turkey. If you like genuine pork rinds — yes, straight off the hog — this is the place for you. The Civil War traveler will feel at home here because there were Civil War portraits on the walls of both restaurants I have visited. If you visit Maurice's website, you will find that they support reinstatement of the Confederate States government. If I haven’t said it, South Carolina and Vicksburg TN are the most intense areas I’ve visited for Southern sentiment. It can be very refreshing and interesting to have history presented in a different way than your eighth-grade history book summarized.
Gen. Barnard Elliott Bee, killed at First Manassas, famous for giving Gen. Thomas J. Jackson his sobriquet “Stonewall,” is buried at the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on East Queen Street with a state historical marker.
A small but impassioned museum to the 16th South Carolina Infantry exhibits such articles as a Whitworth shell and sharpshooter rifle; a display to Henry Clay Thurston, at 7-foot-7-1/2 the tallest man in the Confederacy; a nice model of Fort Sumter as it was in 1861; a scale model of the CSS Alabama; a Berdan Sharpshooter rifle; and the 2nd SC Infantry Battle Flag. It is known as the South Carolina Confederate Museum at 15 Boyce Ave.

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