Special Report

US Cities and Towns Destroyed During the Civil War

Source: Fotosearch / Archive Photos via Getty Images

Hampton, Virginia
> When: August 7, 1861

This coastal city at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay was the first to burn during the war. It was torched by its own inhabitants, Confederate soldiers who aimed to prevent it from falling into Union hands, as its proximity to nearby Fort Monroe made the thriving colonial city an enticing trophy. Over 130 businesses and homes were burned, as well as the courthouse and several churches.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Winton, North Carolina
> When: February 20, 1862

Confederate forces fired upon a fleet of Federal gunboats as they approached this town on the Chowan River aiming to destroy a railroad bridge. Residents and soldiers alike subsequently abandoned the town, and the fleet returned the next day and set fire to confederate storehouses. The blaze consumed the courthouse and dozens of homes.

Source: exit78 / Flickr

Baton Rouge, Louisiana
> When: August 5 & 21, 1862

Confederate ground and water forces attempted to overtake this Union-occupied city during the battle of Baton Rouge, but were unsuccessful. Nevertheless, a third of the city was destroyed by Union forces as they burned buildings near the river in an attempt to gain a clear line of fire. They abandoned the outpost on August 21, but not before looting and burning even more infrastructure.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Donaldsonville, Louisiana
> When: August 10, 1862

After Union Navy vessels on the Mississippi were fired upon as they sailed by the former capital of Louisiana, they retaliated by anchoring in front of Donaldson and bombarding it. A detachment then went ashore and burned wharf buildings, hotels, Confederate storehouses, residences, and nearby plantations. Union forces subsequently occupied the town and put the whole of Ascension Parish under martial law.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Randolph, Tennessee
> When: September 26, 1862 and 1865

The site of two Confederate forts along the Mississippi, this town about 30 miles north of Memphis was destroyed – with only one house left standing – under orders from Union general William T. Sherman in retaliation for its attacks on Union supply ships. Federal soldiers burned the town again in 1865.

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