Special Report

US Cities and Towns Destroyed During the Civil War

Source: smu_cul_digitalcollections / Flickr

Columbia, South Carolina
> When: February 17, 1865

As federal forces under General Sherman arrived to take South Carolina’s capital, fleeing Confederate troops began burning supplies and cotton to keep them from falling into Union hands. Union soldiers then poured into Columbia and wreaked havoc on anything of military value. High winds then spread the flames that burned two thirds of the city.

Source: Archive Photos / Archive Photos via Getty Images

Charleston, South Carolina
> When: July 10, 1863 – February 18, 1865

An early leader in the secessionist movement, Charleston remained in Confederate hands until late in the war, although it was under siege beginning in July 1863. The nearly constant bombardment destroyed much of the city. A day after Federal troops took Columbia, the mayor of Charleston surrendered the city to the Union.

Source: Archive Photos / Archive Photos via Getty Images

Petersburg, Virginia
> When: August 1864 to April 1865

Near the Confederate capital, Petersburg was a crucial supply center for the rebel army. Union forces under General Grant besieged the city for nearly 300 days, causing massive damage to over 600 structures and forcing General Lee to retreat from Richmond before his eventual surrender.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama
> When: April 4, 1865

Mere days before General Lee surrendered in Virginia, Federal troops marched from Birmingham to Tuscaloosa and burned much of the University of Alabama – which was in use as a military training facility – as well as several factories and stores, before heading on to destroy an arsenal in Selma.

Source: Fotosearch / Archive Photos via Getty Images

Richmond, Virginia
> When: April 2, 1865

As Confederate troops abandoned their capital at the end of the siege of Petersburg, they burned infrastructure that they didn’t want the Union to utilize, including an armory, tobacco warehouses, and bridges. The resulting blaze destroyed much of Richmond’s central business district.

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