Some Civil War-related sites to see in the Midlands
First Baptist Church, 1306 Hampton St. In December 1860, delegates to the Secession Convention met in Columbia. Because of reports of smallpox at a house across the street, they adjourned to Charleston. Seating 1,000, it was the largest Baptist church in South Carolina at the time and escaped fire during Sherman’s occupation.
Confederate Printing Plant, 501 Gervais St. Now a Publix grocery store, this is one of the few surviving Confederate government buildings in Columbia. In 1863, the Confederate government contracted with a firm in S.C. to print money, stamps and bonds. Young women called “Treasury girls” worked at the plant. More than $1 billion in Confederate dollars was printed there. “There were about 200 ladies employed, each has her own desk, and I know Bable its self was not more confusion,” wrote one young Columbia woman in June 1864.
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S. C. Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, 301 Gervais St., by the Congaree River. “Relic is not our favorite word,” says museum director Allen Roberson. “We are a modern museum.” The Relic Room is full of lively exhibits, many featuring manikins in active poses wearing period dress and in the midst of historic events. It is a place to see “Treasury girls” in frozen action and a letter from one of Sherman’s generals. There are war artifacts, including rifles uniforms and other items, as well as exhibits from other wars.
Elmwood Cemetery, 501 Elmwood Ave., near I-126. Among the 22,000 buried here are several hundred Confederate soldiers who died during the war. There also is a monument to the unknown Confederate dead.
Hampton-Preston House and gardens, 1600 Blanding St. Pre-Civil War opulence in all its splendor. Built in 1818, the two-story grand structure was owned Gen. Wade Hampton I, a wealthy slave owner and hero of the American Revolution. In February 1865, as Union Gen. William Sherman’s arrived outside Columbia, Hampton’s grandson, a wealthy slave owner and cavalry general, was reassigned to help defend his hometown. The outnumbered Hampton, retreated rather than engage in what would have been a slaughter of his men. The house has been restored and is under the care of the Historic Columbia Foundation.
University of South Carolina Horseshoe, Sumter Street. One of the most beautiful and timeless quadrangles in South Carolina. This 19th century centerpiece of the University of South Carolina’s campus was a hospital for Confederate soldiers during the latter part of the Civil War. More than 3,000 soldiers, including Union troops, were treated in buildings here. When Sherman arrived, a yellow flag flew over the Horseshoe, denoting a hospital. Today, 11 of the Horseshoe’s original 12 buildings can be seen on either side of its grand plaza.
Camp Sorghum, off North Lucas Street in West Columbia. This former Union prisoner-of-war camp held some 1,400 Northern officers in a five-acre field in late 1864. Sometimes called “Yankee City,” Camp Sorghum was not a pleasant place. The main diet was based on sorghum molasses. Prisoners slept in holes in the ground, covering themselves with leaves.
SOURCES: Include Tom Elmore’s “Columbia Civil War Landmarks”