My Hometown Put To the Torch

My Hometown Put To The Torch by the Yankees

By

Charles L McCain

 

 

 

After the Yankees burned down my hometown of Orangeburg, South Carolina in February of 1865, local people were mad. One hundred years later when I grew up in Orangeburg, the local people were still mad. Not the same ones, of course. Just local people in general.

Seems that the telegraph line and rail line between Columbia and Charleston ran through Orangeburg so the town was seized by Union troops under the command of General Sherman. These soldiers burned all the public buildings including he courthouse and the jail.

Early in the war, the able bodied men of the area had formed the Edisto Rifles and had gone off to join what later became the famed Army of Northern Virginia under the command of General Robert E. Lee. So when the Yankees showed up, only a handful of troops drawn from the local militia were available to defend the town.

They dug in along the bank of the Edisto River,which runs through Oangeburg, and held off the entire Union Army for a few days. Then they fell back toward Columbia. There was a lot of falling back in those days.

Besides burning down the public building, General Sherman quartered his horses in the Presbyterian Church. This was one damn thing too many and everyone talked about this when I grew up. Even my later mother, not one to get to worked up over the Confederacy, used to become annoyed when she thought about this.

My mother was a devout Presbyterian and Presbyterians do not quarter their horses in churches. Ever. Occasionally she would look at me and say, “can you imagine? He put his horses in the church!” Not that we worshiped in that particular building. It had been torn down decades prior and a was replaced by a new Presbyterian Church in the 1920s so it wasn’t even the same building. That didn’t matter.
Ironically, one of the reasons for Sherman’s infamous campaign of destruction on his “March to the Sea”, was to make it so bad that Southerners would remember this for generations and never foment rebellion again. And we did remember it. And we never fomented rebellion again. Instead, we have concentrated on driving the Yankees nuts. And we have.

 

USS Indianapolis – Presidential Flagship

I’ve spoken previously about the USS Indianapolis and my father’s time on it. Commissioned in November 1932, the Indy spent most of the 1930’s on goodwill missions. She spent the first few months of World War Two in the South Pacific before heading to Alaska to participate in the campaign there against the Japanese in the Aleutians. In late 1943, she became the flagship of Admiral Spruance and during 1944 and 1945 participated in operations in the Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands, Marianas Islands, Peleliu Island, Iwo Jima, the Japanese home islands, and the Ryukyus. Her final mission was to transport atomic bomb components from California to Tinian Island in the Marianas. She sailed for the Philippines after and was sank on 30 July 1945 by the Japanese submarine I-58 resulting in the largest single loss of life at sea in the history of the US Navy.

The following pictures are of the USS Indianapolis during the month long “Good Neighbor” cruise that took President Franklin D Roosevelt to South America to visit Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo. The Department of the Navy – Naval History and Heritage Command has a copy of the Presidential scrapbook from this trip here.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35). Scene in the ship’s pilothouse, late November 1936, as she carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt on his “Good Neighbor” cruise to South America. Indianapolis’ Commanding Officer, Captain Henry Kent Hewitt, is seated in left center.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35). Crewmen display the Presidential Flag below the ship’s brass data plaque, as she carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt on his “Good Neighbor” cruise to South America in late November 1936.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35). Bow of the Presidential barge, showing the four stars and seal of the President of the United States. Photographed on board Indianapolis as she carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt on his “Good Neighbor” cruise to South America in late November 1936.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt (second from left) Waves “farewell” to Charleston, South Carolina, as he leaves for his “Good Neighbor” cruise to South America, on board USS Indianapolis (CA-35), 18 November 1936. Those present include (from left to right): James Roosevelt; President Roosevelt; Captain Paul H. Bastedo, USN; Colonel Edwin M. Watson, US Army; and Captain Ross T. McIntire, USN(MC).

USS Indianapolis (CA-35). Leaves Charleston, South Carolina, carrying President Franklin D. Roosevelt on his “Good Neighbor” cruise to South America, 18 November 1936.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35). Ship’s Commanding Officer, Captain Henry Kent Hewitt, USN, (left), hears “Davy Jones” read the message from “King Neptune”, as the ship crosses the Equator in late November 1936. She was then conveying President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his party on a “Good Neighbor” cruise to South America. Commander Oscar C. Badger is looking on, at right.

James Roosevelt (center), son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, receives some of the punishment due a “Polywog” at the hands of “Shellbacks”, during Neptune Ceremonies on board USS Indianapolis (CA-35), as she crosses the Equator in late November 1936. Indianapolis was then carrying the President and his party on a “Good Neighbor” cruise to South America.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt (center) pleads his case before the Royal Court of “Shellbacks” as his “defense attorney” listens intently at left, during Neptune Ceremonies on board USS Indianapolis (CA-35), as she crosses the Equator in late November 1936. Indianapolis was then carrying the President and his party on a “Good Neighbor” cruise to South America.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt receives the salute of the Argentine Navy while standing beneath the eight-inch guns of USS Indianapolis (CA-35), during his “Good Neighbor” cruise to South America, 29 November 1936.

USS Indianapolis (CA-35). Arrives at Buenos Aires, Argentina, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt on board, 30 November 1936, during the President’s “Good Neighbor” cruise to South America.

[Images courtesy of the Department of the Navy – Naval History & Heritage Command.]