Fairfield County, South Carolina History by Ederington

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Page 15

News & Herald, February 8, 1901


On Monday, the day before Sherman was expected in Winnsboro, the citizens met and appointed a committee to meet the army beyond the limit of the town with a white flag in order to surrender the town. On this committee were Rev. Dr. Lord, Rev. J. Obear, James McCreight, and Dr. Horlbeck. The enemy came in early Tuesday morning,and Dr. Madden says he was near the town hall, and the Yankee soldiers seemed to rush in and suddenly fill the town. Their hands and faces in many cases smeared with sugar and syrup. One man stared in his face and said, "What do you think of our president now?"

On the farm of John McMaster, one mile below Winnsboro, the negroes were on the watch in the direction of Columbia for the Yankees, intending to hide out, but as they said, the whole face of the earth was suddenly filled as it were, by piss-ants as they said, so as to cut off any chance of escape. While standing near the town hall, Dr. Madden saw an officer mounted on a small gray stallion ride up and just then some soldiers brought up to him old Dr. Horlbeck. Who explained that he had fought the soldiers and resisted an attempt to burn his house. The officer only said, "Speak quickly, talk fast," and rode off and replied to a question asked him, "Yes, I think all of the cotton will be burned, but it will be rolled out."

Soon after that, fire was set to McCully's cotton warehouse, which swept Lauderdale's house and everything down to Levenstreet's brick building and crossed to the west side of the street and burnt from Odd (Old) Fellows Hall to the brick building. An officer said to Dr. M., "Why don't you assist in saving the movable property?" He replied he thought the soldiers would not permit him to do so. All the houses in the track of the flames were emptied of their contents which were moved to the lots in the rear.

Three soldiers were standing near the court house yard talking. One said to Dr. M., "Do you know the lady who set fire to this town?" Dr. M. replied that he did not know that a lady had done so. The soldier replied, "Yes, a lady did do so, and if we could get her, we would hang her to the highest limb of that tree." As two of the men walked off, the one remaining said, "You need not believe a word those men say. Nobody set fire to this town but our own soldiers. "I'll tell you there are ten thousand men in this town who would take pleasure in burning every house in it." An officer on a large black horse rode up and said to Dr. M., "I am utterly opposed to this burning from beginning to end. It must stop." Saying, "I am General Williams." At that time fire was beginning to appear on the roof of the law offices in the rear of the court house. It was immediately extinguished.

About noon on Wednesday, the 17th Corps under Jeff Davis entered town, and the Pennsylvanians lined the street of the northern end of the town. Some of them prized off the planks from the shutter of an outhouse next to Dr. Boyleston's residence, where a few bales of cotton were stored, and soon the flames burst forth and burned Dr. B's house, Miller's and John N. Cathcart's. An officer ordered soldiers to save the next house (Alex Chambers' house) and they ascended the roof and saved it, but the soldiers hurled imprecations upon them, crying out, "Remember Chambersburg!"

The cotton in rear of Charles Cathcart's house was next fired and by great exertions his house and that of Mrs. McMaster were saved. Dr. Madden says the soldiers expressed surprise at the great quantity of food supplies they found in Fairfield, saying it was the most bountiful county they had ever seen. They destroyed or carried off nearly everything. Many smokehouses were some inches deep in molasses where they had destroyed the barrels and other vessels that contained it.

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