A dramatic eyewitness account of a city under siege during the Civil War
In the first reissue of these documents since 1865, A City Laid Waste captures in riveting detail the destruction of South Carolina's capital city. William Gilmore Simms (1806–1870), a native South Carolinian and one of the nation's foremost men of letters, was in Columbia and witnessed firsthand the city's capture by Union forces and its subsequent devastation by fire. A renowned novelist and poet, who was also an experienced journalist and historian, Simms deftly recorded the events of February 1865 in a series of eyewitness accounts published in the first ten issues of the Columbia Phoenix and reprinted here. His record of burned buildings constitutes the most authoritative information available on the extent of the damage.
Simms historian David Aiken provides a historical and literary context for Simms's reportage. In his introduction Aiken clarifies the significance of Simms's articles and draws attention to factors most important for understanding the Federal occupation's impact on the city of Columbia.
David Aiken is retired from teaching English at the College of Charleston and the Citadel. Aiken has written, edited, or introduced more than fifty articles and books on Simms and other Southern writers, including Fire in the Cradle: Charleston's Literary Heritage, The Golden Christmas, and Blood Money.
"A graphic account of the horrors, the brutality and sometimes wanton destruction of warfare, particularly of civil war, where sectional enmities and jealousies tend to eclipse humane instincts, Aiken's book is a worthy contribution to the body of studies that continues to emerge on the literary contributions of William Gilmore Simms."—Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier