Friday, March 8, 2013

Tracing a General

The weather today was glorious in Columbia SC!!  The wind was a bit on the chilly side, and walking on the sunny side of the street was definitely more comfortable than the shady side, but was a beautiful, clear, cloudless day. 

A little bit of internet research showed me what to do today.  So camera in hand, I first headed over to the Marriott on Main Street, 3 blocks north of the Capitol, to pick up my race bib and shirt.  It was a very small fitness expo but I lingered a bit, chatting up the exhibitors since the hall was mostly empty and they all seemed eager for some company. 

That little bit of business out of the way, I struck out to find some key landmarks in the city that played major roles during the final months of the Civil War and, more specifically, in Sherman's campaign.

The first stop for me was just a couple of blocks away from the Marriott:  The First Baptist Church, site of the South Carolina Secession Convention, where the vote was 159-0 in favor of secession.  And as a result, South Carolina was the first state to leave the Union.

Legend has it that the Union soldiers, intent on revenge, approached a groundskeeper at the First Baptist Church, asking him to direct them to the church were the secession convention was held, with plans to destroy.  To save the church, the groundskeeper directed them to the nearby Methodist church. 

Legend also has it that the Union cannoneers had set up on the far banks of the Congaree River and used the spire of the Presbyterian church, the tallest spire in the city at that time, to set the range of the cannon.

Then I headed back toward Gervais street and walked the couple of blocks west to the State House.  I had visited this building briefly yesterday afternoon, but wanted to get closer.  I wanted to look for the bronze stars that mark the slight damage created by Sherman's cannon.  The Union army burned down the old state house, but managed to only put some slight pock marks on the larger, under-construction granite state house immediately behind the old structure.  The State of SC did not repair the damage but, rather, marked the spots with bronze stars.  Having now seen some of these spots, I'm here to say that the cannon of the day were no match for the massive granite edifice of the then-new state house.

Here's a neat bit of history:  A cannon salvaged from the U.S.S. Maine, the second battleship to be commissioned for the U.S. Navy in 1889.  It was sunk in 1898, and the intrigue surrounding this sinking ultimately served as a catalyst for the Spanish-American War later that year:

Thursday afternoon and Friday were not all about chasing after civil war history:

A giant rooster - artwork installed next to the
Mellow Mushroom restaurant

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