"Better Conversations, Better Cities"
Home > Arts & History > History > Columbia Commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Burning of Columbia

Columbia Commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Burning of Columbia

Symposium and ceremony held on Feb. 17

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Burning of Columbia, Columbia’s cultural institutions have come together to present a full day of events on Tuesday, Feb. 17 exploring the events of February 17, 1865, as well as the immediate and long-term ramifications of the burning of South Carolina’s capital city.

The day will begin at 9 a.m. with Columbia Burning: A Sesquicentennial Reappraisal, a symposium featuring scholars and authors discussing the burning of Columbia and civic dialogue on difficult pasts, as well as a period luncheon and presentation on 19th-century foodways. At 4 p.m., the SC Department of Archives and History will unveil the official historical marker for the burning on the 1200 block of Main Street. At 5 p.m., the official commemoration ceremony will be held in Boyd Plaza, featuring speakers, music, poets and the premier of two performance art pieces created for the occasion.

Following the ceremony, attendees can explore exhibits, performances, readings and more on Main Street.

“The University of South Carolina, with its outstanding public history program, excellent faculty, and commitment to university-community partnerships, takes seriously its responsibility to work with citizens and scholars to help puzzle through a fraught and difficult chapter of our city’s, our region’s, and our nation’s past with the best research and interpretive framework available,” said Jessica Elfenbein, senior associate dean of the University of South Carolina Graduate School.

Although often overshadowed in the popular imagination by the burning of Atlanta, Ga., the burning of Columbia, S.C. on the evening of February 17, 1865 was a major event in American history and a defining moment in the history of the state, city and the Civil War. Through a multi-disciplinary coalition of organizations and agencies, a two-month-long initiative is currently underway to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the burning through lectures, tours, films, exhibits, literature, public discussions and visual and performing arts. The events planned for Tuesday, Feb. 17 are below. Find more information and a full list of commemorative events at BurningofColumbia.com.

“The commemoration events on February 17 help us as Columbians reflect on the impact of the events of 150 years ago and explore Columbia’s identity through historic recollection and artistic interpretation,” said Lee Snelgrove, executive director of One Columbia for Arts and History. “And, the events will emphasize to those visiting that Columbia continues to emergence as a modern, thriving capital city.”


Tuesday, February 17 Events:


Columbia Burning: A Sesquicentennial Reappraisal

Columbia Museum of Art, 1515 Main Street, Columbia, SC

Presented by the University of South Carolina’s History Center, Institute for Southern Studies and Graduate School; Columbia Museum of Art; and Historic Columbia.

Registration is required for all sessions. Register at BurningofColumbia.com.


9 – 11:30 am: Panel Discussion on the Burning of Columbia – Free session

By bringing in scholars who are generating new work on the burning of Columbia, our goal is to shed fresh light on the meaning of the events of February 17, 1865 as an example of urban disaster and recovery. The arrival of the Union army marked a day of jubilant emancipation for blacks, thousands of whom followed in the wake of Sherman’s advance northward. These and other topics, including the evolution of modern warfare, will be discussed.

  • Moderator: Dr. Don Doyle, University of South Carolina
  • Dr. Anne Sarah Rubin, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, author, Through the Heart of Dixie, Sherman’s March and American Memory
  • Dr. Megan Kate Nelson, Historista.com and author of Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War
  • Caitlin Verboon, Yale University, author, “Urban Encounters: Race, Space, and Citizenship Struggles in Southern Cities, 1865-1877”
  • Dr. Thomas Brown, University of South Carolina, author, Civil War Canon: The Emplacement of Confederate Memory in South Carolina


12 pm: Presentation on mid-to-late-19th-century foodways by Dr. David Shields, University of South Carolina, with period appropriate meal by Scott Hall Catering. The luncheon is $30 to attend.

2 – 4 pm: Dr. Tom Sugrue (University of Pennsylvania) will lead this discussion looking at the role of public history/public intellectuals in shaping and advancing civic dialogue to deal with difficult pasts, as well as the role of the academy in preparing students for community and public engagement. Free session.


Burning of Columbia Historical Marker Unveiling

4 pm

1200 Block of Main Street, Columbia, SC

Free and open to the public


Columbia Commemorates the 150th Anniversary of the Burning of Columbia

Tuesday, Feb. 17

5 pm

Boyd Plaza, 1515 Main Street

Free and open to the public

Join us for a commemoration of one of the most significant events leading to the end of the Civil War, of the destruction of the city and the suffering endured by SC and its citizens during Sherman’s March, but also pointing to a rebirth of both Columbia, SC and the nation, unified and free, that led to the prosperity and freedoms we enjoy today. Featuring comments by elected officials and historians; performances by Benedict College Concert Choir, Sandlapper Singers; a reading by Columbia’s Poet Laureate; and new performance art works by Candice Ivy, Martha Brim and Kimi Maeda, the Columbia, SC community will reflect on this defining moment in the city’s history. Following the commemoration ceremony, explore exhibits, performances, tours, music, readings and more on Main Street.


Readings from Jasper Magazine’s Art from the Ashes Monograph

7 pm

Tapp’s Art Center, 1644 Main Street, Columbia, SC

Poets and prose writers will read their unique literary reactions to the 150th anniversary of the Burning of Columbia from Art from the Ashes, a juried monograph publication, released in conjunction with a visual art exhibition of the same name to commemorate the sesquicentennial.


Cleaning Up the Dirty South | Performed live by THE Dubber

8 pm

Tapp’s Art Center, 1644 Main Street, Columbia, SC

“Cleaning up the Dirty South” is an American journey through the deep south, distinctively slinky, percussive style affects a jazzy, dub-inflected funk-hop swagger that combines smirking island charm, surprisingly intricate playing, and a casual, speak-sing manner reminiscent of Gil-Scott Heron.


Open Exhibits on Main Street:

Impressions of Chimneyville: Columbia’s Civil War Destruction

By Historic Columbia

On display January 9 through March 31

Gallery at City Hall, 1737 Main Street, Columbia, SC

After the Burning of Columbia, citizens came to identify their hometown by the remnants of buildings that dotted its skyline. Columbia’s physical transformation is shown through historical images and descriptions in this exhibit.


Art from the Ashes: Columbia Artists Respond to the 150th Anniversary of the Burning of Their City

By Jasper Magazine

On display Feb. 1 through 28

Tapp’s Art Center, 1644 Main Street, Columbia, SC

Literary and visual artists respond to the 1865 Burning of Columbia, particularly the role and activities of civilian women and men and other individuals already marginalized in the culture of the time, and the effects of the burning on these individuals and groups.


About Columbia Commemorates:

Columbia Commemorates is a multi-disciplinary coalition comprised of Midlands and statewide organizations formed to plan and implement a citywide commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Burning of Columbia. Through lectures; tours; film; visual, literary and performing arts; exhibits; public discussion; and large public gatherings, Columbia Commemorates will explore the events of February 17, 1865, as well as the immediate and long-term ramifications of the burning of South Carolina’s capital city. This commemoration is made possible by The Humanities CouncilSC, South Carolina Arts Commission and Chernoff Newman. For more information about the commemoration and a calendar of events, please visit BurningofColumbia.com and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Like What You See?



You may also like
Mayor Steve Benjamin to be inaugurated as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors
Columbia celebrates National Historic Preservation Month with special events
Midlands Gives breaks record with more than $1.75 million in donations
Palmetto Health recognizes 2018 Palmetto Gold nurses