On February 5, 1865, the last of General Sherman’s troops crossed the Savannah River into South Carolina. That same day, soldiers of the 14th Corps burned the village of Robertville. Determined to punish the “original secessionists,” an army of over 60,000 was now making its way through the Palmetto State on a mission of destruction and pillage.
On February 7, forces under the command of General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick burnt down most of the town of Barnwell. Some of the infantry troops encamped at the nearby plantation of Mrs. Alfred P. Aldrich. She wrote that one of the soldiers (“a wretch who looked as if he had been brought from Sing Sing for the purpose of terrifying women and children”) took one of her black servants, a man named Frank, and hung him by the neck to make him reveal the hiding place of Aldrich family valuables. When the soldier realized that Frank could tell them nothing, he let him down. “Frank’s neck remains twisted to this day,” Mrs. Aldrich reported in a post-war memoir.
Mrs. Aldrich also recalled the sight of Barnwell in ruins:
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