- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2008

The capital city of Columbia, S.C., is in the geographic center of the state. It is here that Wade Hampton III and his father and grandfather before him lived and controlled their extensive holdings in land and slaves. The primary Hampton residence was a magnificent mansion at Millwood Plantation, located at that time on the outskirts of Columbia.

The mansion at Millwood fell victim to the marauding army of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in 1865 and was burned to the ground. Only portions of the mansion’s giant pillars survive. Arrangements to visit the grounds can be made through the tourism bureau (see below).

Still in existence and open to the public is the Hampton-Preston Mansion, located in the center of town at 1615 Blanding St., a few blocks from the capitol building, known as the State House. Wade Hampton’s grandfather, reportedly the wealthiest man in the United States at that time, bought the property in 1823, and his wife, Mary Cantey Hampton, designed elaborate gardens around the mansion.

Wade’s aunt and her husband, Caroline and John Preston, later moved into the house and doubled its size. It served as Union Army Gen. John Logan’s headquarters during the Civil War. Later the Hampton-Preston house would have many lives as a governor’s mansion, a women’s college and the site of apartments and businesses. The mansion was restored and reopened to the public in 1970 as a museum that epitomizes the lives of the planter elite in antebellum South Carolina.

Directly across the street from the State House at 100 Sumter St. are Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and its cemetery, where Wade Hampton III is buried along with several family members. Besides Hampton, two other Confederate generals from South Carolina are buried there: States Rights Gist, killed during the Battle of Franklin, Tenn., in 1864, and Ellison Capers, who was wounded at Franklin but survived the war.

The cathedral was constructed in 1846. During the Civil War, the iron spikes on top of the church were melted to make cannonballs for the Confederacy. The parsonage and Sunday school buildings were destroyed during the war, but the main church was not seriously damaged.

A visit to this area would not be complete without a stop to see the majestic 16-foot-high equestrian statue of Gen. Wade Hampton sitting on a 14-foot base. It is located across the street from the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral on the capitol grounds. F. Wellington Ruckstuhl modeled and A. Durenne cast the statue in Paris. The 7,500-pound memorial was unveiled in 1906 to honor one of Columbia’s heroes of the “Lost Cause.”

The South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum at 901 Gervais St. is the oldest museum in the Columbia area. The Wade Hampton Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy founded it in 1896. The museum displays Hampton artifacts, including a glass goblet from Hampton’s Millwood Plantation, which was looted by a Union soldier in 1865 but returned by him after the war; an engraved revolver presented to him by the residents of Lynchburg, Va., in 1864; a black hat Hampton bought at a Columbia dry-goods store; a miniature sheathed Scottish dirk pin Hampton wore; a lock of hair; dried flowers from his grave; a “Wade Hampton for Governor” banner from 1876 and other election memorabilia; assorted war and postwar calling cards and photos; a painted portrait circa 1876; and a Reconstruction-era letter of introduction for Gen. William Wallace.

Also on display are Hampton’s sword and its twin, the latter presented by Hampton’s sister to M.C. Butler, who fought with Hampton during the Civil War. Both swords are on loan from the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond at least until January. Hampton’s sword is a straight, heavy, double-edged Prussian dragoon blade bearing the legend “Draw (or ‘Flourish’) Me Not Without Reason, Sheathe Me Not Without Honor,” in Spanish. Kraft, Goldschmidt and Kraft assembled it in Columbia. It shows the marks of his frequent hand-to-hand combat.

Nicole D. Smith, director of media relations and publications at the Midlands Authority for Conventions, Sports & Tourism, programmed my recent tour of Hampton sites in Columbia. Latrice F. Williams, Historic Columbia Foundation director of communications, arranged and John M. Sherrer III, director of collections and interpretation, conducted a tour of the Hampton-Preston Mansion. William J. Long, curator of education, the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, conducted a tour of the museum with the assistance of Kristina K. Dunn, curator of history. All contributed to this article.

In addition to the Hampton sites in Columbia, there are other Civil War-related places to visit there. For more information, call the Columbia Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800/264-4884. Its Web site is www.columbiacvb.com.

c