Bluffton myths & misconceptions: General Sherman didn’t burn Bluffton
Setting the record straight on some of the town’s most historic events.
Story By Barry Kaufman
General Sherman didn’t burn Bluffton
The night of June 4, 1863, changed Bluffton forever.
On that morning, nearly 1,000 Union troops stationed on Hilton Head Island, their first foothold in the South, sailed downstream from Hunting Island Plantation, bent on revenge. Their target was the town of Bluffton, chosen less for strategic reasons and more for the town’s outsized role in secession.
Throughout the day and night soldiers poured through town, burning nearly everything in sight. From a nearby outpost, 238 Confederate cavalry members were dispatched to meet the threat, but by then it was too late. Just two churches and 15 private homes survived amid the ashes of Bluffton.
It would be easy to conflate this historic event with the far more infamous pyromania of Sherman’s March to the Sea, but the fact is the Burning of Bluffton predates Sherman’s “Special Field Orders No. 67” by nearly a year and a half. If anything, that day’s conflagration served as a chilling omen of things to come for the South.