On February 16, 1865, it became clear to Confederate leaders that they would be unable to halt the Union advance. In response, Confederate troops burned down the bridges leading to the city under the direction of General Wade Hampton III. Hampton, the grandson of a Revolutionary War hero, was a leading planter and a staunch defender of slavery and white supremacy. He evacuated his troops and placed the mayor, TJ Goodwyn in charge while he fled from the Union advance. As he retreated, Union forces shelled the city from across the river.
Seeing what happened to other Southern cities, recognizing that he had no military force to defend against the Union, and hoping to spare Columbia, Mayor Goodwyn surrendered the city on the morning of the 17th. Between 8 AM and 9 AM, the city's Aldermen and the Mayor surrendered formally to Sherman's troops at this location. Sherman and his troops destroyed much of the city prior to the surrender. At least two thirds of the city burned as Union troops set fire to buildings as part of their plan to break the will of Confederate leaders and bring the war to an end.
In 1914, the United Daughters of the Confederacy held a dedication ceremony featuring the sole surviving witness, Norton W. Brooker, and six descendants of the mayor. The engraved rock sits in front of the church on the corner of River Road and Beaufort Street in the historic Earlewood neighborhood.