Columbia is the capital of South Carolina. As of the 2000 census, it has a population of 116,278. It is the county seat of Richland County, but a small portion of the city is located in Lexington County.
The estimated population for the then two-county metropolitan area (Richland and Lexington) was 516,251 in 1999. In June 2003 the United States Census Bureau added four more counties — Fairfield, Calhoun, Kershaw, and Saluda — to Columbia's standard metropolitan statistical area. This should give the metro area a population of about 679,456.
Fort Jackson is the largest United States Army Initial Entry (basic) training base and is located east of the city.
Columbia recently gained a world-class sporting and event arena, the Colonial Center. This is part of a revitalization campaign which has also brought the city a new convention center located near the arena, with a new hotel and restaurants.
Columbia's daily newspaper is The State; Columbia is home to the headquarters and production facilities of ETV (and ETV Radio), the state's public television and public radio networks.
The city and its surroundings are served by Columbia Metropolitan Airport. Major highways serving Columbia include I-26, I-77, I-20, U.S. 1, U.S. 21, U.S. 176, U.S. 321, and U.S. 378.
Columbia is home to the Columbia Inferno of the ECHL.
The site was chosen as the new state capital in 1786, due to its central location in the state. State legislature first met there in 1790. After remaining under the direct government of the legislature for the first two decades of its existence, Columbia was incorporated as a village in 1805 and then as a city in 1854.
On February 17, 1865, during the American Civil War, much of Columbia was destroyed by fire while being occupied by Union troops under the command of General William Tecumseh Sherman.
Controversy surrounding the burning of the city started soon after the war ended. General Sherman blamed the high winds and retreating Confederate soldiers for firing bales of cotton, which had been stacked in the streets. General Sherman denied ordering the burning, though he did order militarily significant structures, such as the Confederate Printing Plant, destroyed. First-hand accounts by local residents, Union soldiers and a newspaper reporter offer a sinister tale of revenge by Union troops for Columbia's and South Carolina's pivotal role in leading Southern states to secede from the Union.
Today, tourists can follow the path General Sherman's army took to enter the city and see structures or remnants of structures that survived the fire.