Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 1: No 1) >> Simms the Gardener: Reconstructing the Gardens at Woodlands >> Page 21

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Page 21

Secondary Scholarship | 1993
Transcription Woodlands burned 29 March 1862 and David Jamison described the scene
in the Charleston Courier of 31 March: There are "gaunt chimneys, standing out
against the noble oaks of the still beautiful grounds." Simms had thus created
"beautiful grounds" by 1862. His setback through fire was severe; but Simms was
not daunted. In rebuilding Woodlands, he did not forget to continue his
landscaping. Squarely in the midst of the great war, on 31 December 1862,
Summer notes in his ledger: "W. Gilmore Simms. Midway: 12 Peach trees ($3);
4 Apricots ($2); 6 Nectarines ($3); 4 Plums ($2); 8 Dwarf pears ($4); 4 cherries
($2); 2 Horizontal cypress ($3); 4 Chinese privets ($2); 4 Mahonias ($1.50).
Packing $.50. Total $23.50. Recd Payment."
Even into the sad downslope of the war, appears this last recorded entry
for Simms: "10 Feb 1863. 100 Peach trees ($20). Credit by cash recd. $20." The
Pomaria ledgers break off in this year. The Left Wing of Sherman's Army and
Kilpatrick's Cavalry visited the Nursery in February 1865 and destroyed it.
Woodlands itself was also destroyed in February 1865, and the plants from
Pomaria growing there likely met the same fate.
Several Federal officers recorded their visits to Woodlands. One noted that
he was at Simms' house 12 February and saw that night, "many books from his
library, bearing his autograph, find their way into camp."9 Another officer10
noted they camped on the north fork of the Edisto that night in a way that
identifies George Ward Nichols' unnamed place of encampment as the grounds
of Woodlands. Nichols says of 12 February: "To-night we are encamped upon the
place of one of South Carolina's most high-blooded chivalry--one of those persons
who believe himself to have been brought into the world to rule over his fellow
creatures, a sort of Grand Pasha and all that sort of thing. How the negro pioneer
are making away with the evergreens and rose-bushes of his artistically arranged
walks, flower-beds, and drives! These black men in blue are making brooms of
his pet shrubs, with which they clear the grounds in front of the tents.11 Indeed,
in 1867, in his poem "From the Study Windows," when the poet reflected back
on his garden in the old days, he could only visualize the landscape as he had
seen it. He could remember his serviceable fig trees, bearing twice a season, or
his ailanthus (or the Heaven tree), yellow jasmine vines, and his exotic "sweet
trophies" from around the world (most literally, as we now know, from Italy,
England, and the Orient). His 1867 poem reworked an earlier 1848 version, to
make it now a poem of remembrance; but the new version also appends a new
final stanza of hope, whose penultimate word itself names the flower symbol of
beauty, affection, and promise: the rose.


My oaks stride out upon the lawn,
The grand old bearded Druids rise,
Their great brows reddening, as at dawn,
Beneath the flush of evening skies.