Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 7: No 1) >> Simms and Major Henry >> Page 10

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Page 10

Secondary Scholarship | 1999
Transcription Packolette, lacks the robustness of the more representative tales and sketches in
the Old Southwestern humorous tradition.
Now that we have established connections between Simms and real-life
Major Henry, we are still faced with the question of whether or not Henry ever
wrote or told the kind of alligator story that the authorial narrator attributes to him
in "Bill Bauldy." My best guess, based on what I have been able to find out
about him as a person and the type of humor that he customarily wrote for
purposes of publication, is that Major Henry did not actually author such a tale.
Rather, a more probable and promising avenue for inquiry about the alligator
folklore Simms incorporated into "Bill Bauldy" likely lies elsewhere, possibly in
one of the tall tales and sketches featuring alligators being used as horses that
were published in the Crockett Almanacs in the 1840s and 1850s.6
If, in all likelihood, Henry did not author or even tell a tall-talish alligator
story featuring an African flatboatman, why did Simms lightly ridicule him in
"Bill Bauldy"? Simms seems to make Major Henry the fall guy for several
reasons that are suggested in the authorial narrator's belittling description of
Henry and his bland brand of humor in his prologue to Henry's alligator tale in
"Bill Bauldy." The two most prominent reasons were: the real-life Major
Henry's slight attempts at backwoods humor as demonstrated in Tales of the
Packolette (a work with which Simms was definitely familiar), and, perhaps most
significantly, the unpopular political views the Spartanburg District representative
held in 1847, views which Simms himself clearly did not support and which he
candidly addressed in the two letters he wrote to James Hammond.

6 The Simms-Crockett Almanacs connection in regard to "Bill Bauldy" will be
the focus of an article of mine in progress.