Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 7: No 1) >> The Sense of Place in The Partisan >> Page 13

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Page 13

Secondary Scholarship | 1999
Transcription Obligingly for our purpose, Simms pointedly marks the gathering spot that
inspired him to begin The Partisan. That spot was Dorchester, or rather the ruins
of Dorchester, a town settled in 1696 some nineteen miles northwest of
Charleston, South Carolina, but reduced to ruins by 1788. In introductory words
to the novel, Simms wrote
It was while rambling among the ruins of the place, that my
imagination grew active in the contemplation of objects so well
established to stimulate its exercise. Memory came warmly and
vividly to its aid, and recalled a series of little events, carefully
treasured up by the local tradition, which, unconsciously, my mind
began to throw together, and to combine in form. . . . The
Revolutionary history of the colony was full of references to the
neighbourhood; and numberless incidents, of a nature purely
domestic, were yet so associated with some public occurrences of
that period, that I could not well resist the desire to link them more
closely together.... To these circumstances, and this desire, "The
Partisan" owes its origin. (vii)
In an elegiac mood, some 234 pages into his romance, Simms invites his
readers to stroll with him through the ruins of Dorchester:
These woods about Dorchester deserve to be famous. There is not
a wagon track not a defile not a clearing not a traverse of
these plains, which has not been consecrated by the strife for
liberty; the close strife the desperate struggle; the contest,
unrelaxing, unyielding to the last, save only with death or
conquest. These old trees have looked down upon blood and
battles; the thick array and the solitary combat between single foes,
needing no other witnesses. What tales might they not tell us! The
sands have drunk deeply of holy and hallowed blood blood that
gave them value and a name and made for them a place in all
human recollection. (234)
Dorchester was a point of origin, but another, and earlier one, for the novel
and the others that form his fictional treatment of the Revolutionary War, reache
back to his memories of what his grandmother, Jane Miller Singleton Gates, told
him about life in colonial Charleston and South Carolina. As Mary Ann Wimsatt
tells us, "From his upbringing in Charleston, and particularly from his
grandmother, Simms acquired a strong sense of tradition, an intense devotion to