Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 7: No 1) >> The Sense of Place in The Partisan >> Page 14

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Page 14

Secondary Scholarship | 1999
Transcription the South, an abiding commitment to low-country or tidewater values, and an
overwhelming interest in the Revolutionary War" (15).
The ruins of Dorchester, an inspiring if melancholy sight, reminded
Simms of what South Carolinians had both lost and won in their fight for
independence, as Loyalists and Partisans moved in and out of the once thriving
town as war came to the settlement's outskirts and doorsteps. Here was a place
close to Charleston, which British forces had besieged and captured, a place close
to the swamps, winding rivers, and pine forests that made it possible for men like
Francis Marion to use guerrilla tactics against British and Loyalist soldiers.
Although the Swamp Fox figures importantly in the latter portions of the
novel, always being portrayed as a leader whose knowledge of South Carolina
terrain gave him distinct advantages over his foes, Simms has readers experience
the place of action and the conditions of particular places from the viewpoint of
Major Singleton. As a native of South Carolina's "middle country" (64),
Singleton had much to learn about the tidewater region. But he was an apt
student, having brought with him a thorough knowledge of forest life, and
learning quickly from his comrades from the "low country" how to make his way
through tangled swamps and close thickets. Tangled swamps and close thickets
provided a protective shield for the partisans, since British troops only cautiouslyand
and reluctantly invaded them. Stealthily emerging from the swamps and thickets,
striking British soldiers suddenly, and disappearing within these vegetative and
watery covers, the partisans conducted a form of warfare that placed a high
premium on the knowledge, or conversely, the ignorance of place.
One example of how Simms depicts Singleton's life in this Carolina
setting must suffice here, this one moment coming just at the outset of an
approaching hurricane:
Singleton looked up anxiously at the wild confusion of sky and
forest around him. The woods seemed to apprehend the danger,
and the melancholy sighing of their branches appeared to indicate
an instinct consciousness, which had its moral likeness to the
feeling in the bosom of the observer. How many of these mighty
pines were to be prostrated under the approaching tempest! How
many beautiful vines, which had clung to them like affections that
only desire an object to fasten upon, would share their ruin! How
could Singleton overlook the analogy between the fortunes of his