Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 7: No 1) >> The Sense of Place in The Partisan >> Page 18

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Page 18

Secondary Scholarship | 1999
Transcription up to its enemies, external and internal. Together, they tell the story of a city
weakened by repelling two earlier assaults, by the threat of smallpox, by the
defense of Georgia by South Carolina troops, by the failure of the Continental
Congress to commit troops to South Carolina. In effect, he is saying to Sabine
and others agreeing with him: "Look at the evidence. Once you do, you'll see
that the city defended itself as well as it could." For our purposes, however,
Simms goes beyond a compilation of extracts and finally, at the end of the long
piece, settles into the role of an historian. In doing so he rounds back to his
fictional presentation of what his forbears and their comrades had achieved when
they left their ploughs, axes, mills, farms, and stores and had taken up arms:
Our population were at the beginning of the war, always caught
napping. Their movements were slow, and they never seemed to
apprehend an exigency. All the successes of the British in
Carolina, seem to have arisen from two things the tardiness of
our movements, and the absence of necessary caution which
prevents surprise. It was only after repeated disasters, arising from
carelessness and sluggishness of movement, that our partisans were
able to impress upon their followers the necessity of being at once
quick and vigilant. But on this head we need not dwell. The
subsequent histories of Marion, Sumter, and Pickens, show how
little was wanting to convert our militia into the best guerrilla
troops in the world. Good officers, whom they knew, who had
their confidence, soon furnished an adequate amount of proof to
silence all cavil at the expense of the valor and patriotism of
Carolina, in a fair comparison with any of the States of the Union.
Here we may go back to Dorchester with Major Singleton in mind, to the
plantation of Colonel Walton and watch his struggle to see where his loyalties lie,
to the swamps with Marion and Sumter to marvel at how well they turned their
neighbors and fellow citizens into a remarkable fighting force.
In this romance, then, Simms draws upon his considerable talents to evoke
place in fiction and by so doing enables us to engage ourselves more fully in the
setting, to come to a better understanding of the character of South Carolinians, to
feel some of the emotional energy that marked him as a devoted Southerner, and
to applaud him for creating for us the fullest fictional treatment of the war that ou
ancestors fought because they dared to shed blood for a land they knew intimately