Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 8: No 2) >> Tiger's Meat: William Gilmore Simms and the History of the Revolution >> Page 30

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Secondary Scholarship | 2000
Transcription When we think of Simms as an historian and "sectionalist," it is well to
remember the context. There is a pattern here in regard to the contribution of
Southerners to American success. We can see the Massachusetts agenda still working
at the turn of the twentieth century when Henry Adams wrote a mean-spirited
biography of Randolph of Roanoke and attempted to debunk the beautiful story of
Captain John Smith and Pocahontos. Adams was guilty of falsehood in a deliberate,
malicious effort to brand the first Southerner, Captain John Smith, as a liar.16
Note the recent Hollywood version of the story of the "Memphis Belle," the
famous bomber that flew 25 successful missions over Germany in World War II. The
very nickname of the plane suggests that there were Southerners involved. In the
movie the captain takes pains to declare that he is not a Southerner. The real, actual
captain of the real, actual "Memphis Belle" was from North Carolina. In the
Hollywood "Memphis Belle" crew there is only one Southerner. He is described as
a former piano player in a New Orleans brothel whose father had lost the family farm
in a poker game. There was no such person in the real "Memphis Belle" crew.17
In the celebrated film "Saving Private Ryan," there is only one Southerner in
the platoon that is the subject of the movie. He is portrayed as a somewhat crazed
religious fanatic who sings hymns while sharpshooting the enemy. The two Southern
soldiers in both films are similarly portrayed as rather subhuman. Curiously, both have
one salient virtue. They are good marksmen, a fact in which Southerners should
perhaps take some comfort.
The anonymous Confederate soldier who wrote "A View of the Yankee
People" for his hometown newspaper, after being an unwilling guest of the same when
captured at Gettysburg, had never heard Simms lecture on "The Social Moral," but
he had very similar reactions, with which Simms would have been in complete
agreement:
They believed their manners and customs more enlightened, their
intelligence and culture immeasurably superior. Brim-ful of
hypocritical cant and puritan ideas, they preach, pray and whine. The
most parsimonius of wretches, they extol charity; ... the worst of
dastards, they are the most selfish of men, they are the most blatant


knave an advantage over the honest man, do not in any considerable degree check the abuses of
which I complain. A great many in comfortable and easy and some in affluent circumstances, have
already taken the oaths preparatory to their applications to your Department." The Papers of John
C. Calhoun, vol. 27, in press.
16 For a discussion of this controversy and the relevant evidence, see Thomas Fleming, "John
Smith," in Clyde N. Wilson, ed., American Historians, 1607-1865 (Dictionary of Literary
Biography 30), 285-290.
17 Information about the real crew is taken from the 1944 U.S. War Department documentary film,
"Memphis Belle."



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