Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 11: No 2) >> Pioneers, Indians, and ''Southern Adams'' in ''The Two Camps'' >> Page 3

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Scholarship | 2003
Transcription Pioneers, Indians, and "Southern Adams" in "The Two Camps"

Eric William Ensley
US Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado

"The same snake, or one very much like it, winds his way into the wigwam
and the cabin"--From The Wigwam and the Cabin (160).

My paper explores William Gilmore Simms's oft-radical and realistic
characterizations of Indians and pioneers in a story from The Wigwam and the
Cabin entitled "The Two Camps: A Legend of the Old North State," a story
which offers clear instances of how Simms demolishes traditional pioneer and
Indian stereotypes.
In "The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boone," first published in 1784,
and celebrating the discovery and settlement of the bluegrass state then called
"Kentuck," biographer John Filson relates the story of how, "We [Boone and five
other men] proceeded successfully and after a long and fatiguing journey through
a mountain wilderness... we found ourselves on Red River... and from the top of
an eminence, saw with pleasure the beautiful level of Kentucky" (qtd. in Williams
133). Filson's iconic image endured, with adventurous, solitary, and male heroes,
whether fictional or "fictionalized" from real life, populating a good deal of
mainstream American literature.
So well embodied in figures like James Fenimore Cooper's
Leatherstocking, these men epitomized the "American Adam" R. W. B. Lewis
argued as characterizing mainstream 19th-century American literature —a figure
he calls "the hero of the new adventure: an individual emancipated from history,
happily bereft of ancestry, untouched and undefiled by the usual inheritances of
family and race; an individual standing alone, self-reliant and self-propelling"
(5). As Elliott West illustrates however in his astute and thoroughly researched
article, "American Frontier: Romance and Reality," this stereotypical literary
image of a lone, wilderness-conquering male contains but slim rays of truth, for
the myriad transformations effected by the pioneers "were accomplished by
pioneer families not, that is, by heroic males pressing on their own into the grea
unknown to pave the way for women and children" (35). West reinforces this

1 This figure also exhibits the "total renunciation of the traditional, the
conventional, the socially acceptable, the well-worn paths of conduct" Thoreau
prescribes in favor of the "total immersion in nature" (Lewis 21). Not
surprisingly, his survival is made possible by the presence of the vast and
ostensibly untainted wilderness (Lewis 100), a view largely in keeping with the
predominantly modern view of nature and human civilization as mutually
exclusive entities, where we view nature as "pristine, pure, and free of human
`intrusion' and `contamination' (Jacobson 105).