Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 12: No 1) >> 'A Scene Which Beggars Art to Portray': Simms and the Writing of The Sack and Destruction of Columbia, S.C. >> Page 25

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Secondary Scholarship | 2004
Transcription 'A Scene Which Beggars Art To Portray':
Simms and the Writing of The Sack and Destruction of
Columbia, SC.

Nicholas Meriwether
Columbia, South Carolina

As one of William Gilmore Simms's last works, The Sack and Destruction
of Columbia, SG is known to Simms scholars, though almost unknown to Civil
War historians.1 In part this is due to its publishing history. It originally appeared
serially in The Columbia Phoenix, a small newspaper edited by Simms that
commenced publication in the waning weeks of the Confederacy. Simms revised
it a few months later for a pamphlet edition, with a small print run, also published
by the Phoenix (under the name, the Power Press of the Columbia Phoenix).2
Many years later, Julian Selby, the publisher of The Phoenix, republished
Simms's account in his memoir.3 A new edition of the pamphlet version,
introduced and annotated by Alexander Salley, was published by Oglethorpe
University Press in 1937, but the polemical tone of Salley's annotations cast
Simms's account in the worst possible light, and doubtless contributed to the
book's further obscurity. Salley's text has been reprinted at least three times, both
with and without his introduction. With only a hundred or so copies printed and
bound a laborious and time-consuming process for the "one African"4 employed

1 An earlier version of this article was given as a paper at the 5th Annual William Gilmore
Simms Conference, Columbia, SC, Apr. 17-20, 2002. I am indebted to the William Gilmore
Simms Society for the Summer, 2003 Jr. Research Professorship at the University of South
Carolina, which allowed me to pursue this research further.

2 The pamphlet edition was announced in The Daily Phoenix on Sept. 26, 1865 (v.1, n.153), to
be published in "about the middle of October" and for sale at $1.00 (p.2). The October 27, 1865
issue (v.l, n.180) noted that the pamphlet had been "just published" (p.4).

3 See "Publishing History" at the end of this article for publication details of The Sack and

4 A. S. Salley, "Foreword," to Gilbert Augustus Selby, Anthology of Poetry and Prose,
Original and Selected (Columbia, SC: R. L. Bryan, 1953), p.xiii.