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 28

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Secondary Scholarship | 2004
Transcription repetition." Lucas cites two examples, of an owner listed twice, with "Store and
dwelling" and "Store filled with furniture." Finding only one person listed in the
1860 city directory, Lucas then concludes that the second listing was merely
"elaboration", done for "emphasis." In the second example, the same owner is
listed with "Bank of South Carolina" and the second, rooms occupied by others.
Lucas is correct that the second example could be clearer, but "rooms" suggests a
subset of buildings, as distinct from Simms's practice of specifying "store,""residence" and "dwelling." Moreover, Simms is clearly documenting who was
dispossessed, not just the landlords. Lucas is also troubled by the large number of
buildings Simms lists on some blocks, though he does not take into account the
possibility that many structures would also have out-buildings, stables, or the like.
Nonetheless, Lucas only subtracts 19 entries from Simms's list, seven of which
are not disputed but not counted since they were legitimate military targets (the
state armory, the powder works, etc.). Out of the 486 entries on Simms's list,
Lucas disputes only, twelve, less than three percent.14
Simms's accuracy and care as a historian are not the only reasons the book
deserves wider readership. Nor is its prescience in anticipating the lingering
controversy and most of its finer points although that, too, deserves particular
attention from historians. And given that the controversy persists, it may well be
that the best route to resolve the issue would be to publish an authoritative,
thoroughly annotated edition of Simms's book borrowing the words of another
historian writing about another prominent South Carolinian, John C. Calhoun,
such a new edition would help "correct superficial. and partisan interpretations"
which have "persisted from the controversies of his time."15 But the intention
behind such an edition must not merely be to introduce new readers to what
would surely be greeted in most quarters as yet another contribution to the
decades of historiographical confusion that surround the issue. For a general
audience, the book has considerable value on its own merits. Both John C. Guilds
and James E. Kibler have praised it, Guilds calling it "an important and
impressive document," and agreeing with Kibler that it ranks "'among Simms's
best works' for its graphic description and its stark and powerful prose style." 16
And for Simms scholars in particular, there is much to be gained from a careful

14 Four entries are second-story occupants, seven are government works or engaged in
government operations, and nine are residences. See Lucas, Sherman and the Burning of
Columbia, p.126, n.21.

15 Clyde N. Wilson, "Preface," The Papers of John C. Calhoun, Vol. 27, 1849-1850, Clyde N.
Wilson and Shirley Bright Cook, eds. (Columbia: The University of South Carolina Press, 2003),
p.vii.

16 John Caldwell Guilds, Sirnrns: A Literary Life (Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas
Press, 1992), p.298.