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 31

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Page 31

Secondary Scholarship | 2004
Transcription rather "severely handled."22 More appear in the book, along with new accounts to
support his contentions.23
A close comparison of the lists of the residents and owners dispossessed
and the property destroyed as published in the Phoenix and the book reveals only
a few changes: Simms corrects and combines two entries into one in two places,
corrects the locations of five buildings and the purpose of one business, and
expands the abbreviations for first names. Only one entry in the Phoenix is wholly
omitted from the book. On the whole, these are minor corrections, but they
indicate the care Simms took in his work as historian of the calamity.
Equally minor is the second category of emendations, which are
predominantly stylistic in nature, such as substituting the more mundane "guns"
for the word "thunders" in the sentence, "The end was rapidly approaching. The
guns were. resounding at the gates."24 There are also a number of places where he
eliminated redundancy, which contributed to the poetic effect of the serial version
but that he correctly deems unnecessary, such as dropping the words "and horror"
from the sentence, "But we sicken at the farther recital of these cruelties and
There is an aspect of these changes that also is tonal, the most significant
category. In several places, these are quite substantial, and all of them represent a
softening of the anti-Union rhetoric that characterizes the original serial account.
For example, in describing the burning of Wade Hampton's country estate outside
Columbia, Simms writes in the Phoenix that it was "destroyed by a gang of
banditti, sent forth to forage foraging, in General Sherman's dictionary, being
identical with burglary and arson." 25 In the book, he drops this, along with his
angry retort to the whitewash that began shortly after Sherman's troops left the
city: writing in the last installment, Simms bitingly remarked, "The attempt to lie
it away, is as atrocious in its recklessness, as the deed which the falsehood is
meant to palliate. There are hundreds of witnesses who heard the explicit
assertions to this effect from the common soldiery, and the detailed facts as
already given, confirm their avowals." There are also several smaller comments
he elides, such as referring to Sherman's army as a "cruel and malignant enemy"

22 "Sherman Not A Catholic," in The Columbia Phoenix, v.1, n.4 (Mar. 28, 1065), p.3.

23 One notable additional account concerns Union troop misbehavior, in the chapter detailing
their predilection for hanging people suspected of sequestering valuables until they confess the
location. In the book, an additional story of this rough treatment describes a German baker's
experience; see Salley, p.83.

24 Salley, P.34; The Columbia Phoenix, v.1, n.l (Mar. 21, 1865), p.3. InterestinaglY> to modern
readers his punctuation in the original provides a better flow than either of the published accounts.

25 The Columbia Phoenix, v.1, n.9 (Apr. 8, 1865), p.3.