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 32

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Secondary Scholarship | 2004
Transcription who came to South Carolina to "pollute our homes with its presence." And he
eliminates some criticism of the Confederate side, such as the remark that "South
Carolina had, for a long season, been made a sort of nursery for sick generals, and
a sort of pasture ground for incompetence and imbecility."26
The greatest elision occurs in the last chapter of the penultimate
installment of the serial version. With a passion wholly unconcealed, Simms
writes:
The soul turns away with loathing from their contemplation. The heart
bleeds, the mind, in despair, cries to the great Master of nations, with
plea and prayer asking if there be no vengeance in the stores of
heaven no fiery bolts to alight upon the heads of these fiends set
free, and annihilate them with the sharpest and swiftest of dooms
such as justice and mercy and all the virtues must sanction with
clapping of hands, even in the sacred abodes of eternity. Can it be that
these reckless demons, mocking equally God and humanity, shall
pursue with impunity their diabolical process. Do they not march to
retribution? Are they not cursed with such impedimenta, as will take
courage out of their souls and strength out of their limbs? The spoils
they have done away from ten thousand desolated homes, must weigh
equally upon their shoulders, their consciences and courage. Robbers
are rarely brave men, and whatever might have existed in virtue in
their cause, is forfeit by the processes which they have taken up for its
maintenance. Encountered by a determined enemy, stung by the sense
of loss and suffering, intensified by the stings of such a record of
violated homes, as is here written, they will surely quail before our
sons. We look yet to behold such retribution in its most terrible
aspects, dogging their heels and tearing at their throats. The judgment
of God on crimes of the foulest the revenge of man, for deeds too
terrible to contemplate these, will arm our people, fighting pro ares
et focus, with a power which they will face in vain with a vengeance
which shall teach them what they deserve, however little they may be
prepared to endure.27
These sentiments had no place in the pamphlet edition, coming as it did months
after Appomattox, but taken together, Simms's edits do more than merely provide
a leaner prose style they also fit with his sense of responsibility as the leading
writer of the South, which was now faced with the task of reintegrating itself with
the Union it had so bitterly opposed. Heaping obloquy upon that Union would not
advance that process. As Kibler has written, "The book version shows greater
control and is a more polished work of art; yet, the earlier account reveals Simms'

26 Ibid., v.1, n.1 (Mar. 21, 1865), p.2.

27 Ibid., v.1, n.9 (Apr. 8, 1865), p.3.


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