Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 13: No 2) >> From Our Archives — ''A Clue to Simms's Neglect'' >> Page 44

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Page 44

Secondary Scholarship | 1996

Back in Simms Review, Volume IV, Number 2, pp. 40-
41, we published the following eyewitness account of the
destruction of "Woodlands" and its author's honest promise
that in the illustrious history of the United States "traitor"
Simms's name will be expunged. Because, regrettably, the
piece surfaced after Professor Guilds' biography of Simms was
published, it bears reprinting here as a key to the intentional
neglect of Simms in the United States.


Clear evidence for one reason why Simms has been struck from the American
literary canon appears in Major George Ward Nichols' The Story of the Great
March (New York: Harper, 1865). Nichols was aide-de-camp to General William
Tecumseh Sherman when the General burned both Simms's "Woodlands" and the
city of Columbia. Nichols writes:
Columbia will have better cause to remember the visit of Sherman s
army.... Not in this generation nor the next--no, not for a century--can this
city or the state recover from the deadly blow which has taken its life....
The feet of 100,000 abolitionists have pressed heavily upon their sacred
soil, and their spirit is broken. I know that thousands of South Carolina's
sons are in the Army of the Rebellion; but she has already lost her best
blood there. Those who remain have no homes. The Hamptons,
Barnwells, Simmses, Rhetts, Singletons, Prestons, have no homes. The
ancient homesteads where were gathered sacred associations, the heritages
of many generations, are swept away. When first these men became traitors
they lost honor; today they have no local habitations; in the glorious future
of this country they will have no name.
Nichols here predicts that Simms, who has lost his home, by his "traitorous" stand,
will also have his name expunged from history. The quotation is clear proof that
Sherman and his minions were intent on Southern cultural genocide, and Simms, as
a spokesman and symbol for the South, was named as a prime target therein.