Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 15: No 1) >> The Pen as Sword: Simms and the Beginning of the War — Rediscovered Writings from 1861 >> Page 2

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Secondary Scholarship | 2007
Transcription discussed in detail. More attention has been given to Simms's war-time
letters with political and military content, but these articles add greater

testament to the depth of thought and tremendous energy Simms devoted to
the tumultuous political and military developments of that momentous year.
The reason for the relative lack of interest in these articles among literary
scholars of Simms is perhaps related to their subject matter. These are not

articles of immediately apparent literary interest. Somewhat surprisingly,

considering Simms's widely recognized status as the Palmetto State's
leading man of letters in the antebellum era, historians of the Civil War and
South Carolina's. role in it have not only neglected these articles but also
fairly ignored Simms's letters as well, as valuable primary sources. Thus, it
is a double misfortune. When read in conjunction with Simms's letters to
William Porcher Miles and David Flavel Jamison, among others, in 1861,
these articles offer valuable insights into a host of topics.

By 1860, the great question of South Carolina politics was no longer the
one between unionists and secessionists. It was between cooperationists,
those who favored a coordinated secession movement among the Southern
states, and advocates of separate state action. The election of Abraham
Lincoln settled the matter. Like a majority of other South Carolinians,

Simms was now completely committed to the state's immediate secession.
Writing to James Lawson on 13 November, Simms remarked that his name
had been put into consideration for the Secession Convention. "I have
declined being a Candidate," he told Lawson, "but will serve if they elect
me, which they seem very anxious to do. If elected, I shall aim at but a single
object to separate from a Confederacy in which we are otherwise doom' d
to destruction. We cannot wait must not wait will not wait one moment
longer than we can help."3 He wholly engrossed himself for the next year in
the political and military issues which faced South Carolina and the South. A
reading of his letters from this period reveals the extent of his commitment
to secession and Southern independence and the breadth of actions which
this commitment inspired.
Even before South Carolina had formally seceded from the Union, Simms
had busied himself defending her actions to Northern friends such as John

Jacob Bockee and making patriotic speeches to his neighbors in Barnwell
District.4 With secession accomplished, Simms turned his attention to the
events transpiring in Charleston, Washington and Montgomery. South

Carolina's delegation to the Montgomery Convention included Robert
Barnwell Rhett, Robert Woodward Barnwell, Christopher Gustavus
Memminger, James Chesnut, Jr., Lawrence Massillon Keitt, Thomas
Jefferson Withers, William Waters Boyce and William Porcher Miles.

3 Letters, IV, 265.
4 Letters, IV, 287.; Charleston Mercury, 21 November 1860.