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 6

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Secondary Scholarship | 2007
Transcription such a policy struck Simms as absurd and self-destructive since cotton
growing was overwhelmingly the dominant economic activity in the South.
In the end, the Confederacy did adopt only one, but it was the import
tariff as proscribed in the Act of 21 May 1861. There would be intermittent
efforts in the next four years to augment this with an export duty but these
would be to no avail. In an important sense, however, the debate over tariff
policy was superfluous. By the end of 1861 the Union blockade of Southern
ports had effectively stopped Confederate international trade, at least on
anything but a minimal scale.
The editorials Simms wrote about seacoast defenses, while mentioned by
the editors of the Letters, are not specifically identified by them. They are,
however, as the editors state, easily identified because their content reflect
the same ideas Simms was voicing in his letters to Jamison and Miles in the
spring and summer of 1861.16 After the surrender of Fort Sumter to
Confederate forces on 13 April 1861, the atmosphere in South Carolina
shifted from one of tension to complacency as the seat of war shifted from
Charleston Harbor to Virginia. Many believed that there would be no war, or
if there was it would be short. In either case, South Carolina had done her
duty. Prior to the bombardment of Sumter, Simms had written many detailed
letters to Miles and especially Jamison, who was serving as Secretary of War
for South Carolina under Governor Francis W. Pickens, advising them on the
construction of batteries in and around the harbor. These are fascinating
letters which reveal Simms's under-appreciated mechanical acumen and a
practical side of his imagination. His principle suggestion to use iron in the
construction of these batteries was adopted by Confederate military
authorities, but the design of the batteries was such that Simms disclaimed
being their designer. The most celebrated battery was the so called Iron
Battery. The credit for its design was given to C. H. Stevens, an employee of
the Planter's and Mechanical Bank in Charleston and the brother of the Iron
Battery's commanding officer Peter F. Stevens. Simms was slightly
embittered that his suggestions to Jamison had not been acted upon or
received recognition. "I suppose you have seen how quietly all my agency in
the suggestion of the battery of rail iron & ranging timber has been ignored,"
he told Miles on 2 April 1861.17
This experience did not discourage Simms from giving more military
advice, however, and he did not share in the mood of safety that fell upon
South Carolina after Sumter's fall. Beginning on 9 July 1861 Simms began a
series of editorials for the Charleston Mercury arguing that his fellow South
Carolinians were resting in a false sense of security. The war would soon
return and the place to look for that return was the coastline of the state




16 Letters, IV, 327. See notes 28 & 29.
17 Letters, IV, 354.