Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 16: No 1) >> ''Woodlands'' Essay from 1955 >> Page 35

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 35

Reviews/Essays | [1955]
Transcription family would have been without shelter save an outbuilding or two. The fire
had started in the attic and had made such headway by four o'clock in the
morning, when it was discovered, that there was no chance to save the house.
The slaves worked faithfully, and in response to Mrs. Simms's appeal to
save the library, kept the fire from destroying the wing. In a letter to a friend
Simms wrote a few days later: "I fortunately built, only last year, a wing to
the dwelling, connected by a corridor, twenty feet in length. The wing was
saved. But for this removal of my books, they would have all been lost.
And only a few days before the fire, I gathered up all of my manuscripts
matter enough for fifty volumes and packed it into trunks, not knowing
how soon I should have to fly thinking more of the Yankees and midnight
fires, and wishing to be ready." A new house of six rooms was built to
replace the burned dwelling.
Less than three years later he did have to fly upon the approach of
the Yankees. Just as he was ready to take the train at Midway to go to
Columbia, Mrs. Hopson Pinkney, who was a northern woman, appeared at
"Woodlands." Mr. Simms urged her to take charge of his home and his
younger children, relying on the fact of her being a northerner to protect her
and the place from mistreatment by the federal troops. She declined his offer
and went to the station with the family, but as the train drew away from the
station, I have been informed by Mrs. Kinloch and Mrs. Rowe, two of Mr.
Simms's daughters, the family saw Mrs. Pinkney in her carriage going back
toward "Woodlands."
In Trent's life of Simms he tells how Gen. Francis P. Blair, Jr., at
the request of Mrs. Pinkney, also left the place about the same time. As soon
as she left stragglers fired the building, and this time the library and
everything was destroyed that had not been carried off.
At the time that Sherman's army reached "Woodlands," Simms was
in Columbia, yet I have received three newspaper clippings in the last thirty
years, each containing an account of meetings in the Northwest at each of
which a different man claimed that he saved Simms's library at Simms's
personal request. The three stories are so similar in details that it is evident
that all three offices invented their stories from the story told by Trent as a
basis. Trent's story is that a young northern officer knocked on the door of
the house where Simms and his children were staying in Columbia. Simms
responded to the person, and after they had exchanged names, the officer
said: "Sir, I have enjoyed too much pleasure from you works not to feel
grateful. You belong to the Union, and I have come to see if I can render
you any service." Simms thanked him and said that he desired only to have
his family saved from intrusion. The officer departed, and in a few moments
some guards appeared who were polite and efficient in performing their