Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 16: No 1) >> ''Woodlands'' Essay from 1955 >> Page 36

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 36

Reviews/Essays | [1955]
Transcription I can locate but one of the clippings sent me. It is from a paper of
reminiscences of "Sherman's March to the Sea," read before Wisconsin
Commandery, Military Order of the Loyal Legion, by Judge F. H. Putney,
and reads as follows:
"I was riding ahead of the column with another staff officer, as our
custom was, for the purpose of getting to the camping ground before
nightfall, so as to look it over by daylight and be able to guide the regiment
to their places, when I noticed a plantation house near the road with all its
buildings unharmed and its dooryard free from the squads of foragers.
"As we came abreast of the place a gentleman of middle age and of
good bearing came out to the road and besought me with most appealing
words and looks to give him a guard for his property. I answered briefly,
and probably coldly, that I had no guard to give him and that he would have
to take his chances. Upon that he renewed his entreaties more urgently, and
asked me who was the general in charge and where could he find him. He
added that he was sure any general would protect his library from
destruction, at the same time waving his hand toward a detached one storied
frame building near the house. A separate library building, twenty-five or
more feet square on a remote plantation, piqued my curiosity, and I asked
him his name.
"Every man who is old enough to remember the pleasure which in
the fifties `Richard Hurds' [Richard Hurdis], Border Beagles, and their
author's other stories gave to reading boys will understand what a thrill of
excitement and interest ran through my veins as my interlocutor answered,
with a bow: `William Gilmore Simms, sir.' All my indifference vanished
instantly and his hope rose perceptively as I told him of the joyful days and
nights which the creation of his pen had brought me to my faraway
Wisconsin home. His heroes had been as real to me in my teens as are the
great captains of the Wilderness and Atlantis to the youth of today, and I tol
him that I owed him a debt of gratitude which I would be glad to pay.
"Very soon the head of the column came up, and I went at once to
Gen. Ewing to report the reason of my delay on the road and to intercede for
Mr. Simms and his library. On learning whose place it was and the nature of
the owner's request, the general ordered guards to be detailed and placed
there, but to remain only until the brigade had passed. Having done what I
could in return for many happy hours given some years before, I bade Mr.
Simms good-bye and rode rapidly on to make up for the time that I had
wasted there. I confess, I did not feel very sanguine that his books and
buildings would escape unscathed; and so when some years after the war, I
read that they were all burned, I was not surprised, but I was singularly
grieved that they were so unfortunate as to be in the pathway of war."
If Judge Putney saw "Woodlands" at all, he did not see a "detached
one-storied frame building near the house." Simms's letter and Trent's