Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> War Poetry of the South: Notes Towards a Reconsideration >> Page 51

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Page 51

Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 51 THE SIMMS REVIEW

the destruction of his state and his home, he still strove to do his part in
the creation of a national literature. The promotion of a national litera-
ture had always been of central importance to Simms (Busick). In the
dedication to the revised edition of The Wigwam and the Cabin, Simms
explained that "to be national in literature, one must needs be sectional.
No one mind can fully or fairly illustrate the characteristics of any great
country; and he who shall depict one section faithfully, has made his
proper and sufficient contribution to the great work of national illustra-
tion" (4).
His position was the same in 1866 as it had been before the War.
In the preface, he described War Poetry of the South as "a contribution
to the national literature ... illustrating the degree of mental and art
development which has been made, in a large section of the country" (v).
After the War, Simms still believed that writing about his section of the
country was a valuable contribution to the creation of a national litera-
ture, just as he had earlier believed when he was a supporter of Young
America. According to Simms, though War Poetry was "sectional in its
character, and indicative of a temper and a feeling which were in conflict
with nationality, yet, now that the States of the Union have been resolved
into one nation, this collection is essentially as much the property of the
whole as are the captured cannon which were employed against it during
the progress of the late war" (v).
We also see Simms continuing his work as a historian in War
Poetry. He repeatedly described his work as providing material for
future historians. In the introduction to Katherine Walton, he described
the ways that his Revolutionary romances "opened the way to histori-
cal studies among us they suggested clews to the historian ... they
showed to succeeding laborers far abler than myself what treasures of
materiel, lay waiting for the shaping hands of future genius" (3). Simms
likewise believed War Poetry of the South did more than contribute to the
national literature. It would be an important source for future historians.
According to Simms, the poems in the collection illustrated Southerners'"feelings, sentiments, ideas, and opinions—the motives which influenced
their actions ... and which seemed to them to justify the struggle in which
they were engaged" (v). Because poetry did more than merely narrate
actions, but also illustrated the sentiments, opinions, and motives behind
actions, it was "even of more importance to the writer of history than any
mere chronicle of facts" (v).