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William Gilmore Simms

Born in 1806 in the South of the United States during the peak of slavery, William Gilmore Simms rose to be one of the most popular writers in Southern literature and was read throughout the United States and Europe.

Simms has a statue in Charleston S.C. at the famous battery wall that faces Fort Sumpter. Though he is virtually unknown today, in his time he was famous for such titles as "The Partisan" and "The Wigwam and the Cabin". Besides short stories and novels, Simms also wrote histories and biographies. He was also a close friend of the Bard of Baltimore, Edgar Allan Poe.

Although his home and plantation were in Barnwell, South Carolina, the first love of Simms was Charleston, a city he thought the apex of refinement, from which he got much inspiration for his writing. His home in Barnwell was burned by the Yankees when Sherman came through on his march to the sea. Simms was actually present when Sherman destroyed the capitol of South Carolina (Columbia) and produced a book on it called "A City Laid Waste".

Also known for his poetry, he penned "The Angel and the City", which describes the destruction of the towering Episcopal Church which was used as a range finder for Union artillery spotters when the Union forces besieged Charleston.

One of the reasons for the current disfavor of Simms with men (and women) of letters is his staunch defense of the Southern "Peculiar Institution" known as slavery. Yet slavery was not his primary focus, his historical fiction is still prized by some scholars in the South. Stuart Ferguson in the Wall Street Journal said of his writing, "If Simms's work is controversial and often employs an elaborate syntax no longer in fashion, much is exhilarating and penetrating, full of humor and a sympathetic appreciation of humanity's foibles."

William Gilmore Simms died in 1870, five years after the close of the Civil War.


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