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02.04.06 Simms, William Gilmore, The Life of Francis Marion, published in 1844.

Notes Concerning the Author

William Gilmore Simms (1806-1870), a native of Charleston, SC, was more than just “the father of Southern literature.”  He was a prominent and prolific source in the whole of American letters, regardless of region.  Indeed Edgar Allan Poe called him the “best American novelist.”  In some sense Simms was the American Balzac, for like the great French author, a near contemporary, Simms incredible work ethic resulted in a prodigious output of works ranging over a number of settings in the South and beyond and delineating American life in its various social strata.  Unlike Balzac, Simms was an accomplished poet and frequent reviewer for a various number of prestigious nineteenth century literary journals.  He was also a historian, writing a history of South Carolina as well as a biography of Francis Marion, reviewed here.  He was not, however, an artiste staring down at society from a vaunted garret but an active participant in the life of his city and state, including serving two terms in the South Carolina legislature.  As valuable as his creative work is his non-fiction and his own correspondence are also highly regarded.  One piece of non-fiction, The Sack and Destruction of Columbia, details Sherman’s march through and wasting of South Carolina’s capital city, an event Simms witnessed firsthand and describes in close and shocking detail; his letters were gathered into five volumes in the 1950s with a supplementary volume appearing in 1982.  For years Simms’s reputation experienced a great lull but of late has been revived through the work of the William Gilmore Simms Society.


The Society could easily have placed The Life of Francis Marion with its recommendations concerning biographies of military leaders or with its history of the American Revolution, but chose this location because William Gilmore Simms was of South Carolina and the story of “The Swamp Fox” is focused on South Carolina and the people of the region where Marion lived.

By the way, in writing this first biography of the elusive Revolutionary War hero, Simms had access to documents that were later destroyed by Sherman’s army.

This is a moving story of a man who played a major role in defeating the attempt by British forces to conquer South Carolina and to conquer the thirteen American colonies which had declared their independence and fought long and hard to defend that decision.

It ranks among the greatest stories of a successful guerrilla military campaign.

Availability of this Book

The first edition of this book, printed in 1844, sold out in a few days.  There are many reprints available from which you may choose, most recently a 2007 edition edited by Sean R. Busick.  You may get a Kindle e-book version for free.  This ought to be a must-have for your library.  Just go to Amazon or similar source.

To view this book on amazon, click on the link below: