Simms rallied long enough in early May to offer a final public appearance, delivering an opening address for a flower show in his native Charleston. A month later, the poet/novelist/editor wrote his last letter to Hayne, noting his "long and exhausting malady" was overtaking him and that his illness had left him emaciated "to such diminutive proportions" that he would no longer be recognized by his friends. It was 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 11, 1870 that William Gilmore Simms died, likely from liver disease. Nine years later to the day, the people of Charleston unveiled a memorial to him. Simms had asked that his epitaph note that "he has left all his better works undone."
His eye was tearless, but his cheeks were wan;
There sorrow long had set her heavy hand;
Yet was his spirit noble, and a bland
And sweet expression o'er his features ran!
Care had not tutored him to sullenness—
The world's scorn not subdued the natural man:
The sweet milk of his nurture was not less,
Because the world had met him with its ban;
He is above revenges, though he drinks
The bitter draught of malice and of hate;
And still, though in the weary strife he sinks,
They can not make him murmur at his fate;
He suffers, and he feels the pang, but proves
The conqueror, though he falls, for still he loves.