Today I am interviewing Joshua David Sims, a character from Dr. Don C. Kean’s book, I Didn’t Sign Up For This. Recently I interviewed Don Kean (which you can read here).
Hello, can you tell us your name and a bit about yourself.
My name is Joshua David Sims but everyone calls me J.D. I am from a place called Fishing View, Kentucky down “tween the rivers” in Western Kentucky. I was born and raised their and I hope to spend the remainder of my life their. It is the most beautiful place I have ever seen or have ever been to in my life. I grew up down on the Cumberland River with my parents and my younger sister and brother where we raised corn, tobacco, and cattle. I have the finest of families and am truly blessed to be so cared for and loved by them all. I can still remember just like it was yesterday all of the fun times I had with family and friends doing my very favorite thing in the whole world which is fishin. Fishing View has some of the finest fishin holes along the whole river. The huntin ain’t too bad neither. I returned home after the war ended and was blessed with the good fortune to be able to get my own place just upriver from where I was born, where I raise mules, cattle and corn. .My very favorite memory is on the evening of my 8th birthday when my daddy gave me my first gun.
Do you have a best friend?
My very best friend in the whole world is my wife Susan. We have been friends ever since we can both remember. We grew up together and were classmates in school. Heck, I even remember letting her tag along some times when we went fishin on account of she didn’t make a big fuss like most girls do about gettin dirty. But I never knew in all the years we were growin up that I would ever end up marryin her. I love her dearly and to think that I almost threw that all away because of my stubbornness and pride. Susan loved me into lovin her. When I came home from the war I didn’t think I could ever love or be kind to anyone. I was afraid of myself and afraid of what I might do to others. You see, what I saw in the war messed me up. It took a long while and an even more stubborn woman to help me to see things more clearly. I am still not so sure she isn’t an angel sent from heaven to watch over me. Only an angel or some other heavenly being could have loved a man like me when I first got back home.
What do you fear most?
I am most afraid of those terrible nightmares that I have and those terrible spells where I feel and see myself trapped back in that war. I can’t control them or keep them from happening no matter how hard I try. I am terrified that I might harm one of my loved ones unknowingly when I am in one of those states. I use to have them nearly everyday, but not as much now. It still makes me so angry that I struggle with those sights and memories and can’t just be completely shed of them. Over the years, with the help of God, Susan, and my family I have come to terms with most all of it. I don’t suffer as much as I did when I first got back home, but those memories still haunt me at times. So many are centered around the absolute worst two days of my life, April 6th and 7th 1862. It was the two days I spent down near that little church in Tennessee named Shiloh. They say that over 24000 men were killed and wounded during that fight. I saw little boys and old men die on that day. All the nightmares I ever had in my whole life could not come close to what I saw there in just two days.
Do you have any secrets?
I had a bunch of secrets when I first got back home. In fact I was afraid to ever come back home at all. It was crazy. I loved my family dearly and missed them all terribly. But I was scared to death to be around them for fear I might harm them and not even remember it. I eventually told them many of my secrets. It was a very painful ordeal, but it helped me so much to heal and to learn to feel love from others again. But I still don’t like to talk about those memories much. They are a terrible burden for me to bear.
What has been your greatest obstacle?
That’s easy. It has been tryin to keep my head straight since I got back home from the war. It’s taken a long time for me to realize that I am not really too crazy. Though sometimes I still think I am goin crazy. Too many horrible things happened before my eyes back then. I saw things that I hope no one else ever has to see. I hope no one is ever forced to do some of the terrible things I had to do.
What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you?
It was back right after New Years in 1863, after that nasty business down on The Duck River in Tennessee. It was right after The Battle of Stones River where I was wounded and thought for sure I would die. Me and a whole bunch of other men were lost and separated from our units after the battle ended. The river was up and we had no way to get the wounded across to safety in Tullahoma. But lo and behold a Yankee that I shot and killed told me right before he died that there was a ferry just down the river. It was a ferry that was said not to exist. No one had ever seen or heard of it ever before. It was not on any map I have seen before or since the war. But sure enough it was exactly right where he said it was. It ended up saving the lives of over 600 men. I have journeyed back to the Duck River since the war ended and there is no ferry there now. It was truly a miracle. That Yankee was a miracle worker sent by God.
Do you think this Yankee was an Angel?
(With a sly grin on my face), No. He was a WHOLE lot more than that.
Who is the greatest influence in your life?
I catch a whole lot of flack from some folks, especially my fellow Yankee officers when I talk of this man. But I still admire him as far as any Army Commander goes even though there are a lot of unsavory stories being told about him. But General Nathan Bedford Forrest was the finest leader I ever saw. When he was leading a fight in your neck of the woods during a skirmish he inspired such confidence in what you could do as a soldier and as a fighting unit. If some of the not so kind things said of him are true then so be it. I don’t know whether they are or not. But if someone were to ever lead me into another battle I would want it to be him. He made you feel like you could whip the Devil in a fist fight.
What is your greatest achievement?
That would have to be the double honor of wearing an Officers uniform in both the Confederate Army back during the war and now wearing a Yankee Uniform after the war. I was promoted to Lt. in the Confederate Army after helping to lead those men to the ferry in 1863. As far as I’m concerned the real hero was that Yankee named Joshua Christopher who told me all about it. I only did what I could to help. After the war ended the United States Government found out about me helping to save those men down on the Duck River back during the war. They decided that I had a talent with maps and sent me back to school over in Lexington Ky. They then promoted me to Captain in The United States Army Corp of Engineers as a cartographer and surveyor. That is where my travels take me these days.
What are your most treasured possessions?
I always carry three things in my pocket that are priceless to me. I refuse to go anywhere without them. The first is this old fish hook with the barb filed off. I took em to the war in case I ever got a chance to fish. Little did I know that on one cold desperate night in the woods of Central Tennessee when I was bleeding to death from a bayonet wound this fish hook would be used to sew me up and save my life. And oh yeah there is another story about a fish hook and a wedding ring which I can tell ya about if ya have time. The second item is this piece of a blue Yankee Uniform. The Yankee that wore this uniform was the one who wounded me. I took his life as we fought desperately on that night. I hated him with all my being for what he did to me. Yet within an hour of killing him in hatred and rage, pieces of his uniform were used to make threads to sew up my side and save my life. I know not his name but I am sure I will meet him one day. We are both now brothers in the Union Army forever. The third item is this old bloody handkerchief. The bloodstains on it won’t wash out. I’ve tried many times in the past to remove them, but its no use. They are the bloodstains of that Yankee named Joshua Christopher who I shot and killed down on The Duck River in 1863, the one who told me about the “miracle” ferry. I can truly say that “These colors do not run”.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your life?
Don’t ever ever give up no matter how impossible and painful it seems. Keep your faith and hope and dreams alive. Stay as close as you can to those you love. Quittin on life is easy. It’s livin it that’s real hard.
Thank you J.D. for being here today — you certainly have lots of interesting stories to tell!
About I Didn’t Sign Up For This:
New release in Historical/Romance/Fiction; “I Didn’t Sign Up For This” by Mirador Publishing is a dramatic depiction of a young Kentucky mans reasonable but naive life altering decision to enlist for military service in The American Civil War. As his journeys lead him to Shiloh, Stones River, Chickamaugua, Atlanta, and Nashville, his outlook on life is forever changed. Surviving the war, but not its harrowing affects, he returns home to loved ones with a strange P.T.S.D. like illness in tow. He struggles greatly with his sanity and self worth as recurrent nightmares and terrifying flashbacks plague him both mentally and emotionally. He grudgingly finds solace in the persistent romantic overtures of a strong and beautiful woman who sees so much more in him. He is also nurtured and protected by unseen loving angelic forces an angle which unravels slowly throughout the narrative as somewhat of a mystery. This is not a story of war but ultimately a story of triumph over tragedy, a story of blessing, healing, joy and pure romance.
Available at Amazon.com in Kindle and paperback format.
Please visit: www.Facebook.com/IDidntsignup for more details.
Also see: authorpage.co/donckean/ for reviews.
About Don Kean:
I was a practicing dentist for 25 years in Louisville Kentucky. I am currently working in retail management. When I am not writing, my favorite pastime is fishing , especially at Kentucky Lake which was the inspiration for the setting in “I Didn’t Sign Up For This. I also enjoy automobile racing. I enjoy reading and writing about history especially the American Civil War period. It was the most defining even in American History.