Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z is for ZIMMERMAN

by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

If you’ve read my A to Z posts, you know about the horrors of Andersonville Prison and the disastrous sinking of the steamboat Sultana. And my historical fiction novel LIKE A RIVER (due out in Spring, 2015).

I had wanted to write a novel about Andersonville and the Sultana for many years and had written several first chapters, but I spent most of my writing time on other projects. Until I learned about Jacob Zimmerman.

Zimmerman was the great-great-grandfather of someone I know. And a survivor of Andersonville and the Sultana. That lit a fire under me to get the novel written.

Jacob Zimmerman was born in Germany and came to the U.S at age 27. He was so proud when he became a naturalized citizen that he framed and hung his citizenship papers on the wall of his home.

At age 44, he enlisted with the 115th Ohio Volunteers, and left his wife Catherine to care for their six children.

After nearly four months in Andersonville Prison, he was one of 2,000 former prisoners loaded on the Sultana. When the boat exploded and he saw the chaos in the river of men pulling one another down to try to save themselves, he stayed aboard as long as the flames allowed. When he finally went into the water, he took a small plank to help him stay afloat. He eventually joined three other men clinging to a bale of hay. Rescued at daylight about five miles downriver, he had spent the night in freezing water.

Jacob returned home to his family, and he and his wife added three more children. He lived to the age of 97.

My book isn’t about Jacob, but he was my inspiration.

22 comments:

  1. Jacob sounds inspiring. And awesome he's connected to someone you know. Congrats on finishing the challenge!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Natalie. And Jacob gave me a great subject to finish with.

      Delete
  2. Kathy: Jacob is inspirational. I can't wait to read your book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ann. I hope you'll enjoy the book.

      Delete
  3. Thanks for the historical context and personal connection to your book. Good job on this blog!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Carol. Originally I planned to give Jacob a cameo in the novel, but realized his place was in the background inspiring me to write.

      Delete
  4. Wow, what an amazing inspiration. I've so enjoyed your theme and look forward to your book. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Julie. I recently learned that you & I have a lot in common (Cincinnati & Reds fan). We'll have to get in touch.

      Delete
  5. Wow, all that and he lived a really long time.
    Congratulations on completing the Challenge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Alex. And thanks for setting it all in motion.

      Delete
  6. Zimmerman was the last time of my best friend in elementary school :-) Congrats on completing the challenge!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jamie. I wonder if your friend was related.

      Delete
  7. Hi Kathy - I can quite see why he inspired you and he lived a long long life .. despite everything. An incredible story and just wonderful he survived .. your book I think will be fascinating to read .. cheers and see you around - Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Hilary. I enjoyed "meeting" you.

      Delete
  8. Wow yes sometimes all a story needs to get finished is something that personalizes it to the author.

    Zimmerman does sound like he could have made great inspiration for a story. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Misha. There are so many people from the past who are known only to their families, but who can become inspirational if their stories get heard.

      Delete
  9. Replies
    1. Thanks, Juliet. You are another of my inspirations.

      Delete
  10. You've piqued my interest.

    Congrats on finishing the challenge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Medeia. Hope your interest is piqued enough to read the book when it comes out next spring.

      Delete
  11. congrats on finishing the challenge! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Margo. Congrats on your new thriller! Can't wait to read it.

      Delete