This engraving of William Sims is found in the 1861 Class Album of Yale College. Sims (see biographical sketch) was graduated from Yale in May 1861, the month of his 19th birthday, indicating that he probably left Mississippi at age 15 in order to further his schooling in New Haven, Connecticut. His older brother Dr. John Hampton Sims, Jr., was already a Yale alumnus.
William Sims's later tendency toward controversy may have surfaced during his senior year at Yale. It is plausible to assume that upperclassman Sims might have been a ringleader in a campus disturbance in early 1861, during which Southern students raised a flag of secession on Yale's Old Campus; Northern students, in turn, stormed the building where the flag flew and tore the banner down.
On May 28, 1861, young Sims enlisted to fight for the South in Mississippi's 21st Infantry Regiment. However, in spite of the fact that many of his Yale classmates became Union warriors, apparently their affection for “Billy” was not entirely erased by opposing loyalties.
The following 1885 letter was written from one to another of Sims's old friends:
Binghamton N.Y. Apr.19.1885.
S. E. Baldwin Esq
My Dear Friend
I write to ask if you know any thing of the condition of Billy Sims. He wrote to me a short time ago saying he was in need of temporary assistance and giving me a brief history of his affair. He was driven out of Virginia by political persecution after the Danville affair and lost his Law practice. He has also become partially deaf and finds this a great obstacle to his gaining a foothold in a new place. He took part in the Republican campaign and I infer staked his all on the Expectation of Blaine's success. He is now out of Employment, out of Means and doubtless out of friends. He says he is trying to do some newspaper work but his deafness is against him yet he needs skillful medical treatment. I hope you may be able to render him assistance in some way. If you cannot do more will you write him a letter of Encouragement.
I am a Mugwump, one of the few in this County, but even a Mugwump may sympathize with a classmate in need.
If you have heard any thing in regard to Sims please advise me. His address as given me is simply Washington D. C.
Very Truly Yours
E. P. McKinny
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