counter create hit Co. Aytch: A Confederate Memoir of the Civil War - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

Co. Aytch: A Confederate Memoir of the Civil War

Availability: Ready to download

A classic Civil War memoir, Co. Aytch is the work of a natural storyteller who balances the horror of war with an irrepressible sense of humor and a sharp eye for the lighter side of battle. It is a testament to one man’s enduring humanity, courage, and wisdom in the midst of death and destruction. Early in May 1861, twenty-one-year-old Sam R. Watkins of Columbia, Tennessee A classic Civil War memoir, Co. Aytch is the work of a natural storyteller who balances the horror of war with an irrepressible sense of humor and a sharp eye for the lighter side of battle. It is a testament to one man’s enduring humanity, courage, and wisdom in the midst of death and destruction. Early in May 1861, twenty-one-year-old Sam R. Watkins of Columbia, Tennessee, joined the First Tennessee Regiment, Company H, to fight for the Confederacy. Of the 120 original recruits in his company, Watkins was one of only seven to survive every one of its battles, from Shiloh to Nashville. Twenty years later, with a “house full of young ‘rebels’ clustering around my knees and bumping about my elbows,” he wrote this remarkable account—a memoir of a humble soldier fighting in the American Civil War, replete with tales of the common foot soldiers, commanders, Yankee enemies, victories, defeats, and the South’s ultimate surrender on April 26, 1865.


Compare
Ads Banner

A classic Civil War memoir, Co. Aytch is the work of a natural storyteller who balances the horror of war with an irrepressible sense of humor and a sharp eye for the lighter side of battle. It is a testament to one man’s enduring humanity, courage, and wisdom in the midst of death and destruction. Early in May 1861, twenty-one-year-old Sam R. Watkins of Columbia, Tennessee A classic Civil War memoir, Co. Aytch is the work of a natural storyteller who balances the horror of war with an irrepressible sense of humor and a sharp eye for the lighter side of battle. It is a testament to one man’s enduring humanity, courage, and wisdom in the midst of death and destruction. Early in May 1861, twenty-one-year-old Sam R. Watkins of Columbia, Tennessee, joined the First Tennessee Regiment, Company H, to fight for the Confederacy. Of the 120 original recruits in his company, Watkins was one of only seven to survive every one of its battles, from Shiloh to Nashville. Twenty years later, with a “house full of young ‘rebels’ clustering around my knees and bumping about my elbows,” he wrote this remarkable account—a memoir of a humble soldier fighting in the American Civil War, replete with tales of the common foot soldiers, commanders, Yankee enemies, victories, defeats, and the South’s ultimate surrender on April 26, 1865.

30 review for Co. Aytch: A Confederate Memoir of the Civil War

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    "I always shot at privates. It was they that did the shooting and killing, and if I could kill or wound a private why, my chances were so much the better. I always looked upon officers as harmless personages". I have wanted to read this book since Sam Watkins was so heavily quoted in Ken Burns Civil War documentary. I found it in a used book sale a couple of months ago and snatched it up. I knew it would make a great stocking stuffer for my husband at Christmas, but of course I would read it mys "I always shot at privates. It was they that did the shooting and killing, and if I could kill or wound a private why, my chances were so much the better. I always looked upon officers as harmless personages". I have wanted to read this book since Sam Watkins was so heavily quoted in Ken Burns Civil War documentary. I found it in a used book sale a couple of months ago and snatched it up. I knew it would make a great stocking stuffer for my husband at Christmas, but of course I would read it myself before that. This book is described as one of the best memoirs from the Civil War ever written. Sam Watkins was a private who served with the First Tennessee regiment for the entire 4 years of the war. His first person experience of the life of a soldier is peppered with humor and common sense and philosophy. He fought at Chicamauga and Lookout Mountain and Atlanta and Nashville and Franklin, and numerous skirmishes all along. He marched and starved and froze and roasted, played tricks on fellow soldiers to pass the time, and complained about the officers. He was shot at and hit a few times, (but survived) was captured a few times, ( but escaped) and seemed to be uncommonly lucky, especially as he was in so many major battles. But he survived the war, went home to marry his sweetheart, Jenny, had children, and in 1882, sat down to record what he remembered. "Reader, a battlefield, after the battle, is a sad and sorrowful sight to look at. The glory of war is but the glory of battle, the shouts, and cheers, and victory. Dying on the field of battle and glory is about the easiest duty a soldier has to undergo. It is the living, marching fighting, shooting soldier that has the hardships of war to carry." This is a memoir that should be read by anyone wanting to know what soldiers actually endured during that terrible time. As Sam himself says several times in the book: "Leave it to the historians to tell what happened, I'm only telling you what I saw".

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This book was written by a "family connection," a distinction that probably only matters to old Southern women. Sam Watkins married a relative of mine. The book is a nice thing to talk about at family reunions, so I thought I would pull it from Project Gutenberg and read it. I have now learned that this memoir is considered to be the or one of the best primary-source accounts of the private experience in the Civil War. I was certainly blown away by a lot of it. Sam tells his story in a way that is This book was written by a "family connection," a distinction that probably only matters to old Southern women. Sam Watkins married a relative of mine. The book is a nice thing to talk about at family reunions, so I thought I would pull it from Project Gutenberg and read it. I have now learned that this memoir is considered to be the or one of the best primary-source accounts of the private experience in the Civil War. I was certainly blown away by a lot of it. Sam tells his story in a way that is accessible over time and makes you feel as if you were one of his company. He tells horror and humor in equal measure, and you feel his nostalgia for the camaraderie and his enduring grief of the many friends he saw die. You also get a very different view of the administration of the war -- generals are evaluated not in the battles that they win, but how well they feed and clothe their troops and how they let snubs to their pride affect their command of their men. I personally was touched by the deeply affectionate references to "Jennie," the woman with whom I share some small amount of blood. I need to get someone to tell me how we are related. I highly recommend the book to any war buff or anyone interested in engaging first person accounts of history.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Murray Melder

    My G-G-Grandfather was Sam Watkins' sergeant in the 1st Vol. Infantry Co. H until he was wounded through the knee and subsequentially captured by the Federal troops the battle of Perryville. To hear the vivid accounts given in this book by a man directly under the command of my blood relative is exhilarating and very humbling. I was even more impressed when I started reading the book and found that he was a decent writer. My opinion is grossly biased because of my direct connection to the writer My G-G-Grandfather was Sam Watkins' sergeant in the 1st Vol. Infantry Co. H until he was wounded through the knee and subsequentially captured by the Federal troops the battle of Perryville. To hear the vivid accounts given in this book by a man directly under the command of my blood relative is exhilarating and very humbling. I was even more impressed when I started reading the book and found that he was a decent writer. My opinion is grossly biased because of my direct connection to the writer, but if you want vivid details from a common solider on the course of events of everyday life and even some uncommon insight into some of the most significant battles in American history then I strongly suggest you give this book a chance. Deo Vindice.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    Wow, this was good. This was written about twenty years after the American Civil War by a Confederate soldier, Sam Watkins. He served as a private, and this book is his recollections of various events in the Civil War as they happened to him. As Watkins tells the reader repeatedly, he isn't trying to write a history, as there have been plenty of those already. Instead, he wrote down short recollections of battles, humorous events that happened while he was on guard duty, etc. I liked this book be Wow, this was good. This was written about twenty years after the American Civil War by a Confederate soldier, Sam Watkins. He served as a private, and this book is his recollections of various events in the Civil War as they happened to him. As Watkins tells the reader repeatedly, he isn't trying to write a history, as there have been plenty of those already. Instead, he wrote down short recollections of battles, humorous events that happened while he was on guard duty, etc. I liked this book because it felt like a conversation, albeit a one-sided one--like (forgive the cheesy metaphor here) we'd sat down in two big rocking chairs on Watkin's front porch, maybe with a pitcher of lemonade, and he started talking to me about his experiences in the Civil War. It was very casual. What makes Watkin's memoirs so interesting is the very personal touch he brings to them. Watkins was evidently a firm believer in states' rights and in the right of secession; he refers to the Southerners' struggle as "fighting for our country", meaning the Confederacy, many times. Oddly enough, he never addresses the issue of slavery. To Watkins, it seems the war was much more about states' rights than it was about slavery. Watkins is also very opinionated about who actually deserves credit for battles won; he mentions repeatedly that it is the private who does the fighting and the dying, and the general gets all the glory for it. More than anything else about the Civil War I've ever read, this book really brought home the devastatingness (is that a word? Well, you know what I mean) of the Civil War. It's not hard to believe that three out of every ten Southern males died when Watkins describes so many deaths--really graphically, I might add. He tells of friends' limbs being ripped off in battles, of brains being splattered on him, of a whole bunch of other gross stuff that really makes you glad you never had to fight in the Civil War. But it really brought home the suffering and the pain that soldiers in the Civil War went through. Anyway, this was really interesting. I had to read it for school, but I ended up liking it a whole lot more than I thought I would. This is a really good book to read if you want to know more about the everyday life of soldiers fighting in the Civil War--as Watkins repeatedly (and I do mean repeatedly) tells us, it's not a history of the Civil War. It's a description of the awful, funny, and sad things that happened to him and to those around him.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    Watkins wrote this book near his death in his eighties, long after he fought with the confederate army of the tennesee through four years and all of it's major campaigns. As you read the book he continues to remind you that he is no writer and no historian and if you want the facts thats who you should talk to, this is just how he saw it. Quickly the reader comes to see that for these very reasons this account offers something that no historian ever could. We hear about him foraging for a bite t Watkins wrote this book near his death in his eighties, long after he fought with the confederate army of the tennesee through four years and all of it's major campaigns. As you read the book he continues to remind you that he is no writer and no historian and if you want the facts thats who you should talk to, this is just how he saw it. Quickly the reader comes to see that for these very reasons this account offers something that no historian ever could. We hear about him foraging for a bite to eat as the army starves, he seems to remember the chickens he found and the girls he met more fondly than the battlefield victories he took part in. We hear about him stuck in inclimate weather with no shelter and how many find their deaths this way. In a very hokey country boy sort of way Watkins manages to magnify the civil war experience to that of the single anonymous private trudging in the ranks. Trials and tribulations that most of us would never consider come to the forefront. His recolections of combat are shocking and grotesque in their simplicity. If you were going to read one book on the subject of the American Civil War, and one only, this would be a good one to pick up. It's short and to the point never bothering to paint the big picture but telling us more about the war than any multi-volume study has ever managed. READ IT! (This can also be found under the title "A Sideshow of the Big Show" I think it's original title.)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Powerful yet astounding writer is Sam R. Watkins. He writes of memory and life as a private soldier. Never once did I want to put this book down. Sam R. Watkins is a very lucid and elaborate writer as I would consider it a work of art. As you're reading along you feel as if you were there, living the life of a confederate soldier. This is a must read for any commoner who wants to get a little bit of knowledge of what the Civil War was really like; you wont regret reading it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I listened to this on Libravox and thoroughly enjoyed hearing a middle Tennessean's memories of his part in the Civil War. My only complaint would be that the narrator had the Tennessee accent, but over all this was a fascinating glimpse into one man's war experience.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ben Vogel

    There is a reason this book is so often quoted and cited in Civil War literature. It is a pure and unfiltered account; a remarkable chronology of a Confederate soldier who participated in nearly every major battle of the war. Watkins' story is filled with humor, tragedy, and every reflection in between. What he lacked in education he made up for with passionate writing of his amazing experiences. I had never before considered the irony of Civil War soldiers dying from tornadoes in their camps, b There is a reason this book is so often quoted and cited in Civil War literature. It is a pure and unfiltered account; a remarkable chronology of a Confederate soldier who participated in nearly every major battle of the war. Watkins' story is filled with humor, tragedy, and every reflection in between. What he lacked in education he made up for with passionate writing of his amazing experiences. I had never before considered the irony of Civil War soldiers dying from tornadoes in their camps, but of course it must have happened over the passage of four years in that part of our land. That is but one of a dozen vignettes that gave me a fresh perspective on a subject I thought I knew a fair amount about. Stories I have read in the works of others about the strange mechanisms of cannonball injuries are now revealed to likely have been sourced here. Simple stories of camp life and how pickets behaved with their counterparts are only hinted at in the broader campaign literatures. Sam Watkins, I thank you, 150 years too late, for the service you gave honestly to a cause you believed in; but more importantly, for leaving such a rich account behind, which if for no other justification, made your sacrifices and those of your friends and enemies hold greater meaning through time.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Victor Davis

    What an amazing man this was. What I thought would basically be a war journal, akin to All for the Union or Red Badge of Courage was so much more. Sam Watkins was an extraordinarily intelligent, well-spoken, nuanced man. He balances a tone of whimsical despair with fierce patriotism. He speaks of his soldierly duty without lecturing on the divisive issues of the day. The Civil War is often called "a rich man's war, but a poor man's fight." To exemplify this, read The Cause of the South, followed What an amazing man this was. What I thought would basically be a war journal, akin to All for the Union or Red Badge of Courage was so much more. Sam Watkins was an extraordinarily intelligent, well-spoken, nuanced man. He balances a tone of whimsical despair with fierce patriotism. He speaks of his soldierly duty without lecturing on the divisive issues of the day. The Civil War is often called "a rich man's war, but a poor man's fight." To exemplify this, read The Cause of the South, followed by this. You will be disgusted with the lofty rationalizations of slavery and states' rights by the former, written by aristocrats from their high castle. Then when you read from humble Sam the life of the ordinary private soldier, you will come to respect the "poor men" fighting only to defend their homes. I think part of what makes this a great read is that Sam wrote it twenty years after the war, as a middle-aged family man. Doubtless the intervening years matured him, compared to how he would have written a journal as a 21-year-old soldier in the moment.

  10. 5 out of 5

    The Celtic Rebel (Richard)

    This has been said by others before me, but I also agree -- this is the best memoir written by a regular soldier during the Civil War. I learned so much about what the soldiers saw and experienced during the war. A great resource for lovers of history or Civil War buffs.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Wanda

    A gifted storyteller's first hand account of everything from the day-to-day life of a Confederate private soldier to several major battles of the Civil War.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lillian Slater

    Sam Watkins memoir, Co. Aytch, was breath-taking! He describes the Civil War from a humble private's side of things. And the way he describes things! Watkins has such a sense of humor, mixed with the reality of the situation. Highly recommend this book!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Neto Alvarez

    For someone who wants to feel the day to day of a southern soldier

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    This should be the one Confederate memoir for the layman to read; there aren't many good reasons for non-academicians to go around reading more than one Confederate memoir. Co. Aytch would hold its own as a work of fiction, it reads so well. I found two things jarring about the book. The first is the increasing incidence of invocations to the glory of the "Lost Cause" and of affirmations of Watkins' faith as the book (and the war) progresses. I took these to be a reflection of Watkins' memory as This should be the one Confederate memoir for the layman to read; there aren't many good reasons for non-academicians to go around reading more than one Confederate memoir. Co. Aytch would hold its own as a work of fiction, it reads so well. I found two things jarring about the book. The first is the increasing incidence of invocations to the glory of the "Lost Cause" and of affirmations of Watkins' faith as the book (and the war) progresses. I took these to be a reflection of Watkins' memory as he relived the increasing brutality of a war that grew more desperate as it progressed, but it's equally likely that this increasing incidence is due to overall changes in Watkins' outlook in the year he wrote his memoirs. Secondly, slavery is noticeably absent. Watkins doesn't give so much as a nod to the institution of slavery. I'm not even sure that the word "slave" appears in this book. I don't know what to do with this, other than hope Watkins somewhere knew that defending slavery in either word or action is so shitty that he had to erase its memory entirely or else risk ruining his book. Here's what the National Parks Service has to say. Watkins' descriptions of army life are often humorous, touching, sarcastic, or brutal, but they are all told with a matter-of-factness that brings vividness to the incidents he details. There is a slight change in tone after Chattanooga, and this point is also where the invocations and affirmations start to ramp up. The book slumps right at the end with a couple of snide paragraphs parodying the victors of the war, but Watkins wraps up well with his epilogue.

  15. 5 out of 5

    James (JD) Dittes

    What is the audiobook equivalent of "couldn't put it down"? From the hour I downloaded Co. Aytch, I couldn't pull my earbuds out. I finished it in a day and a half. Sam Watkins is a compelling storyteller. He left his home town of Columbia, Tennessee, at age 21 to follow the Stars & Bars. He would stay with the army--and his regiment--to the bitter end: Joseph E. Johnston's surrender to Sherman at Greensboro, NC. After an initial foray with Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, he returns t What is the audiobook equivalent of "couldn't put it down"? From the hour I downloaded Co. Aytch, I couldn't pull my earbuds out. I finished it in a day and a half. Sam Watkins is a compelling storyteller. He left his home town of Columbia, Tennessee, at age 21 to follow the Stars & Bars. He would stay with the army--and his regiment--to the bitter end: Joseph E. Johnston's surrender to Sherman at Greensboro, NC. After an initial foray with Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, he returns to Tennessee just in time for the Battle of Shiloh. What follows is an account of the Army of Tennessee: an aborted invasion of Kentucky, Stones River, Chattanooga and Chickamauga, the loss of Atlanta, the invasion of Tennessee, and the disastrous battles of Franklin and Nashville, after which the western army of the Confederacy was routed. Along the way, Watkins balances horror with humor. He brings to life his comrades. The life, death and capture of a gamecock named "Confederacy" is classic. The horrors and gore of Chickamauga and Franklin--what Watkins calls a "holocaust"--are vividly recollected. What I liked most about this book was the way that Watkins kept perspective. He isn't trying to write a history, he says. He defends the Confederacy and the siren song of "states rights" that beckoned him to war, but he also emphatically states that "there is no north or south," that the issues that divided the Union are resolved.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Skrivseth

    I've had a love/hate relationship with the Civil War for years. So, it was with mixed feelings that I began this book. But, I'm so glad I did read it! This book provided a unique personal history of the Civil War. Sam Watkins, the author, recorded his experiences as a private in Company H of the Maury Greys. Taken from a series of newspaper articles written 20 years after the end of the war, the book provides Watkins'own memories of all aspects of serving in the army. He speaks of the cold, the l I've had a love/hate relationship with the Civil War for years. So, it was with mixed feelings that I began this book. But, I'm so glad I did read it! This book provided a unique personal history of the Civil War. Sam Watkins, the author, recorded his experiences as a private in Company H of the Maury Greys. Taken from a series of newspaper articles written 20 years after the end of the war, the book provides Watkins'own memories of all aspects of serving in the army. He speaks of the cold, the lice, the general nastiness of everyday life. He talks candidly about being a sniper and killing many men. He talks of the deaths of many of his close friends. Most interesting to me are his views of the generals he encounters. The heroism of some, the cruelty of others and the ineptitude of still others really put the war in perspective. Throughout the whole tale, Watkins'deep and abiding faith in the land ÿonder"shines through and the reader can understand how his faith sustained him during the war. This is a great book for Civil War buffs and general readers alike.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Murray Melder

    My G-G-Grandfather was Sam Watkins' sergeant in the 1st Vol. Infantry Co. H until he was wounded through the knee and subsequentially captured by the Federal troops the battle of Perryville. To hear the vivid accounts given in this book by a man directly under the command of my blood relative is exhilarating and very humbling. I was even more impressed when I started reading the book and found that he was a decent writer. My opinion is grossly biased because of my direct connection to the writer My G-G-Grandfather was Sam Watkins' sergeant in the 1st Vol. Infantry Co. H until he was wounded through the knee and subsequentially captured by the Federal troops the battle of Perryville. To hear the vivid accounts given in this book by a man directly under the command of my blood relative is exhilarating and very humbling. I was even more impressed when I started reading the book and found that he was a decent writer. My opinion is grossly biased because of my direct connection to the writer, but if you want vivid details from a common solider on the course of events of everyday life and even some uncommon insight into some of the most significant battles in American history then I strongly suggest you give this book a chance. Deo Vindice.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    For anyone interested in the American Civil War, this is a must read. This first-person account of the war from the perspective of a Confederate soldier ranges from funny to heartbreaking. Sam Watkins writes in a breezy, energetic style which could have easily been a modern day blog—with brief, episodic entries which span his four year career as a "Johnny Reb." You can read about the big battles and the politics behind the scenes, but you won't have a complete picture of this conflict until you' For anyone interested in the American Civil War, this is a must read. This first-person account of the war from the perspective of a Confederate soldier ranges from funny to heartbreaking. Sam Watkins writes in a breezy, energetic style which could have easily been a modern day blog—with brief, episodic entries which span his four year career as a "Johnny Reb." You can read about the big battles and the politics behind the scenes, but you won't have a complete picture of this conflict until you've read about the experiences of the common soldier. Sam Watkins memoir is one of the best I've read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Horn

    Probably the most famous memoir of the Civil War, and for good reason. It gives a unique look at the Civil War, from the perspective of the private soldier. He often says he is not writing the history of campaigns and generals, but of what he saw as a soldier during the war. He has a different style as well. He writes in sections of a few paragraphs that are really separate stories. Its a very useful look into how the Civil War effected real people.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    Of all the civil war books I have read, this is the most accurate, amusing, sobering and wonderful of them all. Sam Watkins gives us the true and eyeopening tale of what it was like being a private soldier in the Confederate Army, and tells it so well, with witty character, of his experiences while accurately describing the horrors and realities of war. I would recommend this book to young and old, especially those who have an interest in Civil War history.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Grace Sarver

    This book was very moving. The reality of war is uncovered for all to see, as is the authors unyielding and optimistic spirit. His faith in God is mentioned frequently, something I think sheds light on his willingness to continue on and never give up. These writings were Originally newspaper Articles, for this reason the storyline is very episodic. needless to say, this book surprised me greatly, as I'm not crazy about war accounts at all, but the author's focus on people really intrigued me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    Highest marks for this book. It is true that God left this man alive for a reason: he is a very good storyteller. I don’t know why this book got by me for so many years, but now I’ve finally come across it. Love authentic descriptions and, even though it's from a legitimate Confederate survivor, his words are golden. Good read, by all means.

  23. 4 out of 5

    C. Scott

    A unique and fascinating portrait of life in the Confederate ranks from someone who was there for the whole thing. A great if at times quite grisly read. Not for the faint. Watkins has a charming and entertaining voice even for a modern reader. This volume is a must-read for anyone who's interested in the Civil War.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sean Chick

    A book that is comedic, exciting, moving, and scary from one moment to another. In other words, it is classic of history, memoir, and literature.

  25. 5 out of 5

    EJ Daniels

    Renowned more for its style than its substance and its high jinks than its history, Samuel Watkin's Company Aytch is a memoir about remembering war as much as it is a memoir about a war. Replete with just the right amount of mythology, Watkin's gripping and distinctly human record of his service with the 1st Tennessee is an essential read for any serious student of the War Between the States, although readers are cautioned to be careful what they trust. Originally conceived as a series of newspa Renowned more for its style than its substance and its high jinks than its history, Samuel Watkin's Company Aytch is a memoir about remembering war as much as it is a memoir about a war. Replete with just the right amount of mythology, Watkin's gripping and distinctly human record of his service with the 1st Tennessee is an essential read for any serious student of the War Between the States, although readers are cautioned to be careful what they trust. Originally conceived as a series of newspaper article, Company Aytch reads like Dickens - all men are either heroes or villains, every action has a kind of moral lesson, and through it all the narrator, Sam Watkins, manages to be right in the thick of it. Watkins comments on everything from the finer points of military tactics to the ethics of stealing food with a folksy charm peppered with learned references. The result is an account just real enough to be historical but just exaggerated enough to be charming. And one must be careful to keep abreast of these exaggerations. From his account of action in which one man kills dozens to his caricaturist depictions of generals like Lee, Jackson, Johnston, and Hood, Watkins never lets the truth get in the way of a good story. Therefore, one ought never to focus too much on any one fact or quotation, but rather to view the entire narrative for what it is; a lesson on remembering events as much as it is a lesson on events themselves. So long as one approaches Company Aytch for what it essentially is - an old timer nostalgically reminiscing about what it was like during the "grand old days" - this account is an integral source when confronting conceptions and memories of the War Between the States. I would highly recommend it to any student of this period of American history.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    This has been on my book shelf since Ken Burns' "The Civil War" first aired. Sam Watkins of the First Tennessee Regiment (known as The Maury Grays) was one of two soldiers Burns used as exemplars of Rebel and Union enlisted men. As a result of this connection, I had high expectations for this memoir. I was disappointed. Watkins wrote this collection of memories of his long war some twenty years after the fighting ended. He wrote largely of the experience of the infantryman, without attempting any This has been on my book shelf since Ken Burns' "The Civil War" first aired. Sam Watkins of the First Tennessee Regiment (known as The Maury Grays) was one of two soldiers Burns used as exemplars of Rebel and Union enlisted men. As a result of this connection, I had high expectations for this memoir. I was disappointed. Watkins wrote this collection of memories of his long war some twenty years after the fighting ended. He wrote largely of the experience of the infantryman, without attempting any larger perspective. Many of the battles are barely identified by name, and personalities he encountered come and go as he thought to add them in. He expressed the disdain of the hard-working, long-suffering foot soldier for the elevated officers, most of whom he obviously felt were worthless; and recounted the tedium, privations and despair of the fading glory of an increasingly ragged Confederate Army as the war wound to a dismal end. He also seemed remarkably able to ignore the contradictions of war; battle was both glorious and horrible; he wrote lovingly of his girl at home, even as he flirted shamelessly with any pretty girl willing to feed him a nice meal; he railed against Sherman's devastating the countryside on his march through Georgia, even as he recounted numerous tales of "foraging" from the impoverished locals at every opportunity. Still, his first-person descriptions of some of the battles is remarkable. And by the end, the horrors of war pressed upon Sam more than the glories. Interestingly, Watkins mentions the Lost Cause--in 1882, already being developed as the South rewrote the history of the War to something less like a loss and more of a noble battle still being waged. Ardent Civil War history buffs may enjoy this.

  27. 5 out of 5

    E B

    This is by and large one of the greatest memoirs I have ever read of a civil war soldier. Written be a self proclaimed basic private 20 years after the war. His recollection of the war is vivid with a clearly careful stance not to share information which he doesn't recall in exacting detail. I have never read a memoir of a soldier that felt more genuine and honest. Almost more impressive is the fact that the writer made it through the war and through the battles in which he fought as he saw some This is by and large one of the greatest memoirs I have ever read of a civil war soldier. Written be a self proclaimed basic private 20 years after the war. His recollection of the war is vivid with a clearly careful stance not to share information which he doesn't recall in exacting detail. I have never read a memoir of a soldier that felt more genuine and honest. Almost more impressive is the fact that the writer made it through the war and through the battles in which he fought as he saw some of the noted battles of the war. Watching all of those around him die for their country from such gruesome deaths must have haunted him till the day he died. This book felt very much as though the author wanted to make sure those that he knew and died alongside him were not soon forgotten. History books often read as simple statistics, but this is a reminder of how southern soldiers lived and died during the civil war. He also shares a rather pointed view about why he fought in the war and his stance on the war, which so many years later gets cropped into oversimplified reasoning. I simply cannot recommend this book enough.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bob Croft

    Lots of generals and admirals and cabinet ministers have written war memoirs; one gets a different perspective reading the very rare memoir from the trenches. I see Joseph Plumb Martin often quoted by Revolutionary War scholars; reading his book was enlightening. Similarly, on the Confederacy, Company Aytch (being how a recruit into the First Tennessee would pronounce "H"). In the recent movie "The Free State of Jones", I'd noted the phrase "rich man's war, poor man's fight" and took it to be a Lots of generals and admirals and cabinet ministers have written war memoirs; one gets a different perspective reading the very rare memoir from the trenches. I see Joseph Plumb Martin often quoted by Revolutionary War scholars; reading his book was enlightening. Similarly, on the Confederacy, Company Aytch (being how a recruit into the First Tennessee would pronounce "H"). In the recent movie "The Free State of Jones", I'd noted the phrase "rich man's war, poor man's fight" and took it to be an anachronism; turns out Sam uses it himself, in exactly the same context as the flick - the South's instituting conscription, and then exempting any man with 20 slaves (Sam notes that the desirability and price of Negros rose dramatically). He talks about numerous executions of soldiers, having volunteered for 12 months, trying to go home at the expiration of their 12 months. One tends to not get this picture from a general's memoirs.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    As the author will tell you , ad nauseum, this isn't a book about THE Civil War. It's a book about what life was like for a Rebel private during that great conflict. This is a narrative, 20 years after the fact, written by a man who managed to be in all the great battles of the war, surviving four years of fighting for the Lost Cause (his term). Sam will tell you this isn't a history. But I'm pretty sure he recognizes it as such. It's history the way most of the men who fought on either side rem As the author will tell you , ad nauseum, this isn't a book about THE Civil War. It's a book about what life was like for a Rebel private during that great conflict. This is a narrative, 20 years after the fact, written by a man who managed to be in all the great battles of the war, surviving four years of fighting for the Lost Cause (his term). Sam will tell you this isn't a history. But I'm pretty sure he recognizes it as such. It's history the way most of the men who fought on either side remember it - including the comic mishaps, the lack of communication, the camaraderie, bravery, and the horrors of it all. It is, at times, funny, sardonic, achingly sad, and occasionally inscrutable. But you get a feel for what it was like. I read this with my high school junior daughter and we both enjoyed it as a different look at those battles we read about in the "history" books.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    Having been a military history major during my Bachelor of Arts, I had never heard of this book prior to reading it for the October read in my history book club, and it really makes me wonder why. It is poignant; it is straightforward from a truly first-person perspective with historical corrections or notes made where Watkins remembers or understood things not as they actually were; it is humorous and witty; it is clearly definitive as to why the non-slave holding Southerner fought, and by what Having been a military history major during my Bachelor of Arts, I had never heard of this book prior to reading it for the October read in my history book club, and it really makes me wonder why. It is poignant; it is straightforward from a truly first-person perspective with historical corrections or notes made where Watkins remembers or understood things not as they actually were; it is humorous and witty; it is clearly definitive as to why the non-slave holding Southerner fought, and by what right they believed they could and should secede; it is sad. I have never read an account as heartrending as this one. Written in 1882, the edition I read was published in 1997, so maybe, there is some hope that this is a taught text. It deserves to be.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.