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Co. Aytch: A Confederate Memoir of the Civil War

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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.


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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

    Ned

    A true account of a lowly confederate private, in his own inimical style, written from memory 20 years after the fact. This funny, self-effacing author is actually quite remarkable. He deflects “real” accounts to the history books, but describes the life of a foot soldier, the doldrums and hard work, along with the actual terrors of war with the hail of lead and explicit rendering of human flesh. I must say, for a supposedly illiterate soldier at the very bottom of the tier of a failed war effor A true account of a lowly confederate private, in his own inimical style, written from memory 20 years after the fact. This funny, self-effacing author is actually quite remarkable. He deflects “real” accounts to the history books, but describes the life of a foot soldier, the doldrums and hard work, along with the actual terrors of war with the hail of lead and explicit rendering of human flesh. I must say, for a supposedly illiterate soldier at the very bottom of the tier of a failed war effort, Watkins must have really improved himself after the war. His style is often poetic and philosophical, the musings of a middle-aged man of the time of his trying, surrounded by a prosperous family. His memory of events must surely have been supplemented by history, as his company H, or “Aytch”, from Tennessee traversed the territories throughout the border states, the deep south and Virginia. Much of his experience is the troops critical of the leadership, although certain leaders the men revere to the point of following them to the gates of hell. And, make no mistake, these boys endured a hellscape almost beyond belief (but that is the point of this book, to bring it to us, which it did in spades). I recall Shelby Foote often quoted this book in Ken Burns’ PBS Civil War series. That is because the writing is so fine, so descriptive, so true. I even learned about Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge on the Tennessee river, an area I have visited while fishing on the lake by the same name (and where I caught a 5.5 lb largemouth this spring). Volunteers to the southern cause, before forced conscription, had their terms extended involuntarily. In fact, Watkins was one of the very few survivors of his regiment, surviving through sheer luck through many harrowing experiences. These soldiers were chronically under-fed, and often literally starving, through years of hardship in the elements. Notably, most of the time was spent in camp or marching from location to location, not only physically demanding but the sheer boredom was nearly unbearable in between flashes of horror. Watkins captures the initial patriotic fervor, as today, at the outset of war when the great “cause” of protecting home, being a real man among one’s peers and impressing the ladies was the driving psychological force. That never seems to change, it was my mindset at this age (boys need that red badge of courage) and always precedes the anguish and cries for mother heard so often on the battlefield. I’ll let the author speak for himself so you can decide whether you want to read. I found it lively, entertaining, and it lived up to my expectation of being a rare, best of kind, memoir: p. 14: “One evening, General Robert E. Lee came to our camp. He was a fine-looking gentleman, and wore a moustache. He was dressed in blue cottonade and looked like some good boy’s grandpa. I felt like going up to him and saying good evening, Uncle Bob! …his voice was kind and tender, and his eye was a gentle a dove’s. His whole make-up of form and person, looks and manner had a kind of gentle and soothing magnetism about it that drew every one to him, and made them love, respect, and honor him. I fell in love with the old gentleman.” p. 25: The penalty for being AWOL was severe, sometimes ground for execution. It also generated tremendous hatred and resentment in the troops, when administered too harshly or unfairly: “And when some miserable wretch was to be whipped and branded for being absent ten days without leave, we had to see him kneel down and have his head shaved smooth and slick as a peeled onion, and then stripped to the naked skin. The a strapping fellow with a big rawhide would make the blood flow and spurt at every lick, the wretch begging and howling like a hound, and then he was branded with a red hot iron with the letter D on both hips, when he was marched through the army to the music of the ‘Rogue’s March’.” p. 25: “We became starved skeletons; naked and ragged rebels. The chronic diarrhea became the scourge of the army. Corinth became one vast hospital. Almost the whole army attended the sick call every morning. All the water courses went dry, and we used water out of filthy pools.” p. 31, the confederate man had more to lose and was widely regarded as superior in fighting spirit, though bedraggled in resources. Here is a snippet, in thrall just after a victory: “We were in an ecstasy akin to heaven. We were happy; the troops were jubilant; our manhood blood pulsated more warmly; our patriotism was awakened; our pride was renewed and stood ready for any emergency; we felt that one Southern man could whip twenty Yankees. All was lovely and the goose hung high.” p. 52, the soldiers were not above stealing from their own, due to desperation, as they came across farmhouses. Here is a better time, when the author and a couple of scouts had a respite from the war and a real meal in a warm and welcoming home: “They had biscuit for supper. What! Flour bread/ Did my eyes deceive me? … At the head of the table was the madam, having on a pair of golden spectacles, and at the foot the old gentleman. He said grace. And, to cap the climax, two handsome daughters. I know that I had never seen two more beautiful ladies. They had on little white aprons, trimmed with jaconet edging, and collars as clean and white as snow. They looked good enough to eat, and I think at that time I would have gen ten years of my life to have kissed one of them.” p. 58, the author muses on his experience: “A soldier’s life is not a pleasant one. It is always, at best, one of privations and hardships. The emotions of patriotism and pleasure Hadley counterbalance the toil and suffering that he has to undergo in order to enjoy his patriotism and pleasure. 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. When a brave soldier is killed he is at rest. The living soldier knows not at what moment he, too, may be called on to lay down his life on the altar of his country. The dead are heroes, the living are but men compelled to do the drudgery and suffer the privations incident to the thing called ‘glorious war.’” p. 85, our author in the midst of a major battle, near the Georgia line, on one of the hottest days of the year: “I have heard men say that if they ever killed a Yankee during the war they were not aware of it. I am satisfied that on this memorable day, every man in our regiment killed from one score to four score, yea, five score men. I mean from twenty to one hundred each. All that was necessary was to load and shoot. In fact, I will ever think that the reason they did not capture our works was the impossibility of their living men passing over the bodies of their dead. The ground was piled up with one solid mass of dead and wounded Yankees. I learned afterwards from the burying squad that in some places they were piled up like cord wood, twelve deep.” p. 87, what this author thought they were fighting for: “Only trying to protect their homes and families, their property, their constitution and their laws, that had been guaranteed to them as a heritage forever by their forefathers. They died for the faith that each state was a separate sovereign government, as laid down by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of our fathers.” p. 97, at the gates of hell: “About this time our regiment had re-formed, and had got their breath, and the order was given to charge, and take their guns even at the point of the bayonet. We rushed forward up the steep hill sides, the seething fires from ten thousand muskets and small arms, and forty pieces of cannon hurled right into our very faces, scorching and burning our clothes, and hands, and faces from their rapid discharges, and piling the ground with our dead and wounded almost in heaps. It seemed that the hot flames of hell were turned loose in all their fury, while the demons of damnation were laughing in the flames, like seething serpents hissing out their rage. We gave one long, loud cheer, and commenced the charge. As we approached their lines, like a mighty inundation of the river Acheron in the infernal regions, Confederate and Federal meet. Officers with drawn swords meet officers with drawn swords, and man to man meets man to man with bayonets and loaded guns. The continued roar of battle sounded like unbottled thunder. Blood covered the ground and the dense smoke filled our eyes and ears, and faces. The groans of the wounded and dying rose above the thunder of battle…They lie today, weltering in their own life’s blood. It was one of the bloody battles that characterized that stormy epoch, and it was the 22ndd of July, and one of the hottest days I ever felt…While I was sitting her, a cannon ball came tearing down the works, cutting a soldier’s head off, spattering his brains all over my face and bosom, and mangling and tearing four or five others to shreds. As a wounded horse was being led off, a cannon ball struck him, and he was literally ripped open, falling in the very place I had just moved from.” p. 99, Watkin’s has a sense of humor, as when he drank some especially impure home-made whiskey: “All I can remember now, is a dim recollection of a nasty, greasy, burning something going down my throat and chest, and smelling, as I remember at this day, like a decoction of re-pepper team, flavored with coal oil, turpentine and tobacco juice.”

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jan C

    I think I read this book in fits and starts. But 17 years? It spent most of those 17 years sitting on a shelf. But this summer I saw it on the shelf and couldn't believe I hadn't finished it yet. Decided to get it done! Excellent memoir. Saw it heavily quoted in Ken Burns' Civil War show on PBS. Drove me to pick it up. I picked up other books from that show, too - Elisha Hunt Rhodes, Mary Boykin Chesnut. Here, we have the memories of a private in a Tennessee regiment. It is well written. A must ha I think I read this book in fits and starts. But 17 years? It spent most of those 17 years sitting on a shelf. But this summer I saw it on the shelf and couldn't believe I hadn't finished it yet. Decided to get it done! Excellent memoir. Saw it heavily quoted in Ken Burns' Civil War show on PBS. Drove me to pick it up. I picked up other books from that show, too - Elisha Hunt Rhodes, Mary Boykin Chesnut. Here, we have the memories of a private in a Tennessee regiment. It is well written. A must have for Civil War "buffs".

  6. 5 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.

  7. 4 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.)

  8. 4 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.

  9. 5 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. 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.

  10. 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. 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.

  11. 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. 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.

  12. 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. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 4 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.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jwest87

    My version had footnote commentary for some of Watkins' comments that were misleading. Highly recommend that. My version had footnote commentary for some of Watkins' comments that were misleading. Highly recommend that.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Douglas A

    The perspective of this book is what makes it 4 stars for me (over 3). Looking at the War, the causes, the battles and leaders from a Private’s perspective is something even the well-read on this war should blend in.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Neto Alvarez

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

  20. 5 out of 5

    Missy Kennedy

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4/5 Stars (Excellent)

  21. 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.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    Sam Watkins' observations on the Civil War represent a gem. Here is a foot soldier of the Confederate Army, making his own pithy observations about his generals. On Braxton Bragg, he noted after the disaster at Missionary Ridge, "Poor fellow, he looked so hacked and whipped, and mortified and chagrined at defeat, and all along the line, when Bragg would pass, the soldiers would raise the yell, 'Here is your mule;' 'Bully for Bragg, he's h--l on retreat.'" As for John Bell Hood, the overmatched g Sam Watkins' observations on the Civil War represent a gem. Here is a foot soldier of the Confederate Army, making his own pithy observations about his generals. On Braxton Bragg, he noted after the disaster at Missionary Ridge, "Poor fellow, he looked so hacked and whipped, and mortified and chagrined at defeat, and all along the line, when Bragg would pass, the soldiers would raise the yell, 'Here is your mule;' 'Bully for Bragg, he's h--l on retreat.'" As for John Bell Hood, the overmatched general in the battles of Franklin and Nashville, Watkins remarked after the debacle at Nashville: "[Hood:] was much agitated and affected, pulling his hair with his one hand (he had but one), and crying like his heart would break." This is a book on war from the eyes of a foot soldier. And Sam Watkins had good eyes and a nice way of expressing his thoughts. There are a handful of books by such foot soldiers, and this is one of the best from the Civil War. He fought hard for the Confederacy, but he also recognized that when the war was over, life had to go on. As he put it: "The United States has no North, no South, no East, no West. We are one and undivided." Sam Watkins' volume is a real treasure and all Civil War buffs ought to read it.

  23. 5 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.

  24. 5 out of 5

    David Ward

    Co. Aytch, Maury Grays, First Tennessee Regiment; or, A Sde Show of the Big Show by Samuel R. Watkins (McCowat-Mercer Press 1952) (973.78) is a first-person account of a Confederate Private's service in the Civil War. Sam Watkins fought for four years with the Army of Tennessee and was involved in many if not most of the great battles of the Civil War. He was never an officer, though he received a battlefield promotion to corporal when he picked up a Union battle flag from the field. The book is Co. Aytch, Maury Grays, First Tennessee Regiment; or, A Sde Show of the Big Show by Samuel R. Watkins (McCowat-Mercer Press 1952) (973.78) is a first-person account of a Confederate Private's service in the Civil War. Sam Watkins fought for four years with the Army of Tennessee and was involved in many if not most of the great battles of the Civil War. He was never an officer, though he received a battlefield promotion to corporal when he picked up a Union battle flag from the field. The book is effectively his journal of the war years, although he did not set pen to paper until the 1880's, so he wrote this "journal" from a remove of 10+ years. He's a great storyteller; he states several times that his book is not a history of the war but is instead a series of impressions from a "private soldier's" point of view. My rating: 7/10, finished 10/3/11.

  25. 4 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.

  26. 4 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.

  27. 4 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.

  28. 5 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. 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.

  29. 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. 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.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sequoyah

    If Tom Sawyer went to war. This is both an insightful and highly enjoyable account of the Civil War—from a rebel no less! It’s not surprising why this was chosen by Ken Burns as one of his primary sources for his Civil War documentary. Watkin’s narrative voice is highly humorous, often taking the piss out of the war itself, his superiors, and the yanks, but then we get moments of his resentment toward the Yankee people and the suffering “they” brought to his “country.” Despite the lighthearted na If Tom Sawyer went to war. This is both an insightful and highly enjoyable account of the Civil War—from a rebel no less! It’s not surprising why this was chosen by Ken Burns as one of his primary sources for his Civil War documentary. Watkin’s narrative voice is highly humorous, often taking the piss out of the war itself, his superiors, and the yanks, but then we get moments of his resentment toward the Yankee people and the suffering “they” brought to his “country.” Despite the lighthearted nature of the work, he puts his brainwashed feelings out there without ever putting together the fact that the South rebelled over the right to own slaves yet the slave owners were exempt from fighting their war. Instead it is the perfidious North (and General Sherman) that brought the south to its knees. Placing his feelings aside, we get many humorous and gritty anecdotes of his time fighting the entire four years of the war. Every female he sees is the “most beautiful woman I have ever laid my eyes on”, plenty of shenanigans stealing hogs, and a frightening story of the author trying to climb down a ladder. Reminds me of the best parts of Ulysses S. Grant’s memoir, where he shines light on apocryphal stories surrounding chickens and such. This was a thoroughly enjoyable memoir, and it’s going to the top with my other favorites from that genre. It is also interesting to note that both the CSA generals Bragg and Hood feature prominently here. General Bragg is often derided by Watkins as the scourge of his own troops and a shitty general, yet after the war him and General Hood both get their names attached to US Army forts as some sort of northern compromise to reintegrate the south. It’s strange to think that literal traitors to the country are still honored to this day with the largest Army bases in the country named after them AFTER THEY LOST THE WAR. I’m trying to think of a good analogy. Germany after the Second World War insisting we rename an Air Force base Göring Air Force Base, or maybe the PRC naming their most important PLA base after Chiang Kai Shek. It’s quite strange especially on account of Bragg, because even his troops disliked him.

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