"The Life of a Confederate Private Soldier: "Co. Aytch"; Maury Grays, First Tennessee Regiment; A Side Show of the Big Show" by Sam R. Watkins is an inside look and first-hand account of the experiences of a typical Confederate Civil War "grunt."
Samuel “Sam” Rush Watkins 1839-1901 was a noted Confederate soldier. He is known today for his memoir Company Aytch: Or, a Side Show of the Big Show, often heralded as one of the best primary sources about the common soldier's Civil War experience. Watkins faithfully served throughout the duration of the War. Of the 120 men who enlisted in “Company H” in 1861, Sam Watkins was one of only seven alive when General Johnston surrendered in April 1865. Of the 1,200 men who fought in the First Tennessee, only 65 were left to be paroled on that day. Soon after the war ended, Watkins began writing his memoir; recognized around the world and sometimes used for teaching purposes to help students learn what life was like during the Civil War. Heralded by many historians as one of the best war memoirs written by a common soldier of the field. Sam’s writing style is quite engaging and skillfully captures the pride, misery, glory, and horror experienced by the common foot soldier.
Margaret Mitchell's Civil war epic; "Gone With The Wind" is one of the most accurate as well as vivid portraits of the horrors of the American Civil War. Though fiction, Mitchell took great care to research the history of the War so that her portrayal of the period would be true-to-life. This was true of her civilian characters---Scarlett, Rhett, Melanie, etc., but it was no less true of her depiction of the Confederate soldier. For her research into the Confederate soldier's life and travails she relied heavily on two non-fiction books by former low-ranking Confederate soldiers. One was this book, the other was William Fletcher's "5th Texas Infantry: Rebel Private Front And Rear: Experiences in Company "F" in the Civil War." Both books provide the stark reality of the struggle of the average Confederate soldier to survive the rigors and horrors of battle and at times, his commanding officers, stripped of the rhetorical "hollow glory" hot air of the politicians and rear area officers. Both books give real meaning to the charge that military carnage is "a rich man's war and a poor man's fight."
Very scarce in the original binding of any edition, it is. a must-read for the student of Civil War military history interested in the life of the common Confederate "grunt" during the war, as well as the history of Company H of the First Tennessee Regiment.
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