Co. “Aytch” First Tennessee Regiment by Sam R. Watkins

Subtitles: Maury Grays, First Tennessee Regiment

A Side Show of the Big Show

Sam Watkins was a private in Company H (Company “Aytch”) of the First Tennessee Regiment. On May 11, 1861, this Confederate soldier left Nashville with his regiment and was still in the army when General Joe Johnston surrendered on April 26, 1865.

What sights he saw.

Sam didn’t write a history of the war. Instead he records anecdotes and experiences of life as a Confederate soldier. He speaks honestly of the horrors he experienced in battles, as part of General Braxton Bragg’s army, and in witnessing his comrades’ deaths.

He often remarks that “abler pens than mine” could do the story better justice. Sam, you did well. Readers like me felt your pain across the years. I felt the terror you must have endured when General Bragg ordered a reserve line to stand behind the fighting line and shoot anyone who ran away.

I felt your pride when a young woman invited “a tattered soldier” to supper and accepted your arm in escort.

I felt your gut-wrenching sadness to see your army decimated.

You showed that a general can resign with honor but when privates resign it is considered desertion.

Sam intended to include additional notes in a second printing of the book, but seems to have been unable to raise enough to fund the publishing costs. His great-granddaughter, Ruth Hill Fulton McAllister, included his notes in this edition. I love the poem included in the appendix—“A Land Without Ruins” written by Father Abram Joseph Ryan, the poet laureate of the Confederacy. Here’s a quote from the last stanza:

For out of the gloom future brightness is born,

        As after the night looms the sunrise of morn;

        And the graves of the dead, with the grass overgrown,

        May yet form the footstool of Liberty’s throne,

        And each single wreck in the war-path of Might,

        Shall yet be a rock in the temple of Right!”

An insightful look into the everyday life and thoughts of a Confederate soldier. Great book for lovers of the Civil War and American History.

-Sandra Merville Hart