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"Co. Aytch": The Classic Memoir of the Civil War by a Confederate Soldier
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"Co. Aytch": The Classic Memoir of the Civil War by a Confederate Soldier

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  2,856 Ratings  ·  158 Reviews
Twenty-one-year-old Sam R. Watkins of Columbia Tennessee joined the Maury Grays, First Tennessee Regiment. He recounts his experiences of the civil war, its commanders, its Yankee enemies and ultimate surrender on April 26, 1865.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published November 1st 1985 by Scribner (first published 1882)
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Jwduke Watkins tells you in the book; He wishes to offer what a private saw.
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Diane Barnes
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
...more
Susan
Oct 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Civil War buff or anyone interested in engaging first person accounts of history
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
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Murray Melder
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Chris
Oct 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Ellie
Dec 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Dr.
Sep 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: civil-war
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
...more
Wanda
Dec 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lillian Bittle
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Victor Davis
Feb 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: civil-war
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 ...more
Ben Vogel
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Margaret Skrivseth
Feb 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-cw
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
...more
Murray Melder
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Michael
Oct 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-edition
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' ...more
Joshua Horn
Mar 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Abby
Mar 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sue
May 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: slaves-civil-war
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.
Eb Daniels
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Bill
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Deb
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: civil-war, memoir
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
...more
Joyce Lagow
A well-written, very articulate memoir of the Civil War written 20 years later by a private in the Confederate Army of Tennessee.[return][return]While Watkins constantly claims to write about only what he saw as a common solider, leaving the overall accounts of batttles, such as how fought and casualties to the history books, he does more than record what he observed. His account is laced with sarcasm towards many of the officers of the Confederate army, and his judgement of Braxton Bragg is ext ...more
Michele
Jan 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Matt
I first heard his name from the Ken Burns PBS Civil War series and wanted to find out who this Sam Watkins was and how in the world he survived so many deadly battles?! I read his memoir to discover the answer to that question and was blown away by what he experienced and how he analyzed it all 20 years after the war ended. Sam Watkins's memoir is a must read for all Civil War enthusiasts and novice historians who are looking for the human side of the conflict not "the history" per se. His first ...more
Nathan White
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For Civil War lovers, you can't get much better than this. The life of a confederate soldier during the war, the horrors he saw and the losses he endured, and his perspective on his country (the American South) being destroyed. I was moved to tears at points with the elegance and heart-breaking nature of his words, even though most of the account is somewhat humorous in style. There are few books like this one.
Jwduke
This book left me without words.

I will offer a few; its the best book I have thus far read. If anyone ever tells you they understand the Civil War, ask them if they have read this book. If they have not read this book, I tell you they are full of shit.
Philip S
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Incredible depiction of the brutality of the War Between the States, from a viewpoint of a Confederate private 17 years after wars end.
Matthew
Nov 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The extra notes and edits from Sam Watkins included in this edition are good, but not necessary to enjoyment of the whole.
Leo
Jan 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: civil-war
This was a great book. For me, I started to lose interest after the first half of the book. I appreciated the perspective of the civil war this book provided.
Kendrick Hughes
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting easy read on the life of a soldier.
Kathy
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Maybe if I had read the illustrated edition I would have liked it better.
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Samuel Rush "Sam" Watkins (June 26, 1839 – July 20, 1901) was an American writer and humorist. He fought through the entire Civil War and saw action in many major battles. Today, he is best known for his enduring memoir, "Co. Aytch," which recounts his life as a soldier in the Confederate States Army.
More about Sam R. Watkins...
“While at Colonel Niel's marquee I saw a detail of soldiers bring out a man by the name of Rowland, whom they were going to shoot to death with musketry, by order of a court-martial, for desertion. He was being hauled to the place of execution in a wagon, sitting on an old gun box, which was to be his coffin. When they got to the grave, which had been dug the day before, the water had risen in it, and a soldier was baling it out. Rowland spoke up and said, 'Please hand me a drink of that water, as I want to drink out of my own grave so the boys will talk about it when I am dead, and remember Rowland.” 0 likes
“But we soon found out that the glory of war was at home among the ladies and not upon the field of blood and carnage of death, where our comrades were mutilated and torn by shot and shell.” 0 likes
More quotes…