Review: CO. AYTCH, MAURY GRAYS, FIRST TENNESSEE REGIMENT; OR, A SIDE SHOW OF THE BIG SHOW by Sam R. Watkins

Some participants do not have blogs of their own, but we like to give them an opportunity to express their opinions about the books they read for the reading challenges.

Reva read Co. Aytch, Maury Grays, First Tennessee Regiment; Or, A Side Show Of The Big Show by Sam R. Watkins for the U.S. Civil War Reading Challenge. Here is her review.

Co. Aytch, Maury Grays, First Tennessee Regiment; Or, A Side Show Of The Big ShowCo. Aytch, Maury Grays, First Tennessee Regiment; Or, A Side Show Of The Big Show by Sam R. Watkins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Co. Aytch was comprised of nearly 4,000 men from northern Tennessee who marched to Virginia to fight, not for slavery, but for independence from a bossy, overbearing government. Sam Watkins was one of only 65, yes 65, men to return 4 years later after seeing action in many of the major battles of the Civil War. Men went to war with friends and family; sometimes every man in town would serve and none come back home. Watkins tells us of mothers along the trail pushing their daughters on the soldiers in hopes one of the scarce males would marry a daughter.

This memoir was written just after the war as newpaper articles and published in book form 17 years after the war; the author’s pain still resounds throughout the narrative. He makes plain the fact that his mental faculties were preserved only because of his great faith in God.

I learned about the little guys of the war, privates who didn’t know the big plans, which side was winning or losing at times or even where or when the next meal would come. They marched and marched and marched–without shoes or food. Co. Aytch disliked General Bragg, not because he couldn’t win battles, he could. Bragg was unpopular because he didn’t care for his army properly; didn’t forage or keep order so that food would reach the troops. Most supplies were taken by upper staff or outright stolen by those entrusted to get it into the field of battle. Bragg was also known for leaving his troops unnecessarily in the rain and for ordering an immediate march that caused blankets, food and all the men’s personal items to be left behind.

The horror of war is evident in every page of Watkins’ experiences. He tells us that every member of his family was either dead or wounded in some way. The men of Company H, First Tennessee Regiment, were the bravest of the brave, cut down in their prime for a lost cause.

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