View single post by CleburneFan
 Posted: Thu Dec 6th, 2007 04:07 pm
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Joined: Mon Oct 30th, 2006
Location: Florida USA
Posts: 1021

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This isn't really a review of "Company Aythch, the expanded edition. For a review please check the one done by Javal. I sure as heck am not going to presume to compete with him on a book review. I just want to give my informal impressions of this book which I had never had the pleasure and privilege to read before the new edition was released.

What a pleasure this book was and what a revelation! I darned nearly fell in love with the writer Sam Watkins. Wouldn't I love to sit down to dinner with him and draw him out even more on his adventures, misadventures, impressions and frustrations with the war.

It was so intersting and so different to read the experiences of what he called a "web-foot private"  because his regiment the First Tennessee Infantry fought for four long years participating in some of the bloodiest  most crucial battles of the war, such as Shiloh, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, the battles leading up to the loss of Atlanta and the treacherous and disastrous Battles of Franklin and Nashville.

That he survived all this almost unscathed except for a heel wound and a finger wound, plus the usual cuts and scrapes of an infantryman is a wonder all by itself. His comments about the various generals who led him, especially disciplinarian Braxton Bragg--the "whipper and brander"-- J E Johnston, John Bell Hood, Cheatham, Patrick Cleburne are all an education.

Watkins tells funny stories and painfully sad stories. I cried more than once. He is so human and you feel as if you know him personally. He doesn't mind telling the reader how much he loved some of his fellow soldiers and the sorrow of their deaths. He loved and honored some of his generals too, but often mentions how generals get the glory while  the burden of war is for privates. Watkins desribed how privates are treated little better than criminals. Yet he stayed. He never deserted. He never shirked his duty. Given the horrors he witnessed and the amount of questioning of the war as time went on, one wonders why.

Toward the end he asks if the four years of sacrifice were worth the heartache, physical cost and emotional strain. He writes about it briefly several times, but most poignantly after the Battles of Franklin and Nashville. What is so meaningful about the way he writes this is that the very same words could be written today by Viet Nam vets or veterans of the current Middle Eastern struggles.

When the book ended, I felt empty because I wanted him to write more. I wanted to know what the period after the war was like, how it was to go home defeated, how it was to marry his girlfiend who had waited four long years for his return. But most of all, I just missed Sam Watkins, because he had grown to be a friend of sorts-- a true Civil War "insider" who told the unvarnished truth as he remembered it.

"Company Aytch" is such a fascinating book. One reading of it will not be enough.

Last edited on Thu Dec 6th, 2007 04:09 pm by CleburneFan

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