Academic journal article Military Review

Company Aytch: Or, a Side Show of the Big Show

Academic journal article Military Review

Company Aytch: Or, a Side Show of the Big Show

Article excerpt

COMPANY AYTCH: Or, A Side Show of the Big Show, Sam Watkins, M. Thomas Inge, ed., Plume Books, New York, 1999, 249 pages, $13.95.

It is not possible to study the American Civil War without hearing of Sam Watkins' book Company Aytch. Ken Burns' seminal 1990 television series "The Civil War" makes numerous references to the book, and the Time-Life series The Civil War quotes from Watkins more than a dozen times. What makes this work so special? Watkins was a common Southern foot soldier. He was not a great leader, and his name is not prominently listed in official histories. His book is the remembrances of a young man who saw all of the glory and horror the Civil War offered.

Watkins did not begin his book until 15 years after the war. How much is fact, and how much is fiction? Certainly some of the dates and places are confused and inaccurate, but it does not necessarily follow that the stories he reports are inaccurate. The reader might question the lengthy discourses presented as word-for-word discussions, but there is no doubt the stories were real for Watkins. …

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