Samuel R. Watkins
Samuel Rush Watkins
Watkins in uniform, ca. 1861
|Born||June 26, 1839|
Mount Pleasant, Tennessee, U.S.
|Died||July 20, 1901 (aged 62)|
Maury County, Tennessee, U.S.
|Resting place||Zion Cemetery,|
Maury County, Tennessee, U.S.
|Pen name||Sam. R. Watkins|
|Occupation||Clerk, soldier, farmer|
|Alma mater||Jackson College|
|Notable work||Co. Aytch|
Virginia Mayes Watkins (m. 1865)
|Service/||Confederate States Army|
|Years of service||1861–1865|
|Unit||Company H, 1st Tennessee Infantry|
|Battles/wars||American Civil War|
Samuel Rush Watkins (born June 26, 1839 – July 20, 1901) was an American writer and humorist. He fought through the entire Civil War and saw action in many battles. Today, he is best known for his enduring memoir, "Co. Aytch" (1882), which recounts his life as a soldier in the First Tennessee.
In May 1861, 21 year old Sam Watkins of Maury County, Tennessee, rushed to join the army when his state left the Union. He became part of Company H (or Co. "Aytch," as he called it), 1st Tennessee Infantry regiment, and would fight from Shiloh to Nashville and was one of only seven men who remained in the company when it was surrendered to U.S. Major-General W. T. Sherman in North Carolina, April 1865. When he died at 62, Watkins was buried with full military honors.
In 1881, with a "house full of young 'rebels' clustering about my elbows," Watkins began to chronicle his experiences in the First Tennessee Regiment. "Co. Aytch" is considered to be one of the greatest memoirs ever written by a soldier of the field. Originally published as a serial newspaper column from 1881 to 1882 in The Columbia (Tennessee) Herald, his stories were collected and printed in book form in 1882. The charming prose captures the experience of the common private soldier, from the hardships of camp life to the horrors of battle, the camaraderie of a unit to the loss of a brother, the pride in one's state to the devastation of defeat.
In popular culture
Watkins is often featured and quoted in Ken Burns' 1990 documentary titled The Civil War, and also in the film titled Civil War: The Untold Story (See specific quotes from Watkins in Wikiquotes .)
The song "Kennesaw Line" by Don Oja-Dunaway, tells a heart-breaking vignette of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain on the morning of June 27, 1864, from the perspective of Sam Watkins, with part of the lyrics directly paraphrasing his description from the book "Company Aytch" (see the section entitled "Dead Angle, on the Kennesaw Line").
- Watkins, Sam (2015) [1st pub. Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House:1882]. Furman, Katherine (ed.). Co. "Aytch": The First Tennessee Regiment or a Side Show to the Big Show (Complete Illustrated ed.). Minneapolis, Minn.: Zenith Press. Back cover. ISBN 978-0-7603-4775-1. OCLC 928999663.
- Watkins, Sam (2015) [1st pub. Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House:1882]. Furman, Katherine (ed.). Co. "Aytch": The First Tennessee Regiment or a Side Show to the Big Show (Complete Illustrated ed.). Minneapolis, Minn.: Zenith Press. Front cover. ISBN 978-0-7603-4775-1. OCLC 928999663.
- Leigh, Phil (March 15, 2013). "Private Watkins's War". The New York Times. Disunion. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- Watkins, Samuel. "Co. Aytch": Maury Grays, First Tennessee Regiment; or, A Side Show of the Big Show. p. 136.
- Civil War: The Untold Story http://civilwartheuntoldstory.org .
- For example, in the book he wrote, "Well, on the fatal morning of June 27th, the sun rose clear and cloudless, the heavens seemed made of brass, and the earth of hot iron, and as the sun began to mount toward the zenith, everything became quiet, and no sound was heard save a peckerwood on a neighboring tree. ... " Watkins, Sam. R. (1882). "Co. Aytch", or, A Side Show of the Big Show and Other Sketches. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
The corresponding lyrics:
Well the sun rose high above us that morning
On a clear and cloudless day
A peckerwood, he tapped on a tree
That would soon be shot away
The heat blistered down through the leaves on the trees
The air seemed hot enough to catch fire
Heaven seemed to be made of brass
The sun rose higher and higher
- "Biographies: Sam Watkins". The Civil War. PBS. 2015. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- "Recollections of the Battle of Perryville". Civil War Trust. 2014. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
- Edward John Harcourt, "Would to God I could tear the page from these memoirs and from my own memory": Co. Aytch and the Confederate Sensibility of Loss," Southern Cultures (Winter 2017-8): 7-28
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