Company Aytch OR a Side Show of the Big Show: A Memoir of the Civil War

“A Better Book There Never Was” proclaims Robert Hicks, author and historic preservationist, in his introduction to Company Aytch OR a Side Show of the Big Show: A Memoir of the Civil War by Sam R. Watkins. When it comes to books about the Civil War, many people agree wholeheartedly, Company Aytch is the best ever written. For sure, few memoirs have stood the test of time as well as this memoir by Samuel Watkins.

Samuel R. Watkins (1839–1901) was born near Columbia, Tennessee. With the outbreak of war, he enlisted in the First Tennessee Infantry, Company H. He lived to see the war through and wrote and published his memoirs, providing great detail and insight into the life of a soldier during the most devastating war in U.S. history. His work captures the realities of war and tragic events in which he participated. This memoir reads with an eloquence rarely found in such books. In his own words, he best describes the contents of this book:

“…I only give a few sketches and incidents that came under the observation of a ‘high private’ in the rear ranks of the rebel army. Of course, the histories are correct. They tell of great achievements of great men, who wear the laurels of victory; … etc. But in the following pages I propose to tell of the fellows who did the shooting and killing, the fortifying and ditching, the sweeping of teh streets, the drilling, the standing guard, picket and videt, and who drew (or were to draw) eleven dollar per month and rations, and also drew a ramrod and tore the cartridge.”

Even though Watkins waited nearly 20 years before writing his memories of the war, he wrote as though he were still in uniform, still on the battlefield amidst a hail of gun and cannon fire.

This edition of Company Aytch is the first official revision of the book since its first printing in 1882. Until now, all additional reprints have been exact copies of the first edition, or have been unofficial modifications. In the years following the first printing Samuel Watkins made hand-written notes and revisions to a copy of that first edition. Though he had plans to publish a second edition with these changes, it did not happen during his life and in the following years the copy with changes was lost. Lost that is, until finally found again in 1999. At that time, great-granddaughter Ruth Hill Fulton McAllister took possession and saw to it that Watkins’ revisions were finally adopted into this second edition of the book, nearly 130 years after its first publishing.

McAllister stresses that the new edition does not offer any “earth-shattering revelations about battles or events of the Civil War…But they are his changes, his notes, his additions. This is as far as we can accomplish it, his revised edition.” Some of the best parts of this book are copies of Samuel’s hand-written notes. These are a nice addition to the other pictures, illustrations, and letters already included in the book.

While there have been many good books written about the Civil War, most reflect the larger picture of politics and “major” players in the events surrounding the war. Likewise, few memoirs capture the larger events with the details, clarity, and introspection as Samuel Watkins has successfully done in Company Aytch.

The Civil War broke out 150 years ago. This book is one of the best ways to learn more about the war and memorialize the individuals who fought on both sides of the conflict. Order a copy of Company Aytch OR a Side Show of the Big Show: A Memoir of the Civil War by Sam R. Watkins from Family Roots Publishing; Item #: TP406.


Table of Contents

Introduction: A Better Book There Never Was

Note from the Editor

Note on the Text


Preface to the First Edition

Chapter 1. Virginia [April 14, 1861, vs. April 14, 1882]

  • “We Are One and Undivided”
  • The Bloody Chasm
  • Eighteen Hundred and Sixty-one
  • Virginia [Camp Cheatham]
  • Good-bye, Camp Cheatham
  • On the Road
  • Staunton
  • Warm Springs, Virginia
  • Standing Picket
  • Robt. E. Lee
  • Cheat Mountain
  • Romney
  • “The Death Watch”
  • Standing Picket on the Potomac
  • Schwarz and Pfifer
  • The Court-martial
  • Virginia, farewell

Chapter 2. Shiloh

  • Shiloh

Chapter 3. Corinth

  • Conscripted
  • Staff Officers
  • Rowland Shot to Death
  • Killing a Union Sharpshooter
  • [Colonel Field]
  • [Captain Joe P. Lee]
  • Corinth Forsaken

Chapter 4. Tupelo

  • Graybacks
  • The Court-martial at Tupelo
  • Raiding on Roastngears

Chapter 5. Kentucky

  • We Go into Kentucky
  • Mumforsville
  • The Battle of Perryville: The Hardest Battle Fought During the War
  • The Retreat Out of Kentucky: “Will We Never Stop…Never Make a Stand?”
  • “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp”
  • “Tickets, Gentlemen”; Thom Tuck’s Rooster
  • Poor Boys
  • Knoxville
  • Ah, “Sneak”
  • [I Jine the Cavalry]

Chapter 6. Murfreesboro

  • A Spy
  • Battle at Murfreesboro
  • I Am Wounded
  • [Robbing a Dead Yankee]

Chapter 7. Shelbyville

  • Shelbyville
  • A Foot Race
  • Eating Mussels
  • “Poor” Berry Morgan
  • Wright Shot to Death with Musketry
  • Dave Sublett Promoted
  • To Be Shot to Death with Musketry [Down Duck River in a Canoe]
  • “Sheneral Owleydousky”

Chapter 8. Chattanooga

  • Back to Chattanooga
  • Am Visited by My Father
  • Preachin’
  • “Out A Larkin’”
  • Hanging Two Spies
  • Eating Rats
  • Swimming the Tennessee with Roastingears
  • Am Detailed to Go Foraging
  • Please Pass the Butter
  • We Evaluate Chattanooga
  • “The Bulls of the Woods”
  • [The Brave Chaplain]
  • Presentiment, or The Wing of the Angel of Death
  • [Picket]

Chapter 9. Chickamauga

  • Battle of Chickamauga
  • After the Battle
  • A Night Among the Dead

Chapter 10. Missionary Ridge

  • Missionary Ridge
  • Sergeant Tucker and General Wilder
  • Moccasin Point
  • Battle [of Missionary Ridge] Above the Clouds
  • Hog Mitchell
  • Battle of Missionary Ridge
  • Good-bye, Tom Webb
  • The Rear Guard
  • Chickamauga Station
  • The Battle of Cat creek
  • Ringgold Gap
  • Cleburne’s Victory

Chapter 11. Dalton

  • General Joseph E. Johnston
  • Commissaries
  • Winter Quarters
  • Shooting a Deserter
  • Ten Men Killed at the Mourner’s Bench
  • [Dr. C. T. Quintard]
  • Y’s You Got My Hog?
  • I Pay for the Swine
  • Target Shooting; Jim Webster Kills a Rabbit
  • Uncle Zack’s Dream [Uncle Zack and Aunt Daphne]
  • Red Tape
  • I Get a Furlough

Chapter 12. [Hundred Days’ Battles]

  • Rocky Face Ridge
  • A Cavalry Charge
  • “Falling Back”
  • Battle of Resacca
  • Adairsville—Octagon House—The First Tennessee Always Occupies Tight Places
  • Kennesaw Line
  • Am Detailed to Go into the Enemy’s Lines
  • June 14 [Pine Mountain—Death of General Leonidas Polk]
  • Golgotha Church—General Lucius E. Polk Wounded
  • “Dead Angle”—Hell Broke Loose in Georgia
  • Armistice
  • Battle of New Hope Church
  • Battle of Dallas—General Wm. B. Bate [Breckenridge] Charges the Heights
  • Battle of Zion Church—July 4, 1864
  • Kingston
  • Cassville
  • On the Banks of the Chattahoochee
  • Removal of General Joseph E. Johnston
  • Hood Would If He Could

Photo Section

Chapter 13. Peachtree Creek [Atlanta]

  • Hood Strikes
  • Killing a Federal Scout
  • [An Old Citizen—Mr. Smith]
  • My Friends
  • Acephalous [A Body Without Limbs—An Army Without Cavalry]
  • Battle of July 22, 1864—Atlanta (Hood’s First Sortie)
  • Cleburne’s Attack
  • The Dutchman’s Colt
  • James Galbreath
  • “Faith, Gineral, We’ll Buy You a Batthery”
  • Am Promoted
  • 28th of July at Atlanta
  • I Visit Montgomery
  • A Glimmer of Sunshine [The Hospital]
  • The Capitol
  • Am Arrested
  • [Those Girls]
  • [The Talisman]
  • [The Brave Captain]
  • How I Get Back to Atlanta
  • Iron and Lead
  • Death of Thom Tuck’s Rooster
  • [The Funeral Dirge of the Southern Confederacy]
  • [Old Joe Brown’s Pets]
  • We Go After Stoneman
  • A Dead Dog
  • “Bellum Lethale”
  • A Field Hospital
  • Glory
  • The Scout and Death [of a Yankee Lieutenant]
  • Atlanta Forsaken

Chapter 14. [Jonesboro]

  • The Battle of Jonesboro
  • Death of Lieutenant John Whittaker
  • Then Comes the Farce
  • Palmetto
  • Jeff Davis Makes a Speech
  • Armistice Only in Name
  • A Scout
  • “What Is This Rebel Doing Here?”
  • “Look Out, Boys”
  • Am Captured

Chapter 15. [Advance Into Tennessee]

  • General Hood Makes a Flank Movement
  • We Capture Dalton
  • A Man in the Well
  • Taters [Tuscumbia]
  • En Route for Columbia—The Land of Promise
  • Jim Whitler

Chapter 16. [Battles in Tennessee]

  • Columbia
  • The Fiasco at Spring Hill [A Fiasco]
  • Franklin
  • The Assault
  • Nashville
  • A Tight Place for Me
  • The Army Routed

Chapter 17. The Surrender

  • The Last Act of the Drama
  • Adieu

Appendix to Sam’s Book



List of Illustrations

Illustration Credits


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