A Private in Company H, First Tennessee Infantry, Sam R. Watkins is today one of the most well-known common soldiers in Civil War history.Despite his low rank, Watkins has found immortality through his 1882 memoir Company Aytch.
Born in Maury County, Tennessee, south of
The First Tennessee continued its hard service in the Army of Tennessee through the end of the war, and Watkins recorded his and his comrade's wartime experience for posterity two decades later with his wildly successful memoir.Filmmaker Ken Burns gave Watkins' fame a boost when he used selections from Company Aytch in the popular Civil War documentary (1990).
As enduring a piece of Civil War literature as Company Aytch has been, though, it is not without its limitations.In framing his war narrative, Watkins was careful to exclude any significant discussion of the war's causes and its continuing effects on the Middle Tennessee society in which he lived.The absence of slavery from the memoir is staggering, particularly considering Watkins' background.Census and tax records of antebellum
Nor was the issue of slavery left at home in
Blight, David W. Race and Reunion : The Civil War in American Memory. Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 2001.
Tennessee, Maury County. 1860 U.S. Census, Population Schedule. Digital Images. Ancestry.com. February 7, 2017. www.ancestry.com.
Tennessee, Maury County. 1860 U.S. Census, Slave Schedule. Digital Images. Ancestry.com. February 7, 2017. www.ancestry.com.
Tolbert, Lisa L. Constructing Townscapes: Space and Society in Antebellum
Watkins, Samuel R. Co. "Aytch," Maury Grays Or, A Side Show of the Big Show, ed. Ruth Hill Fulton McAllister. Franklin , Tn.: Providence House Publishers, 2007.
Watkins, S.R. "Snow Battle at Dalton - Little Jimmie White." Confederate Veteran, September 1893, 261-262.