The book, Co. Aytch by Sam Watkins, was an interesting book. His narrative gave the reader a deeper look into the Confederate Army, allowing the reader to see the joys and hurts of war from his (Watkins) view. Towards the beginning of the book, it seemed that Confederate soldiers wanted to be at war. They anticipated fighting, craving a battle, even if for only a short time, with the Yankees. I was surprised at the way Watkins spoke of war. He spoke of it such a nonchalant way, war seemed almost like a game. From Watkins writings, it seemed as though the war was only settling a confusion about whether the North was North or the South was South. After reading the first chapter, I didn’t think the soldiers were suffering very much. I was surprised to read that Watkins only killed Yankees in self-defense… not just to shoot someone. I found that quite honorable. I was shocked to read about how a soldier was killed for falling asleep accidentally. 

Watkins stated he never understood war until he was actually in fighting in it. He made the distinction between his personal account of war and what the history books speak of.  He encourages the reader to take a look at the history books, and continually makes sure the reader understands he is writing about what HE saw, not about anything else. I found Watkins account to be fascinating….He wrote about certain circumstances humorously but also portrayed the awful circumstances in ways that made me, the reader feel like I was there. 

On page 31, Watkins claimed “war had become a reality.” Earlier, he had spoken of how everyone was anxious to begin fighting, but when the time came, men no longer wanted to fight. It was sad to read how Watkins compared himself, and other soldiers, to machines. It was saddening because these soldiers are sacrificing their time and lives to fight for their country and they are treated worthlessly. To me, it seemed that General Bragg caused more suffering for the soldiers than the actual war itself. He showed no respect to any of teh soldiers, which in turn caused morale to lessen among the troops. 

As I read chapter 4, I wondered why the soldiers were treated like criminals for small offenses. Many of these offenses were committed by soldiers who were trying to find food or some means to survive. I find it to be hypocritical and simply wrong to give soldiers capital punishment WHILE at war. These men were doing what they had to in order to survive, yet they were punished for that. 

When the Confederate Army marched to Kentucky, it was nice to see soldiers being appreciated by citizens for once. It was hard to imagine the soldiers suffering when they were eating well, playing poker, going to dances, and drinking together. Here again, I saw the anticipation of Watkins to fight the Yankees. Watkins made an interesting point about generals and privates/regular soldiers. He said generals make history and have reputations to keep up, but the soldiers who fight are the ones who give their lives but are forgotten. I began to think about what he said and I realized that Watkins is correct. We always read about the famous generals of certain wars, but who is to say that the soldiers who fought, and especially those who died, should not be remembered as well? 

Throughout the reading, I saw many instances of the Confederate Army being unorganized. It seemed that during a battle, the Confederate army was always caught of guard and just began shooting anywhere. I say the army was unorganized because I read more than once that the Confederate army had been shooting at its own men. The rations for soldiers showed lack of consideration or preparedness. The generals should have been looking out for their troops, not allowing them to die of starvation. This lack of supplies and food makes me wonder: Where was the regiment money spent?? Watkins made the statement that the regiment had spent all its money and apparently it had not gone to the soldiers because of the squalor they were living in. So, where had it gone? 

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. Watkins incorporates humor as well as the realities of war, and allows the reader to experience the joys and pains of war. I am looking forward to reading more about Sam Watkins time in war. It was interesting to see Watkins opinions of war changing, as the war continued. At first, he joked about war, but further into the book, he began to realize war was not a game. Watkins saw so many awful things, from someone’s chest being blown open, to experiencing the sorrows of losing fellow friends/soldiers. Yet, he was able to write a fascinating memoir; one that hopefully leaves a lasting impression.