Private Sam Watkins of Company H, 1st Tennessee Regiment chronicled his experiences in his writings “Co. Aytch.” It is considered to be one of the greatest memoirs ever written by a soldier of the field. He captures the experience of the common private soldier, from the hardships of camp life and battlefields, the camaraderie of a unit, and the Confederate pride felt by all. Here is the story about his first battle.
It seems they were marching along in the summer of 1861,
“when bang, debang, debang, bang, and a volley of buck and ball came hurling right through the two advance companies of the regiment—companies H and K.” They had marched right into an ambush.
“…no one seemed equal to the emergency. We did not know whether to run or stand, when Captain Field gave the command to fire and charge the bushes. We charged the bushes and saw the Yankees running through them…”
After the fighting, Sam said the
“corporals, sergeants, lieutenants, captains, all had torn all the fine lace off their clothing.”
He asked several of them why, and they always answered,
“Humph, you think that I was going to be a target for the Yankees to shoot at?”
“You see, this was our first battle, and the officers had not found out that minnie as well as cannon balls were blind; that they had no eyes and could not see. They thought that the balls would hunt for them and not hurt the privates. I always shot at privates. It was they that did the shooting and killing…when we got down to close quarters I always tried to kill those that were trying to kill me.”