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Children's LiteratureIn his 1990 documentary, The Civil War, Ken Burns quoted extensively from this famous memoir of an ordinary soldier in the Confederate Army, Samuel Rush Watkins. Published two decades after the war ended, Watkins' original book was entitled, "Co. Aytch" Maurys Grays, First Tennessee Regiment; or, A Side Show of the Big Show. Watkins was 21 years old when he enlisted in April 1861 in Company H of the First Tennessee Infantry Regiment. "He does not seem to have held strong beliefs on the issue of slavery, and he owned no slaves himself," writes the editor in her introduction. "He fought not to defend slavery, but to defend Tennessee. Watkins believed in the principle of states' rights." Watkins' account of the travails of a Confederate foot soldier is vivid, memorable and unpretentious. This abridged account, edited from a facsimile 1900 reprint of the 1882 text, makes this fascinating memoir accessible to elementary-age students and anyone older. The editor's historical pages, spaced throughout the book, provide helpful context, as do the color illustrations; while the map does not show Watkins' actual path through the war, it does indicate the location of the battles he participated in. 2004, Benchmark Books/Marshall Cavendish, Ages 8 up.
—J. H. Diehl