What an amazing man this was. What I thought would basically be a war journal, akin to All for the Union or Red Badge of Courage was so much more. Sam Watkins was an extraordinarily intelligent, well-spoken, nuanced man. He balances a tone of whimsical despair with fierce patriotism. He speaks of his soldierly duty without lecturing on the divisive issues of the day. The Civil War is often called “a rich man’s war, but a poor man’s fight.” To exemplify this, read The Cause of the South, followed by this. You will be disgusted with the lofty rationalizations of slavery and states’ rights by the former, written by aristocrats from their high castle. Then when you read from humble Sam the life of the ordinary private soldier, you will come to respect the “poor men” fighting only to defend their homes. I think part of what makes this a great read is that Sam wrote it twenty years after the war, as a middle-aged family man. Doubtless the intervening years matured him, compared to how he would have written a journal as a 21-year-old soldier in the moment.