A Brief Biography On Samuel Rush Watkins



By: Billy Jackson

Past Commander, Sam R. Watkins Camp 29


Our Camp’s namesake, Samuel Rush Watkins, was born on June 26, 1839 near Columbia, Tennessee.  He received his education at Jackson College at Columbia and, worked as a store clerk prior to his enlistment in the Confederate Army.  Sam originally enlisted in the “Bigby Greys” of the 3rd Tennessee in Mount Pleasant but transferred shortly thereafter to become a private in the First Tennessee Infantry, Company H, the “Maury Greys” in the spring of 1861.

  Sam served throughout the duration of the war, taking part in the battles of Shiloh, Corinth, Murfreesboro, Shelbyville, Chattanooga, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, The 100 Days Battles, Atlanta, Jonesboro, Franklin, Nashville and was once promoted to fourth corporal for picking up a Union flag from the battlefield during the Battle of Atlanta, July 22, 1864. Constant on his mind was the hope that he could return to old Maury County and marry his sweetheart, Jennie. Sam never considered himself a hero, just a common “Webfoot”.

  Of the 120 men who enlisted in Co.H in 1861, Sam Watkins was one of the 7 alive when General Joe Johnston’s Army of Tennessee surrendered to General William Tecumseh Sherman in North Carolina April, 1865. Of the 1,200 men who fought in the First Tennessee, only 65 were left to be paroled on that day.

  Sam returned to Maury County at war’s end to find the area devastated after years under Union occupation. He married his beloved Jennie and worked make a life for his growing family. At one point, he operated a small store in Columbia before returning to the Ashwood Community near Mt. Pleasant.

  As the years came and went, Sam was coaxed by members of his family to write down his experiences so that his children and grandchildren would know what he had done during the War. In 1881, 20 years after the war began, Sam, with “ a house full of young rebels clustering around my knees... " Began writing his memoirs of the war, recounting his experiences in "Co. Aytch: A Side Show of the Big Show.”

  Descendants of Sam relate the stories of Mr. Sam, sitting by the wood stove with his stub of a pencil doing his writing in the cold mornings, laughing at times at something he had remembered and put to paper or, softly sobbing as he wrote of the horrors he had lived through. Originally serialized in the Columbia, Tennessee Herald, “Co. Aytch” was published in a first edition of 2,000 in book form in 1882.

  There were plans for a second publishing and Sam spent many hours penciling revisions in his worn copy, it was not to be. Crippled by years of hard marching, hard fighting and the struggles of life in the Reconstruction era South, Samuel Rush Watkins passed away on July 20, 1901 at the age of 62 in his home in the Ashwood Community. He was buried with honors by the members of the Leonidas Polk Bivouac, United Confederate Veterans in the cemetery of the Zion Presbyterian Church.   His pen was silenced by death but his spirit lives on in the scores of readers who discover his work each year.