When I watched The Civil War for the first time 31 years ago -- damn, 31 years! -- I was captivated by Sam Watkins, the Army of Tennessee private who was often quoted and featured in Ken Burns' classic. Watkins covered a lot of ground in the Western Theater, and his folksy post-war memoir, Co. Aytch, remains widely read. It is all true? Well, that's debatable. (I can still hear the distinctive twang of Charles McDowell, the fabulous voice of Watkins in Burns' doc. The former newspaper columnist died in 2010.)
Watkins, who served in the 1st Tennessee, lived out his days near Columbia, Tenn., dying in 1901. He was buried in Zion Presbyterian Church Cemetery. roughly 10 miles from Columbia's trendy town square. It's absolutely worth a visit -- the church Watkins attended still stands yards from his gravestone.
- "America has no north, no south, no east, no west. The sun rises over the hills and sets over the mountains, the compass just points up and down, and we can laugh now at the absurd notion of there being a north and a south. We are one and undivided."
- "I always shoot at privates. It was they who did the shooting and killing, and if I could kill a wound a private, why, my chances were so much the better. I always looked upon officers as harmless personages."
- "A soldier's life is not a pleasant one. It is always, at best, one of privations and hardships. The emotions of patriotism and pleasure hardly counterbalance the toil and suffering that he has to undergo in order to enjoy his patriotism and pleasure. Dying on the field of battle and glory is about the easiest duty a soldier has to undergo. It is the living, marching, fighting, shooting soldier that has the hardships of war to carry."
GOOGLE STREET VIEW: Zion Presbyterian Church, 2322 Zion Road, Columbia, Tenn.