Story of a Common Soldier of Army Life in the Civil War, 1861-1865, The

Leander STILLWELL (1843 - 1934)

Leander Stillwell was an 18-year-old Illinois farm boy, living with his family in a log cabin, when the U.S. Civil War broke out. Stillwell felt a duty "to help save the Nation;" but, as with many other young men, his Patriotism was tinged with bravura: "the idea of staying at home and turning over senseless clods on the farm with the cannon thundering so close at hand . . . was simply intolerable." Stillwell volunteered for the 61st Illinois Infantry in January 1861. His youthful enthusiasm for the soldier's life was soon tempered at Shiloh, where he first "saw a gun fired in anger," and "saw a man die a violent death."

Stillwell's recounting of events is always vivid, personal, and engrossing. "I distinctly remember my first shot at Shiloh . . . The fronts of both lines were . . . shrouded in smoke. I had my gun at a ready, and was trying to peer under the smoke in order to get a sight of our enemies. Suddenly I heard someone in a highly excited tone calling to me from just in my rear, --'Stillwell! Shoot! Shoot! Why don't you shoot?' I looked around and saw that this command was being given by . . . our second lieutenant, who was wild with excitement, jumping up and down like a hen on a hot griddle. 'Why, lieutenant,' I said, 'I can't see anything to shoot at.' 'Shoot, shoot, anyhow!' 'All right,' I responded. . . And bringing my gun to my shoulder, I aimed low in the direction of the enemy, and blazed away through the smoke. But at the time the idea to me was ridiculous that one should blindly shoot into a cloud of smoke without having a bead on the object to be shot at."

The Story of a Common Soldier is a compelling coming of age tale that will appeal not only to Civil War buffs but to anyone who enjoys autobiographies. Written at the urging of his youngest son, when Stillwell was a mature man--a lawyer, judge, and member of the Kansas legislature, it combines graphic detail (provided by his war diary and letters written at the time to his family) with the insights of a thoughtful man looking back on those horrific times.(Summary by Sue Anderson)

Genre(s): War & Military, Memoirs, Modern (19th C)

Language: English

Section Chapter Reader Time
Play 00 00 - Dedication and Preface Sue Anderson
00:05:07
Play 01 01 - Beginning of the War, 1862 Sue Anderson
00:31:32
Play 02 02 - Benton Barracks, St. Louis, 1862 Sue Anderson
00:18:32
Play 03 03 - Battle of Shiloh, 1862 Sue Anderson
00:57:14
Play 04 04 - Some Incidents of the Battle of Shiloh Sue Anderson
00:37:38
Play 05 05 - Seige of Corinth, 1862 Sue Anderson
00:21:39
Play 06 06 - Bethel, Jackson, 1862 Sue Anderson
00:28:52
Play 07 07 - Bolivar, 1862 Sue Anderson
00:19:16
Play 08 08 - Vicinity of Iuka, Mississippi, 1862 Sue Anderson
00:40:32
Play 09 09 - Affair of Salem Cemetery, 1863 Sue Anderson
00:47:05
Play 10 10 - Seige of Vicksburg, 1863 Sue Anderson
00:40:21
Play 11 11 - Life in a Hospital, 1863 Sue Anderson
00:20:25
Play 12 12 - Devall's Bluff, Little Rock, 1863 Sue Anderson
00:18:38
Play 13 13 - Granted a Furlough, 1863 Sue Anderson
00:41:16
Play 14 14 - Re-enlist for Three Years More Sue Anderson
00:20:08
Play 15 15 - Augusta and Springfield, 1864 Sue Anderson
00:30:44
Play 16 16 - Devall's Bluff; Clarendon Expedition, 1864 Sue Anderson
00:13:36
Play 17 17 - Grand Reviews and Inspections, 1864 Sue Anderson
00:17:16
Play 18 18 - Regiment Goes Home on Furlough Sue Anderson
00:22:12
Play 19 19 - Murfreesboro, 1864 Sue Anderson
00:18:43
Play 20 20 - Affair at Overal's Creek, 1864 Sue Anderson
00:12:18
Play 21 21 - Battle of Wilkinson's Pike, 1864 Sue Anderson
00:22:06
Play 22 22 - Railroad Fight near Murfresboro, 1864 Sue Anderson
00:25:27
Play 23 23 - Murfresboro, Winter 1864-1865 Sue Anderson
00:15:45
Play 24 24 - Soldier's Pay: Rations Sue Anderson
00:20:30
Play 25 25 - Mustered Out, September 8, 1865 Sue Anderson
00:15:08