The Story of a Common Soldier of Army Life in the Civil War written by Leander Stillwell and published by Madison & Adams Press – Free – Kindle Edition – Pages 270
Leander Stillwell was typical of thousands of Northern boys who answered President Lincoln’s call for volunteers. In January 1862, only a few months past his 18th birthday, and only after he and his father had sowed the wheat, gathered the corn and cut the winter firewood, Stillwell left his family’s log cabin in the Jersey County backwoods of western Illinois and enlisted in Company D of the 61st Illinois Infantry Regiment. For three and a half years he served in the Western theatre of operations as a noncommissioned officer before being mustered out as a lieutenant in September 1865. His first – and biggest – battle, Shiloh, was the one he remembered most vividly. He also took part in skirmishes in Tennessee and Arkansas, as well as the Siege of Vicksburg. In “The Story of a Common Soldier”, Stillwell tells of his Army experiences, as critic H. L. Mencken observed admiringly in a review, “in plain, straightforward American, naked and unashamed, without any of the customary strutting and bawling.” Small for his age and given to taking solitary walks in the woods beyond the picket lines, Stillwell was nevertheless an enthusiastic and obedient soldier. “Just a little mortifying,” was Stillwell’s reaction when his regiment missed two battles because it had been left to guard a town in Tennessee. But, he hastened to add, “the common soldier can only obey orders, and stay where he is put, and doubtless it was all for the best”
When I picked up my copy of this book, I found it on Amazon and it was free, but a more recent look it was listed at £0.49p. But the book is a thoroughly good one and reveals the life of Leander Stillwell, a young man who joined up for the northern cause during the US Civil War. Stillwell joined the 61st Illinois Infantry Regiment and this book plays out like a diary, so we get all the thoughts and musings of a young man having to grow up and learn about the harshness and hard way of life experienced by young soldiers. I loved the honesty and his directness, the book also shows how boring life could be and how much the regiment wasn’t well equipped or supported with food and resources. It seemed they had to survive on coffee and what they could find or scrounge. A really good book, and very revealing, well worth a quick read if your interested in life in the US Civil War.