Among the men of history whom I admire, Sam Watkins stands tall. His book Co. Aytch describes his experiences during four long years of that “unholy and uncalled for” War Between the States. Sam was not a Christian during the war, but the Lord used a tapestry of good and bad events to draw him to faith afterwards.
During the war, Sam was wounded in the finger, arm, thigh, and ankle. He shot and killed men who were trying to shoot and kill him. He saw hundreds of men die horrible deaths. His friend Berry Morgan was crushed by flying debris during a tornado. Sam was standing beside Bob Stout when a cannonball struck him. And during the heat of battle, his “more than friend” William A. Hughes, was mortally wounded when he deliberately took a bullet that was meant for Sam.
Even with all of these painful memories, I bet that one of Sam’s most difficult experiences was watching the life of his oldest daughter, Nellie, slip away at age 13. Sam and his wife Jennie had seven other children to take care of. But no child can take the place of another child. Each child is precious, and each one that goes ahead of us sooner than we expect leaves a hole in our hearts.
At the conclusion of Sam’s memoir, he writes:
Both the joy and the sorrow of this life are fleeting. We live one day at a time, and we generally do not know in advance which one will be our last. So we persevere, trying to make each day a good last day in case it is. And we have hope for a glorious future full of redemption and reconciliation and refreshment. As Sam wrote regarding the death of his friend William:
After two and a half years without Avery, I still miss him. I go back and forth between tears and laughter when I remember his talents and antics. He’s not here now, and I can’t explain all of the whys. There is a lot about life on planet Earth that I don’t understand. But I endure because of the promises we have. I agree with Sam: “I thank God I am no infidel.”