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

Read by Sue Anderson

(4.7 stars; 303 reviews)

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) (11 hr 2 min)


00 - Dedication and Preface 5:07 Read by Sue Anderson
01 - Beginning of the War, 1862 31:32 Read by Sue Anderson
02 - Benton Barracks, St. Louis, 1862 18:32 Read by Sue Anderson
03 - Battle of Shiloh, 1862 57:14 Read by Sue Anderson
04 - Some Incidents of the Battle of Shiloh 37:38 Read by Sue Anderson
05 - Seige of Corinth, 1862 21:39 Read by Sue Anderson
06 - Bethel, Jackson, 1862 28:52 Read by Sue Anderson
07 - Bolivar, 1862 19:16 Read by Sue Anderson
08 - Vicinity of Iuka, Mississippi, 1862 40:32 Read by Sue Anderson
09 - Affair of Salem Cemetery, 1863 47:05 Read by Sue Anderson
10 - Seige of Vicksburg, 1863 40:21 Read by Sue Anderson
11 - Life in a Hospital, 1863 20:25 Read by Sue Anderson
12 - Devall's Bluff, Little Rock, 1863 18:38 Read by Sue Anderson
13 - Granted a Furlough, 1863 41:16 Read by Sue Anderson
14 - Re-enlist for Three Years More 20:08 Read by Sue Anderson
15 - Augusta and Springfield, 1864 30:44 Read by Sue Anderson
16 - Devall's Bluff; Clarendon Expedition, 1864 13:36 Read by Sue Anderson
17 - Grand Reviews and Inspections, 1864 17:16 Read by Sue Anderson
18 - Regiment Goes Home on Furlough 22:12 Read by Sue Anderson
19 - Murfreesboro, 1864 18:43 Read by Sue Anderson
20 - Affair at Overal's Creek, 1864 12:18 Read by Sue Anderson
21 - Battle of Wilkinson's Pike, 1864 22:06 Read by Sue Anderson
22 - Railroad Fight near Murfresboro, 1864 25:27 Read by Sue Anderson
23 - Murfresboro, Winter 1864-1865 15:45 Read by Sue Anderson
24 - Soldier's Pay: Rations 20:30 Read by Sue Anderson
25 - Mustered Out, September 8, 1865 15:08 Read by Sue Anderson


Common Soldier

(5 stars)

The man being from Illinois as am I is what originally attracted me. Turned out to be one of the best personal history stories I've read. All the details of reality in daily life. Unrealistic expectations of leaders far away and the foot soldiers who live to obey and survive.

Real life memoir of a common union Civil War soldier.

(5 stars)

wonderful real look at the Civil War from a command ordinary soldier. It was well written and well read. Enjoyed the honesty and candor from an " un-puffed" common foot soldier.

(5 stars)

The story is most fascinating and Sue Anderson's presentation is superb. I'm thankful to the author and reader.


(5 stars)

I listen to parts of this almost every single night, it's a great book for any history nerd. I love hearing how general life was back then and all that we take for granted now. Sue Anderson is a wonderful reader, relaxing, as well as easy on the ears. Super simple to fall asleep to. Lol. I've listened to a handful of books she has read.


(5 stars)

I have not studied much about individual dealings with the civil war, I found this very enlightening and sobering. what they dealt with is amazing. it is also well read, making this a very enjoyable book. I listened to the entire book twice and a few sections more to try to fully grasp all that was happening.

Excellent account of Civil War Soldiering

(5 stars)

I've listened to this several times since downloading it. Stilwell gives an excellent account of what it was like to be an everyday soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War. The reading by Sue Anderson is superb, as her readings always are. Highly recommended for history and Civil War buffs.

Civil War

(5 stars)

Wow. WOW! Such a good account of a war on American soil. To hear about maneuvers and combat in places around where I grew up is very interesting to me. Very well read too. God bless America!

(5 stars)

This well written, first hand account of the civil war "common soldier" brought to life the character and attitudes of the kind of men who were the backbone of this great nation. Full of interesting anecdotes and details. Wonderful!