Rebel Private Front and Rear. By William Andrew Fletcher.
Edited by Bell Irwin Wiley. Austin (University of Texas
Press), 1954. Pp. xvii+162. Preface, illustrations, and index.
Rebel Private Front and Rear is the firsthand record of the
exploits of William Andrew Fletcher, a common soldier in the
Confederate Army. The University of Texas Press has now pub-
lished the narrative in a new edition prepared by Professor Wiley.
William Andrew Fletcher committed his war recollections to
paper some forty years after the conflict ended; but, nonetheless,
the coverage is remarkably balanced, the detail is surprisingly
realistic, and the chronology is sufficiently accurate. To avoid most
of the pitfalls of reconstructing events so long after they occurred,
Fletcher was aided by a sharp memory, a flair for close observa-
tion, and a rather obvious but inherent honesty. The account is
also enriched by his repertory of varied war experiences during
almost four years of service. Participation in the Seven Days'
Battle before Richmond and engagement in five other major cam-
paigns, including his capture and subsequent escape, suggest the
extensive war activities of the Beaumont, Texas, private.
Fletcher did not limit his narrative to any particular aspect of
the common soldier's life and activities. The experiences of battle
and scouting are implemented by equally lively details on forag-
ing (including his instruction in "pressing" chickens), drinking,
equipment and supplies, rations, cowardice, foolhardy courage,
treatment of the sick and wounded, and the life of a military
The report of Lee's surrender brought Fletcher to the brink
of despair, but the benumbed existence lasted only a few days.
He soon resolved to face the coming civil life with the resolution
and resourcefulness that had sustained him in war. His mental
acceptance of the results of the war was justified by his rapid and
relatively easy adjustment to postwar conditions and his subse-
quent success as a business and civic leader.
Professor Wiley's editing has carefully retained the natural
flavor of the frequently quoted first edition of this work that ap-
peared in 19o8, most copies of which were destroyed by fire.
For his efforts in making this excellent memoir readily available,
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 59, July 1955 - April, 1956. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101162/. Accessed September 15, 2014.