When the Civil War broke out in 1861, 16-year-old William J. Oliphant left Austin and rushed to join Confederate service with thousands of other Texans. Oliphant initially joined the Travis Rifles, and was later mustered into the Sixth Texas Infantry, CSA at Camp Henry E. McCullough, near Victoria, Texas in 1862.
Oliphant and the Sixth Texas were sent to Arkansas in May of 1862, where Oliphant saw action in Battle of Arkansas Post. After the surrender of Arkansas Post in 1863, he was sent to an Illinois prison camp. Oliphant was later exchanged and participated in the battles of Missionary Ridge, Ringgold Gap, Pickett's Mill, and Atlanta, where he was again captured.
He was exchanged in Virginia in March 1865, but was not able to rejoin his command before the war ended. The young Oliphant then made his way home to Texas, narrowly escaping death at the hands of bandits. His descriptions of the destroyed South offer a poignant reminder of the physical, economic, and psychological devastation of the war.
Only a Private provides a first-hand account of the common soldier's point of view of the Civil War. No colonel or general, William Oliphant was, in his own words, "only a private." His unique perspective provides a window into Texas during the first days of the Civil War, as well as first-hand descriptions of battles in Arkansas and throughout the Confederacy, life in a Federal prisoner-of-war camp, and survival in the devastated post-war South. Contains numerous photographs, maps and valuable primary source material, including the Company "G" roster, in which Oliphant served.