Sunday, March 23, 2014



The Civil War Addict blog is relocating to a new URL with a new title.  Rather than just focusing on the Civil War, it will encompass history in general.  You can click here to visit the new home.

Thank you,

Lee Hutch

Sunday, January 19, 2014

An Odd Connection

Dear Readers,

I came across this article today concerning a Confederate soldier who shared a name with NFL Quarterback Peyton Manning.  Though I am a die hard Saints fan, I have followed Manning's career since he was in college and consider him to be one of the last of the "nice guy" professional athletes.  (Like Drew Brees of the Saints)  What is perhaps the most interesting about that story is that the two are not related as ar as anyone can tell, despite sharing a name and birthplaces that are in relatively close proximity to one another.

The article does point out that Manning's great-grandfather is believed to have served in the 36th Mississippi Infantry.  I'm sure that there is some element in society that will be calling on Manning to apologize for his ancestor's service.  On a somewhat amusing note, I like how the article says there was a connection "between Manning and Abraham Lincoln's battle to end slavery in the United States."  The article goes on to say nothing about slavery or Lincoln.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who is still upset that the Saints lost last week.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Long December


Music defines my life.  I identify certain times in my life by the songs that were popular then.  People often joke about their life having a soundtrack, but mine really does.  One song that stand out in my mind to this day is "Long December" by the Counting Crows.  If you are not familiar with it, you may listen to it here.  I first heard it on the radio while I was driving home to attend my Grandmother's funeral in February 1997.  As those of you who listen to the radio are aware, popular songs tend to get played over and over again.  I became well versed, pardon the pun, in the song in a matter of a few weeks and could even hear it in my sleep.

So what do the Counting Crows have to do with the Civil War.  I imagine that if the Crows wrote this song during the War, the soldiers of the Army of Tennessee might very well have sang it following the Battle of Stones River which took place from Dec. 31st through January 2nd 1862-3.  This battle, called Murfreesboro in the South, doesn't get the air time that other battles do despite the fact that the two sides suffered a combine 24,000 casualties (including captured/missing).  It all started when Davis visited Bragg's army in mid December and said that things looked so good that Bragg could spare some of his infantry and ordered him to transfer Stevenson's Infantry Division to Vicksburg.  The Confederates felt that loss of 7,500 men during the ensuing battle.  Meanwhile in Nashville, the new commander of the Army of the Cumberland William Roscrans read about this in the newspapers.  Lincoln put pressure on Rosecrans to move against Bragg and so when he found out that Bragg's forces had been weakened by the transfer, Rosecrans set out from Nashville on Dec. 26th.

The night before the battle, the two armies camped within 700 yards of one another.  In a strange parody of the deadly contest to come, both armies waged a battle of the bands.  Confederate bands played "Dixie" and the "Bonnie Blue Flag" while the Federal bands played "Yankee Doodle" and "Hail Columbia".  Afterwards, one of the bands (I'm not sure which side) played "Home Sweet Home" and soldiers on both sides came together in song.  Voices drifted across the lines.  For many of the men, this was the last night of their lives.

The next morning, the Confederates attacked the Federal right flank, catching them by surprise.  Though initially successful, any battle in which Bragg had overall command was doomed to failure!  Confederate troops drove the Federals back on both flanks but this had the effect of pushing the them back into a tighter and more defensible position.  The two armies did little fighting on New Years Day, preferring to rest troops and tend to the wounded.  When the battle resumed on January 2nd, the Confederates suffered heavy casualties.  At the end of the day, Bragg realized that Rosecrans wasn't going anywhere and he made preparations to withdraw his army to Tullahoma, Tennessee.

The Battle of Stones River ended any Confederate threat to Kentucky or Middle Tennessee (at least until Hood's invasion in 1864).  This battle had one of the highest percentages of casualties to soldiers engaged of any battle of the war, yet it is not one that is "popular" such as a Shiloh or a Gettysburg.  That is a shame.  For those who would like further reading on this battle, I can recommend No Better Place to Die by Peter Cozzens.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who, like the song says, is hoping this year will be better than the last.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mightier Than the Sword


Forgive the longer than usual gap between posts.  I am gearing up for the start of another fun and exciting semester wherein I get to fill the heads of my students with stories from the American Past.  They call this "teaching history".  I guess that is what I do, but I prefer to call it "having fun".  Just don't tell the colleges that I teach for that I said that.  They'll try to make me do it for free.  I'm also working on a novel.  I've been writing steadily and am about 20 pages shy of the halfway point.  I set a target of 300 pages for the first draft that I can then play with and increase or decrease as I go through the multiple revisions that my little redhead says that it will need.  Don't get your hopes up though.  It isn't a Civil War novel.  That one comes next.  I have to get this one out of my head and onto paper before I can work on my Magnum Opus.  (I always wanted to use that phrase!)

So the writing process has got me thinking, which is always dangerous.  I'm sure since many of you are fellow Civil War Addicts, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this, you've probably read some memoirs written by those who lived through the War.  I'd like to focus on those written by the higher ups.  I think that a Confederate general's worst enemy after the war was not advanced age or illness but other Confederate generals.  It seems like they spent more time shooting at each other (metaphorically speaking) than they ever did the Yankees.

Jefferson Davis, a man who I do have a lot respect for despite his personality, wrote The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government in the post war period.  It took a lot of work and a lot of dedication on his part.  The book (books actually since it was published in two volumes) is massive.  It totals somewhere along the lines of 1500 pages.  I think I can sum it up briefly.  "I was right.  Everyone else was wrong."  If you want some insight into the mind of Jefferson Davis, read it.  But know going in that it is a difficult book to read.  I don't know if it is available as an audio book or not, but if it is, I promise you it will take care of any issues you may have with insomnia.

His memoir is not all that different from those written by his contemporaries.  All of them try to portray themselves in the best light possible.  Sherman and Grant were not surprised at Shiloh.  They expected the Rebels to attack all along.  I guess Sherman was just acting then when his staff was surprised by a group of Confederates who burst out of the treeline and fired on them, striking Sherman in the hand.  His words at the time "My God!  We're attacked!"  We believe you Uncle weren't surprised at all!  General Hood blamed his subordinates for the, shall we say, foul up at Spring Hill.  And those are just a couple of examples.

I say all of this not to cast aspersions on any of these gentlemen who risked their lives for the causes that they believed in.  My point in doing so is to merely point out the irony that men who may have served together in a common cause could turn on each other when they considered what their "legacy" might be for future generations.  If anything, they've given us something to talk about.

And now if I may ask you all for a favor.  You will notice on the right side of the screen a link to the Civil War Addict Facebook site.  If you haven't already done so, and you are willing, please "like" my Civil War Addict page.  Right now I have 170 likes and I'm really hoping to hit 200.  Feel free to share it with all of your friends.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who never stops being grateful for the kind readers that this blog has.  Though we are all from different parts of the country (or world), we all share a common interest in the "fiery trial" that was our Civil War.

(Or War of Northern Aggression as Nell Christine Fitzgerald, my great-grandmother, called it.  She was a remarkable woman and I would not even be remotely interested in history had it not been for her.  She's been gone for almost 20 years and I still miss her every single day.  I learned a lot of history from her...and also a little bit about historical bias!)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Cruelest Year

Dear Readers,

"Year in Review" type posts theme to be popular on blogs around this time of year.  That poses a problem for this blog since we deal with Civil War topics and not modern rounds.  Along about midnight last time, I had an idea.  So why don't you hope into my Civil War Addict time machine with me?  We will travel back in time to New Year's Day 1864.  Instead of reviewing 2013, we will have a year in review of a different kind.  1863.

In many ways, 1863 was the cruelest year for the Confederacy.  The Confederacy rang in the New Year by recapturing the port city of Galveston in a daring military operation.  At the time, Galveston was the best deep water port available west of New Orleans.  It is significant because it is one of the few battles fought in Texas.  On that same day, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation took effect though I imagine that fact went largely ignored in the South.

In March, Lincoln signed the Enrollment Act into law.  Widely unpopular in some parts of the North, it was intended to supply fresh troops for the Union war effort.  It had a couple of provisions that gave most people grief.  First, it allowed for "substitutes" to replace the person actually drafted.  Second, a man could pay $300 to avoid service.  That money represented a year's wages for a working class person in New York City.  No wonder they called it a rich man's war and a poor man's fight.

In April, Quantrill's Raiders raid Lawrence, Kansas.

Things really got rolling in May.  Early in the month, General Lee's troops mauled the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Chancellorsville.  It was a bittersweet victory, as General Thomas Jackson was accidentally shot by his own men and died a short time later.  In the West, General Grant won a victory at Jackson, Mississippi opening the way to Vicksburg which he would put under siege later in the month.

West Virginia became a state in June.  We also had the Battle of Brandy Station that month, the largest cavalry engagement ever fought in the Americas.

All Civil War Addicts can recite what happened in July of 1863.  We have the Battle of Gettysburg which did not work out so well for the Confederacy.  Worse yet, at least in my opinion, was the surrender of Vicksburg on the 4th of July.  Port Hudson fell just a few days later.  Tensions over the aforementioned draft law exploded into outright violence in New York City.  For days, angry mobs roamed the city doing all sorts of misdeeds in the worst case of urban violence this country has ever seen, though it was downplayed by the government at the time and the history books in the future.  Later that month, the 54th Massachusetts saw combat at Fort Wagner.  To round out the month, John Hunt Morgan raids Ohio but is captured with a few hundred of his men near Salineville.

Both sides seem to have collapsed out of sheer exhaustion in August, though Quantrill launched a larger and more notorious raid on Lawrence, Kansas towards the end of the month.

September started off well enough for the Confederacy as a gallant, noble, and intrepid band of Irish-Confederates turned back a invasion fleet destined for Texas at the Battle of Sabine Pass.  In the west, the Battle of Chickamauga, one of the bloodiest of the war, ended with a rare (for the west) Confederate victory.  Best rest assured, with Braxton Bragg in command, he will figure out a way to screw up a victory!

Said victory is screwed up in November when Grant combines his troops with Sherman's and routes Bragg's troops after heavy fighting at Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain.  But on the bright side, John Hunt Morgan escapes from prison in Ohio and makes his way back to the South.  Lincoln delivers his Gettysburg Address in November as well.

The year comes to an end with the war no closer to being over than when the year started, though from the looks of things, the South's star is falling fast.  1863 started with such hope and promise for the Confederacy, but all that as gone now.  Tens of thousands of men who were alive on New Years Day 1863 did not live to see 1864.  Sadly, the same is true for tens of thousands more on New Years Day 1864.

This is not a comprehensive list of everything important that happened that year.  I tried to pick out a mix of major and minor events that I find to be important.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Civil War "Firsts"


The Civil War had a lot of "firsts".  Some were firsts just for the United States while others were firsts for military history/society as a whole.  For an exhaustive list of those firsts, check out the list provided by Shotgun's Home of the American Civil War here.  I have not gone through that list in detail and so I cannot comment on the accuracy of everything provided, but it does provide some food for thought.  During the course of the Civil War, the nation first experienced conscription, resistance to conscription, aerial reconnaissance, a Presidential assassination, and combat between ironclad vessels just to name a few.  Many people have called the American Civil War the first modern war.

But what do people mean when the say that?  If you take modern to mean the weaponry used, then it certainly was by the standards of the time.  As we discussed above, we certainly did have some innovations. However, part of the reason for the casualty rates is due to the fact that the tactics did no adapt to the weaponry until the latter part of the war, and even then we had the occasional lapse (ie; Battle of Franklin).  That said, a soldier from Grant or Lee's army who served in the trenches around Petersburg and Richmond would certainly have recognized the type of fighting that took place later during World War 1.  But does that fact alone make the Civil War "modern"?

Others have spoken of Sherman waging "Total War" on his March to the Sea. The dictionary defines total war as "a war that is unrestricted in terms of the weapons used, the territories or combatants involved, or the objectives pursued; especially one in which the laws of war are disregarded."  Sherman did not "make war" on the civilian population in Georgia in the same way that we would do to Germany or Japan in the 20th Century.  Yes, his objectives were not fully military in nature to the extent that he wanted to destroy the ability of the South to wage war, but he did not intentionally set out to kill civilians and though yes, some private homes were destroyed, there is not, to my knowledge, any written order to his troops telling them to burn every home they came across.  If Sherman waged total war in Georgia, what then do we call our practice of firebombing Japanese cities during World War 2?  Are each of those examples total war, just taken to a higher degree (no pun intended)?

I happen to think that Winston Churchill was a wise man.  In 1901 while speaking on the floor of the House of Commons, he said "The wars of peoples will be more terrible than the wars of kings."  I know that Mr. Churchill was an adept student of history.  Perhaps he looked back to our Civil War as a reference when he made that statement.  We certainly proved that it was true, at least in our country.  And World War 1 proved that he was right as well.

So whether you agree or disagree as to how modern the Civil War was or to whether or not Sherman waged total war on his March to the Sea, I think we can all agree that Americans between 1861-1865 became very proficient at killing each other on a wide scale which has become almost unfathomable to us today.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Santa Claus Came to Town


Sorry for the long lag in posting.  I have been feeling a little bit under the weather of late.  But the show must go on.  Santa Claus came to visit me yesterday.  (We do our Christmas on the 24th since so that my son can have Christmas with me and then go back to his mother's house that night so he can have Christmas there on the 25th.)  Naturally I got a lot of New Orleans Saints items.  However, I also acquired several new Civil War books.  (Plus some Amazon gift cards that I can use to buy some more!)  You know, I was expecting switches and a lump of coal this year though to be honest, I expect that every year.  So these books will be what I am reading over Christmas Break.

1.  Sickles at Gettysburg by James Hessler.  This is another book about America's favorite scoundrel, Daniel Sickles.  I am two chapters in thus far and it is really good.  The author is a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg and a d--n good writer too!

2.  Miracles and Massacres by Glenn Beck.  I am not a Glenn Beck fan.  But I thought that this book might contain some interesting stories that I can work into my classes.

3.  Bags to Riches by Jeff Duncan.  Another non-Civil War book.  This one relates how the New Orleans Saints helped the city rebound in the aftermath of Katrina.

4.  Into the Fight: Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg by John Michael Priest.  I read this one last night.  It is incredible.  He is the author of one of my favorite Civil War books, Antietam: The Soldier's Battle.  I am happy to say that Into the Fight continues that fine tradition.  It gives you almost a minute by minute account of Pickett's Charge from the point of view of the men who actually did the fighting.  At times brutal and at times humorous, I cannot recommend this book enough.  (The caveat to that is that the book may be a tad bit confusing for the casual Civil War reader since it sort of assumes some knowledge of the battle on the part of the reader.)

5.  Irish Rebels, Confederate Tigers by James Gannon.  This is a regimental history of the 6th Louisiana Infantry.  I am proud to say I am descended from some of the men who served in this regiment.  This is next on my list as soon as I finish the Sickles book!

6.  The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War by David Eicher.  I remember seeing some mixed reviews of this book when it first came out.  However, I believe in giving all Civil War books a chance.  I've seen some scathing reviews of books that I actually enjoyed.  To each his own.  I plan on reading this one in chunks as it is a large book.

7.  The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command by Edwin Coddington.  I have heard that the Licensed Battlefield Guides at Gettysburg refer to this book as the "Bible" of the Gettysburg Campaign.  This was Dr. Coddington's magnum opus but he died shortly before it was published.  It has been a standard work on this subject for 50 years.  I really have no excuse for not already owning a copy.

So that is what Confederate Claus brought me for Christmas this year.  I am going to be busy over the break doing lots of reading.  That's fine, I don't really have anything else to do anyway.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who wishes all of you a Merry Christmas (or Winter Solstice if you prefer me to be politically correct)!

So what Civil War gifts did Santa Claus (or Confederate Claus) bring you?