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?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Civil War Animals

Dear Readers,

Since college is out for Christmas break at the moment, I am spending time with my feline companions.  This has got me thinking about regimental mascots during the Civil War.  I read a very interesting article here that details many of the mascot stories from the Civil War.  Naturally, "Old Abe" the eagle is perhaps the best known, but there are many other stories out there.  Dogs seem to be the most common as they are, after all, man's best friend.  But there are others too.  I haven't seen anything about cats though, much to my dismay.

I have two questions for you today, Dear Readers.  1.  Who had the best mascot of the war?  2.  Does anyone know of any good stories about cats during the Civil War?

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who lives with a hot redhead and the following feline friends:

Simon Diogenes Legree
George Armstrong Custer ("Autie")
Charles Dickens
Margaret Mitchell ("Maggie")
Bedford Forrest

Remember, as Mark Twain said "When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade without further introduction."

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Fire Bells in the Night


When I was eight years old or so, I was thumbing through a copy of Bruce Catton's The Civil War.  I believe it was published by American Heritage Press.  There was a Civil War timeline included in the appendices.  As I scanned through it, I came across the following entry for November 25, 1864: "Confederate agents try to burn New York City".  For some reason, that caught my eye, so much so that I put a star next to it.  And then I promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward several years (actually about two decades).  I again rediscovered the subject by virtue of research that I was doing on another topic.  Pardon the pun, but this rekindled the fire!  (He who would pun would also pick a pocket!)  I filled two notebooks while investigating this event with the idea towards writing a book about it.  But finally, someone beat me to it.  (See here.)  Not to be deterred, I had always thought this might translate better into a novel anyway.  For that matter, it would make one heck of a movie too!

Eight Confederate officers traveled from Canada to New York City full of promises that the Sons of Liberty (no, not the Revolutionary War ones) would rise up and help them take over the city on election day.  They promised that they had 20,000 armed men just waiting for the signal.  That signal would be a series of fires set by the Confederates at various points throughout the city.  Though hotels were the eventual target, the evidence suggests that the plot actually involved setting fires in other locations.

But the New York City authorities were ready.  They learned their lesson from the Draft Riots.  Certain measures were put in place to prevent any unrest and the "Sons of Liberty" backed out of the plot.  The Confederates decided to return to Canada but then they read stories in the paper about Sherman's March to the Sea.  Suddenly revenge became the motive.  They picked up "Greek Fire" from a chemist in Washington Square.  (Incidentally, the site of another famous fire.....the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.)

On the night of November 25, the men set a series of fires in hotel rooms across Lower Manhattan.  The fire department promptly put them out with very little damage.  The newspapers the following morning had descriptions of all of the men, yet they managed to slip out of the city and made it back to Canada safely.  Later on, one of them, Robert Cobb Kennedy, was apprehended as he tried to cross back into the United States.  He was put on trial, convicted, and hanged on March 25, 1865.

I fear I have not done the topic justice here.  There is a lot more to it than what I have time to write.  One of the men, John Headley, wrote his memoirs "Confederate Operations in Canada and New York" which is available for a free download here.  It makes for some interesting reading, but take it with a grain of salt!  Also, the OR's contain a lot of information too.

One of these days, I'll finish the novel.

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

Friday, December 13, 2013

War and Remembrance

Dear Readers,

I have reached the end of my first semester since I made the decision (or actually my back made the decision) to end my law enforcement career and return to the classroom.  To me, final exam week is always a melancholy experience.  You know, the first day of class is like a first date.  It can go really good or really bad.  (And is usually awkward!)  The last day of class feels like a break up, though not in a bad sense.  You get to know your students over several months and realize that most of them you won't see again.  That feeling always makes me a little sad.

This has got me thinking about what the end of the war must have felt like for the veterans.  Many of them spent as many as four years of their lives fighting alongside men who must have felt very much like brothers to them by the time it was all over.  They lost many of them along the way too both to combat and the ever present threat of disease.  And then one day it ended.  How did they part ways?  Was it as simple as a handshake and a "See you in hell"?  The fact that many of the companies were raised in certain geographic locations meant that they would perhaps see each other in civilian life sometimes.

But that raises another question.  How could someone who went on Pickett's Charge or fought at the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania simply go home and farm again like nothing had ever happened?  Yet so many of them did.  After the war, the men on both sides formed veterans associations.  The Northern veterans and their Grand Army of the Republic proved to be a potent political force in the post-war world.  The United Confederate Veterans were important in their own right in the south.  My great-grandmother always talked about the UCV men that she knew as a child.  She said they were "fine old men".  Of course, when she knew them they were 40+ years removed from the war.  She told me once that those she knew were all very old and had the long white beard which it seems that many Confederate veterans adopted.  But she also said that you couldn't let their age fool you.  They were tough, very tough.  Their legs had carried them thousands of miles.  Their shoulders carried heavy burdens.  And their eyes had seen far too much.

One of my favorite songs from this period is "Long Ago" which you can listen to here.  I don't know all of the back story on this song, but I do know that it was written by a Civil War veteran.  I think it sums up the feelings of a lot of Confederate Veterans quite well.

And if I may end with some thoughts of a different kind.  To any of my students who may be reading today's blog post, I would like to say this.  It has been a long semester for us all.  I've been dealing with back pain, PTSD issues, and a crazy schedule.  You made it all worthwhile.  Over the past few months we've shared laughter and even the occasional tear.  Some of you have opened up to me about issues that you are facing and I have done the same.  I can honestly say that I feel that I am a better person for having gotten to meet all of you.  This semester I have had the best classes that I have ever had in all my years of being an adjunct.  Thank you for not only making that happen, but for also showing me what was important in life.  Remember that no matter what happens to you in life, I'll always be in your corner.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who has come to realize what my purpose in life truly is thanks to my students.

One of my Civil War Ancestors.
A "Fightin' Fool" of the 8th Ohio!
And a native son of Ireland!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Flags of Our (Great-Great-Grand) Fathers

Dear Readers,

I must confess that I was at a bit of a loss for the topic of today's post.  So I did what I normally do when I get a case of blogger's block, I turned to my little redhead for advice as to what to write about.  She suggested that I write a bit about flags during the Civil War.  I had to promise her that I would at least mention some of her ancestors in a favorable light in this post, so please look here for a picture of the regimental flags for the Ninth Illinois Infantry.  She had three ancestors who served in this regiment.  (Unlike the rest who avoided service entirely!)

Though Gods and Generals is far from being an Academy Award worthy movie, I must confess that I did really like the opening scene where we saw one battle flag after another.  The song in the background was also good.  The movie went steadily downhill from there.  The flags meant something to the soldiers.  They represented their regiment, brigade, or corps.  Units could be identified by their banners.  When speaking of Cleburne's Division flag, General Sherman is quoted as saying "That flag meant fight!"  (And he should know!)  Who among us would want to hold a position if we saw the green banner of the Irish Brigade moving towards us?  Or Hood's Texas Brigade?

The flags that my great-great-great grandfathers fought under were varied, as is the location and regiments of their service.  Most of them served under Polk's Corps (later Cheatham) in the Army of Tennessee.  As such, they had an easily identifiable Corps flag until the standardization of battle flags in the Army of Tennessee.  After that, only Cleburne's men were allowed to keep their own flag.

I, of course, also had ancestors who served in Cleburne's Division.  Their flag, like the above is distinctive.  Each regiment would, of course, add their unit and list the battles that they participated in if they so desired.

If we turn our attention to the Eastern Theater, I had some relatives in the 6th Louisiana.  Part of Hayes' "Fighting Tigers".  

And lest I be accused of Confederate bias, I would also like to mention my ancestors in the 8th Ohio Infantry.  Now how an Irish immigrant ended up in Ohio is beyond me, but he did nonetheless.  He and his brothers enlisted in the 8th Ohio at the beginning of the war.  They served in most of the battles in the Eastern Theater as part of the famed Gibraltar Brigade.  They assaulted Bloody Lane at Antietam, managed to outflank Pickett's Charge, and saw action in the Overland Campaign.  In fact, they reenlisted during the midst of that one!  So here too is their flag.

I think it would really be cool to one day have a room in my house decorated with all of the flags from the various regiments in which my ancestors served.  But I have two hurdles to overcome.  One is getting replicas of all of those flags.  The other is my little redhead.  But a man can dream, right?  As suggested in the comments, when I am ready to undertake this task, I just might visit the Alabama Flag Depot.  It looks like they do some very nice work!

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

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Wilderness of War

Dear Readers,

For the last week or so I have been working my way through Gordon C. Rhea's series about the Overland Campaign.  I finished the first volume which is about the Battle of the Wilderness and have now turned to the second volume concerning Spotsylvania.  I'm not sure what drew my attention in that direction, other than the fact that I haven't read his series before.  When I teach about the Civil War, the last lecture day covers 1864-5 which includes those campaigns plus the March to the Sea, etc.  Maybe that is why.

You know, Grant's casualty rates in that campaign were staggering.  I can't help but thing that we would never allow a general today to lose soldiers at the rate that Grant did.  My how times have changed.  I guess it stirs up the old debate.  Was Grant a good general?  Yes, he lost large numbers of soldiers but he still bled Lee's Army dry.  Of course, the flip side to that is tactically, he seemed to follow a relatively simple plan, "Hey Diddle, Diddle, Straight Up the Middle!"

I have ancestors who fought on both sides during that campaign.  Let me rephrase, I have ancestors on the Confederate side and ancestors on the Union side.  They stayed loyal to their respective causes until the end. Unlike some of the ancestors of my little redhead who seemed to favor whichever side was winning at that particular moment.  My Union ancestors were not "Yankees" in the traditional sense of the word as they all hailed from the Emerald Isle, as did my other ancestors who wore the gray.  Still, they collided in some of the worse bloodletting this country has ever seen.

I often wonder what kept my Irish Confederate ancestors in the ranks at a time in which they had to have known that the cause was lost.  Before you tell me that slavery was why they stayed in the ranks so long, I would suggest that you look into the types of jobs available to the Irish in New Orleans at the time.  They left Ireland to escape English oppression only to end up fighting here in a hopeless war in the land of the "free".  Did they ever have second thoughts about why they came here?  I can only imagine that they stayed the course because of a combination of pride, comradeship, and the desire to not let their families down.  But who knows, really.  They arrived here with nothing and the war also left them with nothing.  (Other than a few of them that were nice enough to donate a limb or two to the Cause.)

My Irish-Union ancestors had their enlistments expire in the midst of the Overland Campaign.  They could have gone home!  But they chose to reenlist and see the war through to the end.  Plenty of other men did too.  Was that an endorsement of Grant's generalship or was that simply a desire to finish what they had started?  I wish I could say one way or the other with certainty, but I feel it was more the latter than the former.

Sorry to break slightly off topic, but here is my question for you, Dear Readers.  Was Grant a good general or simply a butcher who cared nothing for the lives of his soldiers?

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who should be grading papers instead of writing blog posts.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Last Night I Had a Dream


Last night I had a dream.

When I looked to my left, I could see a long line of Confederate infantry stretching as far as I could see.  When I looked to my right, it was the same.  In front of us were what appeared to be a very strong line of Federal works.  Our rifles were loaded, bayonets fixed.  I heard a single cannon shot.  Then we received the order to advance.  

From somewhere behind, I heard the band playing.  The sound seemed somewhat out of place.  The strains of "Dixie" floated through the air.  The only other sound was the steady tread of our feet.  The earth shook with the sound of 20,000 footsteps.  In front of us, there was nothing but open ground between us and the enemy.  As we marched, scared animals darted in front of us towards the Yankees.  Our battle lines were bathed in a sea of red as our flags marked the place of each under sized regiment making the attack.  

So many were gone.  The blood of our comrades stained dozens of fields from Shiloh to Chickamauga and from Perryville to Murfreesboro.  Those of us who remained did so, not out of any dedication to a cause, but out of dedication to one another.  Gone were the cheerful days in which we marched off to war, thinking one Southerner worth ten Yankees.  Instead, we discovered that these Yankees could put up one hell of a fight.  They had gotten the better of us on numerous days, but this day would be different.

The bands began to play "The Girl I Left Behind Me" as we continued to move forward.  Perhaps that was a fitting song for the occasion.  Given the strength of the Federal works, it looked as though lots of us would leave wives and sweethearts behind by the time the sun finally set.  In front of us we could see the advance line of the Federal troops.  They were in a precarious position, but we also knew what lay behind them.

The order was given to charge bayonets!  The Rebel yelled sounded from thousands of throats as our line surged forward.  As we did, the bands, their notes still audible over the sounds of the battlefield, began to play "The Bonnie Blue Flag."  We were close enough to make out the faces of our Northern opponents.  Many looked scared, uncertain as to what to do their officers yelling orders for them to hold fast.  They leveled their rifles and then all hell exploded in our faces.

Today, Dear Readers, marks the 149th Anniversary of the Battle of Franklin.  20,000 men of the Army of Tennessee made that brave, ill advised, and oft forgotten charge on that beautiful November afternoon.  Over 6,000 of them would be killed or wounded by the time the smoke cleared.

On this, the anniversary of the battle, let us never forget the brave men who made the charge, nor the equally brave men who opposed it.

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

Postscript:  My ancestors were with the following regiments in this fight:

1st Louisiana Infantry
10 Texas Cavalry (dismounted)
14th Texas Cavalry (dismounted)
33rd Alabama Infantry
24th Texas Cavalry (dismounted)
1st Tennessee Infantry
48th Tennessee Infantry
9th Tennessee Cavalry
19th Tennessee Cavalry

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The War's Defining Moment

Dear Readers,

When pondering the Civil War, as I often do in my spare time, my mind is drawn to certain events which I think define the war, or at least they do in my mind.  Among those topics which my mind seems drawn to are the Irish Brigade assaulting Marye's Heights, Stonewall Jackson standing, well, like a stone wall, Pickett's Charge (of course), George H. Thomas at Chickamauga, and the Peach Orchard at Shiloh.

Those are just a few.  The war was made up of moments like these, too numerous to count and too numerous to include in a simple blog post.  Since I am a historian of the Western Theater, the single event that sums up the war for me is the Confederate assault at Franklin, Tennessee on November 30, 1864.  Most of the men who made the attack were veterans.  They knew what happened to infantry who assaulted fixed positions, yet they went anyway.  This was a point where the Lost Cause really was, yet they went anyway.  Oh to be a witness to that gallant charge as they moved forward, flags flying, bands playing.  The Army of Tennessee marched into immortality, yet few but the serious Civil War student even know the truth of what happened on that fateful November afternoon.

That, dear readers, sums up the entire war in my mind, both the gallantry and the carnage.  So my question to you is this: What, if any, single event defines the war for you?

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who wishes all my readers a Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Civil War: The Untold Story Interview


Today we have a very special post.  I had the good fortune to interview Chris Wheeler, producer/director of the upcoming Civil War documentary The Untold Story.  It focuses on the Western, yes, you read that correctly, the Western Theater!  You may see a trailer for it here.

1.     Could you please tell me a little bit about yourself and the project?

We have been producing historical documentaries for more than 20 years.  Some may remember “How the West Was Lost,” a 13-part series that aired on Discovery.  We’ve also produced films on the Korean War and John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission.  Additionally, we have produced Visitor Center films for more than 25 National Park sites.  These sites also include many of our National Battlefields.  That is how we began this journey of producing “Civil War: the Untold Story.”

2.    Why did you choose the Western Theatre as your subject?

In 2010, we began producing the new film for Shiloh National Military Park.  The next year, we began production on a new film for Chickamauga & Chattanooga NMP.  In 2012, we began working on the new film for Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.  Through the process of creating films on these specific battles, we began to gain a deeper understanding of the significance of the Western Theatre. While this story is well-known amongst historians, we felt it was relatively ‘untold’ to most Americans.  The National Park Service kindly gave us permission to use the battle scenes created for the Shiloh, Chickamauga, and Kennesaw films. Having access to this footage became the impetus to produce a series that looks at Civil War through the lens of the Western Theatre.

3.    What is one of the biggest challenges in making a Civil War documentary?

From a business perspective, the biggest challenge has been raising the dollars needed to create a quality 5-hour series. From an editorial perspective, the biggest challenge is: trying the get my head around the volumous and complicated story of our Civil War.  It’s difficult to fully understand a single battle such as Shiloh, but even more difficult when trying to put these battles into context of the larger story of the Civil War. Fortunately, we have had excellent guidance from historians from the National Park Service as well as distinguished professors from major universities.  Another challenge has been trying to edit down all the stories to 5 hours.  It’s not nearly enough to fully tell the story of the Civil War. We will be criticized for not including certain battles or events, something that I think is understandable.  But the reality of producing any film comes down to dollars.  If we had a larger budget, we could produce something more comprehensive.  As it is, we have had to make difficult choices regarding what to include, and what not.

4.    What would you like for viewers to take away from watching Civil War: The Untold Story?

Our primary storylines are:

a.    Looking at the war through the lens of the Western Theater – the lands between the Appalachians and the Mississippi River. Instead of what was happening in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, our series features such as battles as Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Kennesaw Mountain, and Atlanta.
b.    Telling the story the African American experience is an important goal.  Every hour devotes time to the African American experience - from enslaved, to ‘contraband,’ to emancipated, to fighting to defend freedom
c.    The Southern Civilian experience.  The entire Western Theater was fought in southern states.  Thus, the war experience was much different – and in many ways more personal – than for those in the North.  In Western Campaign, cities like Corinth, Vicksburg, and Atlanta were destroyed.  Civilians become caught in the crossfire between the large armies of the Union and Confederacy.  Perhaps the most graphic example is at Vicksburg, where hundreds of civilians build caves to protect themselves from Union artillery. In the Western Theater, thousands are displaced. Many have their homes plundered or destroyed.  As Dr. Amy Murrell Taylor puts it: “No longer was the war something far, at a distance, something that was on some remote battlefield.  What it showed is that that kind of distance between home front and battlefield had collapsed, that really, there wasn’t much of a distinction anymore and the war was now literally on people’s doorsteps.”  So the war experience for those in the South in dramatically different from those in the North.
d.    Abraham Lincoln – for the millions that saw Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” we think our series can be regarded as a ‘prequel.’  Spielberg’s film begins in January 1865, around the time our series ends. Those watching our series will gain a great understanding Lincoln’s trials during the war. 
As producers, we acknowledge that this is a painful story to hear, even 150 years later.  In many ways, the wounds are still fresh. Ultimately, we hope that our film can help promote healing in a nation that is arguably as divided as we were in 1861.

5.    As best you can, please describe the process that went into making The Untold Story?

It begins with devoting a great deal of time to researching the story.  From the research emerges an outline, then a first draft script.  A team of historians then review the scripts and give us feedback.  The script is revised.  Concurrent with the script process is the planning of battle recreations.  The filming of these scenes if very much like creating a feature film.  Makeup and special effects are important tools used to create authentic and dramatic battle scenes.  Once filming is completed, we revise the scripts to best incorporate our visuals.  Our team of historians review the revised scripts.  We then begin the editing process.  Maps and other graphics are created.  Original music is composed.  One of the last tasks is recording the voiceover of our narrator, who in this case is Elizabeth McGovern, one of the stars of “Downton Abbey.”

6.    Without spoiling it for the viewers, is there any particular part of your documentary that you find particularly moving?

I am personally moved by stories of African Americans like Emma Stephenson.  She was born into slavery, then emancipated by Sherman’s army.  Emma chose to join the Union army as a battlefield nurse.  If captured, Emma would be returned to bondage. So for her and other Africans Americans joining the fight, the stakes are high. 

I am also touched by the letters between Alabaman Joshua Callaway and his wife Dulcinea.  Like so many fighting for the Confederacy, Joshua Callaway does not own slaves.  But he joins the Confederate army to protect his family and his home from the invading Union armies.  Meanwhile, Dulcinea is left behind to care for their two small children and their property.  Everyday she is faced with the reality of receiving the news of the death of Joshua.

7.    Do you have any future Civil War projects planned?

While we do not have any planned, we would like to do additional Civil War projects. I’m very interested in the Trans-Mississippi Campaign.  I also think it would be fascinating to produce a documentary taking an in depth look at the collision course North and South were on before the war.  It could be a ‘prequel’ to Civil War: the Untold Story.  It really depends on whether we can raise the funding.  Creating these kinds of films is a very expensive endeavor. 

8.    When and where can people see your film?

The series is slated to be distributed to 360+ public television stations nationwide at the end of January.  Airdates and times will be up to the discretion of local public television stations.  There is a chance that the series release will be delayed until April.  The best way to find out is by joining our Facebook page at:

Through Facebook, we can keep everyone updated on the project status and also let folks know where and when the series will be airing. 

The Civil War Addict would like to say a special thank you to Mr. Wheeler for taking the time out of his schedule to do this interview.  Please visit their facebook page for more video previews and to stay up to date with all the latest news.  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My Bookshelf


Since we have been discussing the written word this week, I thought I would take a moment today to mention my current reading project.  I am (slowly) working my way through The Bloody Crucible of Courage by Brent Nosworthy.  You can find it here.  It is a fairly weighty tome, coming in at 752 pages.  That breaks down into 660 pages of text and 68 pages of notes/bibliography.  The remainder belongs to the index.  The author sets out to examine not just the fighting methods of the Civil War, but also place it alongside the combat experience of the soldiers.

It is a massive undertaking!  This book is not for the faint of heart.  Only serious Civil War students would enjoy this.  Mr. Nosworthy seeks to set the Civil War within the context of other military tactical and technological developments from Europe which took place before and after our Civil War.  To that end, I think he does a very good job.  Plus, he includes a lot of tactical maps which I love!  I could stare at a battlefield map all day.  But for those who want a really good examination of all matters tactical and technological, this is the book you'll want to read.

Dear Readers, do you ever find yourself reading a Civil War book and saying "D--n!  I wish I had written that!"  Alas, I do.  And all too often.  So I will leave you with this question, "What Civil War book are you currently reading?"

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who is happy to announce an upcoming special blog post featuring an interview with the producer/director of a documentary on the Western Theater that will air in the spring.  Stay tuned for more!

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Writer's Life (Part 2)


In keeping with my previous post asking if you could write a Civil War book, what would it be, I decided to take a different approach with this post.  The Civil War has given us a veritable treasure trove of literature that grows every year.  I read an estimate that was published in 1997 saying that we had over 50,000 Civil War titles.  I'd love to know how much we have now.  I was at Barnes and Nobles the other day and I was actually surprised to see that the World War 2 section was twice as big as the Civil War section.  Though I hate to use the term, those are our two "popular" wars and in the past the local B&N has given them equal shelf space.  Does this mean that interest in the war is fading?

Some Civil War topics seem to get more attention than others.  Just compare the number of books on Gettysburg to the number of books on Franklin for an illustration of that statement.  So here is my question for you, Dear Reader, what Civil War topic do we NOT need another book about?

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who apologizes for the short post, but I am headed off to be a guest speaker on Civil War Medicine in my little redhead's US History classes this morning.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Civil War Writer's Life


I've been a little nostalgic of late.  I'm not sure why.  Perhaps it is due to approaching holidays.  Or maybe it is due to the fact that I am not getting any younger.  For some reason I have found myself thinking a lot about my graduate school days.  I got my Master's Degree in History from here.  As anyone who has attended graduate school in any subject knows, it can be both the best of times or the worse of times (to quote Dickens).  I had a decent experience in graduate school, primarily because that is where I met my little redhead.  In fact, I met her in a Civil War class.  The teacher was lecturing about King Cotton and I reached over and took her folder and quickly sketched a picture of a cotton ball wearing a crown.  I guess there are worse ways to meet one's future spouse.  She still has the notebook too.  Of course, I took her to Dairy Queen for our first date and luckily that didn't end the relationship!

When thinking about graduate school it has left me thinking about all of the Civil War papers that I have written both as an undergraduate and a graduate student.  You know, academic papers are kind of like ex-girlfriends in that you tend to only remember the bad ones!  Not all of the papers I wrote were about Civil War subjects.  I wrote a really good (or at least I thought) paper on the growing influence of politics on the German Army during the 1930s.  I wrote another one on slavery in Texas.  That one fell into the bad girlfriend category.  The professor agreed.  My favorite paper had to be the one I wrote on the impact of the terrain on the Battle of Shiloh.  I argued that given the conditions of their army that there was very little chance of the Confederates finishing off the Northern Army as the sun set on April 6th.  Others may disagree, of course, but it was my paper!

What amuses me to no end is that military historians like myself are often seen as the redheaded stepchild of the academic world.  (No offense meant to my wife!)  But if you look at the bookshelves at you local bookstore or take a gander at Amazon or Kindle, you'll note that military history sells very well.  There seems to be a huge disconnect between academic historians and the reading public.  I am okay with that.  Go ahead and write your massive tome on the impact of cotton underwear on farm prices in Central Alabama in December of 1862.  I'll stick to reading about the Battle of Shiloh.  Or Franklin.  Or even Gettysburg!

So I'll leave you to ponder this question, Dear Readers.  If you could write a Civil War book, what would it be?  (Let's stick with non-fiction for this one.)

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who is just happy he has time to read.

The Civil War Addict giving a tour of San
Jacinto State Park.  Sat. Nov. 16, 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I Have Returned!


Just like General Douglas MacArthur (who's father was a Civil War veteran), I have returned.  All of you have my sincerest apologies for my dropping off the face of the earth.  Actually, I didn't really do that.  I'm still in La Porte.  But nonetheless, here I am.  I am teaching nine, yes you read that right, nine classes this semester including one that I have never taught before and it is literally kicking my ever living Irish-American butt!

Today I had the opportunity to lead a group of my students (and my wife's students) on a tour of the San Jacinto Battlefield.  For those of you who don't know, this is the spot where Texas won their independence from Mexico.  Today the park is surrounded by the lovely glow of chemical plants.  My first law enforcement job was with the State Parks and Wildlife Department and I was assigned there as a Park Police Officer.  (In some states they call them Park in the Park Rangers who carry guns.  Here we call them Park Police.)  I even got to live in a house on the park property!

So as I was wandering the battlefield today with the students, I remembered the last time I visited a battlefield and that happened to be Shiloh.  I believe if you look down in my earlier posts I referenced that trip.  That got me to thinking that I have really let my blog go to waste and I needed to remedy that.  Luckily I still remember my password!

I am teaching about the Civil War right now in my 1301 courses and to be honest, it is hard.  I've literally spent my entire life either studying or reenacting the war.  When you have gained such a body of knowledge about something it is often difficult to decide what to include in a class and what to leave out.  This is a basic US History survey course and so it doesn't call for a level of detail that one might want to include.  Many of my fellow colleagues run out of time and don't even cover the war at all.  That is a travesty if you ask me.  I move fairly quickly through the semester so that I can include ample time for studying what people far smarter than me have called the defining event in American History.

Here is how I cover it:

Class 1:  Election of Lincoln through First Manassas
Class 2:  1862 (Including fall of New Orleans, Shiloh, McClellan in Virginia, Antietam, The Proclamation)
Class 3: 1863 (Battle of Galveston, Gettysburg, Draft Riots, Sabine Pass)
Class 4: 1864-5  (Wilderness Campaign, March to the Sea, Franklin/Nashville, Appomattox)
Class 5: Civil War Medicine

I am a military historian and so I focus a lot on that, but of course we also draw in a little of the social history while we move along.  My students have always told me that my Civil War lectures are the best ones that I do, but that could also be because it is the end of the semester and they know that they'll be done listening to me beat my gums for 3 hours a week soon!

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who must apologize over and over again to all my readers for disappearing!

Monday, August 19, 2013

I Shall Return!

My dear friends,

I have not forgotten you!  With my wife being gone for the funeral and me trying to get ready to start teaching again next week, I have been busier than a one legged man in an a$$ kicking contest.  I am busier now than I can ever remember being, and that includes the times when I had a heavy case load in my now previous life.

I PROMISE that I will have a Civil War related post for you by the end of the week.  I am elbow deep in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome right now, so the Roman civil wars are the ones that I am working one now.  So Friends, Romans, Countrymen, I don't need you to lend me your ears, but I will gladly accept topic suggestions should you have any.  Post them in the comments below or reply on Google plus.  All will be considered.

My name is Lee Hutch and I have been a busy Civil War Addict.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Death In The Family


My wife's grandmother passed away yesterday morning.  She was sitting in her favorite chair and reading a book at the time.  That is certainly how I want to go.  She lived in a small town in Missouri.  My wife is flying back Monday afternoon.  With my back issues, I am unable to travel long distances and I am having another series of injections on Monday morning.  The Civil War Addict blog with be silent for the next several days.  Please keep my wife and her family in your prayers, if you are religious.  If not, then send us some positive energy.

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

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

From Garryowen to Glory


First let me state that I am still alive.  My wife did read Monday's post and thought it was funny.  So I was allowed to live and post again.  It was a close one.  Hell hath no fury like an angry German redhead.

As some of my loyal readers know by now, I live with five cats.  I have always felt that our animal companions should have "people" names that fit their personality.  So as a History Addict, mine are named after historical/literary personages that suit the cats' personalities.  One of my cats is named George Armstrong Custer, or "Autie" as we call him.  I have had him since he was about 3 weeks old.  He was separated from his mother at way too young an age (and abandoned) and so I took him in and he has been with me ever since.  Because of those circumstances, he did not develop normally and though he grew into a big cat, he is still mentally like a kitten.  He got his name because as I watched him play with my other cat (I only had two at the time), I noticed that Simon would run into the hallway and hide behind the door.  Autie would go barreling along after him only to be ambushed as soon as he rounded the corner.  He never could figure out that Simon was waiting right on the other side of the door.

It is odd that I have a cat named after General Custer.  He is not my favorite general by a long shot.  It isn't because of his battlefield record, which wasn't bad......other than that whole Little Big Horn thing.  His performance in the Civil War is quite remarkable.  I just don't like his personality.  I've just never been a fan of those with enormous egos, be it during the Civil War or today.  I have a framed painting of his last stand hanging above my entertainment center at home.  Every morning I am greeted with Custer's demise.  Not a bad way to start the day!  And it is a reminder to me to always make sure that I know what I am getting in to.

There are other generals with less than stellar personality traits.  Braxton Bragg comes to mind!  Perhaps even McClellan.  So, dear readers, here is my question of the day.  Is there a Civil War person that you would rather run backwards, naked through a cornfield than to have to be locked in a room with?

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

Autie says share this blog with your friends!

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Civil War in My Home


My wife and I have our own Civil War, of sorts.  Most of my ancestors wore the gray.  The few that she has that served during the Civil War wore blue.  Whenever I point out that I have far more ancestors that fought during the War than she did, she usually replies that it doesn't matter since her side won.  I'm sure that getting picked on doesn't bother her.  After all, she is from Missouri.  And she is a Chiefs fan.  However, three of her ancestors served in the 9th Illinois Infantry, and that is the subject of today's post.

Just as I had ancestors who came to this country on the eve of the War, so did my wife.  They came from Germany, the Rhineland to be exact.  Since she has red hair and still has a very German temperament, I have to be on my best behavior at all times.  Anyway, when the war began, Ferdinand Cornman enlisted in the original 3 month regiment that would become the 9th Illinois Infantry.  Once his original enlistment expired, he joined up again, this time bringing his brother Monroe with him.  They were assigned to Company "I".

This is where the story gets strange.  The 9th Illinois saw combat at Shiloh.  Quite a bit of combat.  Many of my ancestors also fought there.  At one point, my ancestors in the 20th Tennessee were directly facing the 9th Illinois.  My 3rd great-grandfather actually traded shots with hers!  Naturally, mine drove hers from the field.  But as she so often points out, they won the war.  A year and a half ago, we visited Shiloh together to see this spot for ourselves.  In my previous visits, I was single and so was only concerned with where my ancestors had been.  We found where this mini Civil War took place.  Think about it, if my ancestors (or hers) were better shots, one of us may not be here today.

I raided the bookstore at the park and purchased a really nice book entitled Eyewitness at the Battle of Shiloh.  While reading through it, I found the following quote on page 40.  It was given by W.J. McMurray of the 20th Tennessee.  He said the following "The Twentieth Tennessee was following the Ninth Illinois so closely that they were on a portion of them before they could form.  A little redheaded Irish boy from Company A and I captured a First Lieutenant and two privates at the second ravine."  My 3rd great grandfather was in Company A.  He was Irish born.  And he had red hair.  Talk about strange.

In 1862, the third Cornman brother, Horatio, enlisted.  He finished the war as a Sergeant.  Ferdinand, the first to answer the call to arms, was killed at Moalton, Alabama on March 21, 1864.  Monroe survived the war.  The 9th Illinois was a good unit with an excellent combat reputation.  It does make me happy to be associated with them, even though it may be by marriage.  Still, my ancestors drove hers from the field at Shiloh, regardless of the outcome of the war!

My name is Lee Hutch and I will be a dead Civil War Addict if my wife reads this post.

Photo taken by the aforementioned redhead.  Use at your own peril.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

From Huddled Masses to Heroes


Two posts ago, I referenced some of my Irish ancestors.  Really, all I have is Irish ancestors, so it is more of a matter of picking which once to reference at a given point.  Anyway, since many of us come to an appreciation of the Civil War based on our ancestor's experiences, I thought that sharing some of my ancestors' stories might be an appropriate topic of today's post.  If it turns out to be too lengthy, please forgive me in advance.

Let us travel back in time to the year 1845.  I had relatives living in numerous Irish Counties. (Antrim, Galway, Clare, Wexford, Cork, Fermanagh, and Mayo)  This post will focus on those leaving from Galway and Wexford.  At that time, my family lived as tenant farmers, as did much of the Irish peasants.  I hate to use that term since they weren't peasants prior to the occupation and exploitation of their country by a foreign government. Nonetheless, they were treated as second class citizens in their own country.  Those in Galway were Irish speaking and unable to read and write.  Those in Wexford spoke both Irish and English and had enough schooling to be able to write their names at least.  Their lives were hard.  But they carried on as their ancestors had done and their descendants, myself included, still do.  Then disaster struck.

We now know that the blight that attacked the potato crops in Ireland probably originated in North America, an irony not lost on me.  Some accounts from the west of Ireland say that they countryside was covered in a fog the night before the blight was first discovered in 1845.  Since it is mentioned in several sources, it might very well be true, thought that had nothing to do with the blight itself.  I can only imagine the horror experienced by my family when they found their crops had been ruined by this unknown enemy.  The first year did not effect the entire crop in the whole country, and so there was enough left to carry on.  And then it came again.  And again.  And again.  Soon, starvation and disease ravaged the countryside.  Scenes like the below were all too familiar

I don't know at what point my family decided to leave.  I don't know for sure if it was an actual choice or if they were evicted.  Regardless, they made their way down roads littered with corpses, sometimes witnessing starving dogs eating the human remains, only to book a passage on a ship that would turn out to be a almost as dangerous as remaining behind in Ireland.  The Coffin Ships that they sailed on were not meant for comfort.  In fact, some of the same ships that carried the Irish to America a few years before had carried slaves from Africa.  And in similar conditions.  My family would have spent most of their time below decks in truly disgusting conditions.  Imagine people who were already weakened from the hunger or disease crammed into a small space that rocked back and forth constantly.  They lived, ate, and slept in absolute filth.  The space reeking of unwashed bodies, vomit, urine, feces, and above all, death.  It was not abnormal for as many as a third of the passengers to die on this trip.  It has been said by smarter people than I that if you could walk from Cork to New York City along the body of the Atlantic that you could so so without ever stepping on the ocean floor.  You could just step from one Irish body to another the entire way.

These two branches of my family arrived in the United States but in two different locations.  One ship landed in New Orleans and one in New York.  My family who came in through New Orleans fared a little better than those who arrived in New York.  Though they faced hardships, it was nowhere near as bad as what my family faced in New York.  The following cartoon is just one of many.  (And keep in mind this one was published in 1871!)

But when war came, they threw in their lot with their adopted part of the country.  I really doubt the enlisted "for the cause" as it were.  They didn't seem like that kind of people really.  My great-grandmother told me once that the reason her grandfather enlisted was so that he could learn useful skills.  (She knew him and that quote is directly from him.)  I always wondered what that meant.  He was a child when he came over with his family on the New Orleans trip.  I later found at what.  He was an active Fenian.  His service saw him at all of the major battles in the Western Theater and he came through it all without a scratch.  Talk about luck of the Irish!  On the New York side, my third great grandfather, who also made the trip as a teenager, enlisted in the 160th New York Infantry and was killed in Louisiana.  He is buried in the National Cemetery in Baton Rouge.  He gave his life for a country that, at the time, scorned and ridiculed him in the manner of the cartoon above.

I don't know why I am making this lengthy post.  I don't know if you are even still reading it at this point.  My ancestors were tough, proud people.  They fought against the English invaders of their country and they fought for their respective sides here in the United States as well.  England tried to eradicate them from the face of the earth.  The United States was less than welcoming.  But they survived.  And as a consequence, I am here today because of that strength.  Allow me to close with a quote from the book Paddy's Lament by Thomas Gallagher.  You will find it on page 295.  When speaking of the perseverance of the Irish immigrant, he said the following "But whatever name he goes by now.....he will forever, with his battered high hat, ragged swallow-tailed coat, dangling breeches, and bare feet, haunt not only Irish memory, but also the halls and chambers of Westminster Palace, where Parliament tried for so long, without success, to do him in."

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who only hopes that I can live in a manner to bring honor to my ancestors.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Next Generation of Addicts


I am hanging up my badge and gun.  This week I investigated my last case.  No more cancelled plans, no more middle of the night phone calls summoning me to see something that I would rather not, no more flashing lights, no more sirens, no more witness interviews or suspect interrogations, no more missed meals, no more digging through burned out homes looking for some small sample of an ignitible liquid that may or may not even be there.  After many consultations with my wife, my doctors, my trusted friends, and even a priest, I have come to the realization that my degenerated discs will no longer allow me to do this line of work.  It puts my safety at risk and, more important, the safety of the citizens who rely on people like me to protect them from themselves and others.  So I am trading in my badge and gun for cane.

I never thought I would have to make this decision until I was ready to retire, but the gods have conspired against me.  I could be angry and question why this had to happen to me, but what good would that do?  I have accepted it and now it is time to move on.  So what does all this have to do with the Civil War?

Well, being a Civil War Addict does not pay the bills.  One must do something as a source of income.  Luckily my wife is employed by a school district that pays quite well by our state's standards.  I too will be picking up the chalk again......okay, actually it is a flash drive, but you get the point.  Starting this fall I will be teaching at a couple of local community colleges.  I'll be teaching 8 classes, which is quite a bit, but a few are online which should ease the burden a little.  Standing is the one thing I can do which doesn't hurt my back and since you can't teach sitting down (or at least not very well), I am fortunate to have this opportunity.  And the opportunity comes with 3 day weekends!

I'll have the chance to influence the next generation of Civil War Addicts.  Who knows, maybe the next great Civil War historian or novelist will be one of the smiling faces I have greeting me when I walk (hobble, actually) into the classroom in a few weeks.  I have taught fairly regularly in the past but it has been a semester since I was last in the classroom.  Hopefully I haven't lost my magic touch.  The reduced strain on my back might help me to reach a full recovery, but the odds are against that.  However, it should help with the day to day pain levels.  At this point, I'd be happy with just a 25% improvement.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who is both excited and apprehensive about the path that fate has led me down.  I don't know what the future will hold anymore.  Frankly, I don't give a damn.  I know that no matter what new hurdles are placed in my path, I'll be facing them with the best friend a man could ever hope for, my cat Simon.  (And my wife too of course!)

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Night With My Ancestors


As many of you know, I struggle with degenerative disc disease.  It isn't really a disease and it is only partially degenerative, but that is what "they" chose to name it nonetheless.  A couple of nights ago I was in a lot of pain.....a LOT of pain.  I wasn't able to sleep.  Luckily I have books for those times.  I recently ordered a copy of Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly.  I decided to read it, as it wasn't like I was going to be able to sleep.  As I read those pages, my pain faded into the background and I became engrossed in the story.  It is a novel, based on the family experiences of the author.  It follows a fairly typical Irish family in Galway from the horrors of the Great Hunger (I refuse to call it a famine!) to the streets of Chicago and then on to the battlefields of the Civil War.

Yes, it is the story of her family.  But in a way, it is also the story of mine.  My ancestors also fled the disease and starvation in their native land, which they loved as only an Irishman could.  They threw in their lot with their respective states when the Civil War began.  Some fought for the North and some fought for the South.  The simple fact that the coffin ship that left on Tuesday landed in New York and the one that left on Wednesday landed in New Orleans dictated the side they fought on.  Their blood, spilled on numerous battlefields throughout our land, paid the price for our acceptance into society.

As I read the book, I felt the presence of my ancestors standing guard over me, telling me that if they could handle centuries of oppression, then I could handle chronic pain.  They have a point.  My 8th great-grandfather was "Silken" Thomas Fitzgerald who was hanged, drawn, and quartered on orders from Henry VIII for rebelling against English rule in Ireland.  What's a little back pain compared to having your intestines pulled out while you are still alive?  But in all seriousness, I felt them with me as I read a story that could have very well been their own.

I am proud to be an American.  I am prouder still to be an Irish-American.  And I am prouder yet that my Irish ancestors fought so willingly and valiantly for their adopted country.  Their spirit lives on in me, my brother, and our sons.  It is fashionable now to be "Irish".  But my family has always been Irish and not just on St. Patrick's Day.  It is both a blessing and a curse.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who would like to say 

                            FAUGH A BALLAGH!

Friday, July 26, 2013

An Angry Addict


I am making Saturday's post one day early.  I am not a happy Addict.  I want to know what a$$hat thought it would be funny to vandalize the Lincoln Memorial?  Now, I really doubt that the person (or persons) who did such a thing read my blog, but if you are the guilty party and you happen to read this, I have the following message for you.  I hope that the US Park Police find you and remove your genitals (if you have any) with a rusty spoon.  Afterwards, I hope you are locked in a small room and forced to watch Gods and Generals nonstop for seven days.  Beginning on the 8th day, I hope that you are forced to stand at the Lincoln Memorial every day for one year wearing a sign that says "I'm the a$$hat who vandalized this monument."

I don't care what your reason for the vandalism was.  I don't care if you were making a political point or simply engaging in teenage buffoonery.  You did something very, very bad and I hope you suffer the wrath of the Federal Government.  This ranks right up there with Ozzie Osbourne urinating on the cenotaph at the Alamo.  There are some things you just don't do.  I'm sure you found your prank really funny at the time.  Let's see how funny you think a jail cell is.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who doesn't suffer morons who deface national monuments gladly.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Post Gettysburg Hangover


Let me preface this post by saying two things.  I apologize for the late hour.  Second, I haven't had an adult beverage in so long that I can no longer remember the last time.  I do, however, remember what a hangover feels like.......and thus we have the subject of today's post.

Were any of you, like me, pleased with the amount of media coverage that the 150th Gettysburg event received.  It almost seemed as though, for a few days at least, the Civil War mattered.  We even had an article in the Houston Chronicle about it.  (Or the Houston Pravda as I call it!)  For an all too brief moment, the eyes of many folks in the nation were transfixed by the events in a far away town in Pennsylvania.  In a way that is somewhat reminiscent of when the battle was fought if you think about it.

But now all that has past.  I spent three days in July pondering the significance of those days in my own life.  I then spent the next day pondering the significance of the fall of Vicksburg.  I guess it was such an emotional "high" for me that I am feeling sort of let down lately.  I don't really know how to describe other than it is sort of like a Gettysburg hangover.  In a way it feels like I always felt during my reenactor days when the event ended and I realized that I had to return to the 20th Century.  Remember the line in the movie Patton when George C. Scott says "God how I hate the 20th Century."  I can surely understand his sentiment.

Am I alone in feeling this way or are any of you suffering from a post Gettysburg hangover?  I'm going to the 150th of Sabine Pass in about 5 weeks, so that will be a certain cure.

And the funniest 150th quote belongs to a colleague of mine, an educated person with a college degree, who when asked by me what he knew about Gettysburg responded with "Wasn't that Custer and the Indians?"

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who works with folks who wouldn't know Stonewall Jackson if he jumped up and kicked them in the bottom end.  (Or threw lemons at them)

EDIT: Also, dear readers, I'll hit 6000 views with this post!  And all that in three months.  THANK YOU!

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Question for My Readers


Today was a red letter day of sorts.  When I got home from work, I found that I had three new books waiting for me.  All of them are somewhat massive tomes.  I covered all of the literary bases, I think.  One is a novel about Irish immigration, one is a non-fiction book about the Battle of Britain, and the last one contains the complete works of the poet Randall Jarrell.

For those of you not familiar with Jarrell's work, he is best know for writing the short poem Death of the Ball Turret Gunner which deals with the untimely demise of a ball turret gunner on a B-17 during World War Two.  That is the one normally included in high school literature least it was back when the kids still had to read!  However, my favorite poem of his, also about World War Two, deals with a bomber pilot.  Jarrell wrote "In our bombers named for girls/We burned the cities we had read about in school."  To me, there is no finer piece of writing to sum up the Air War during World War Two.

So what does that have to do with the Civil War?  Simple.  Have you come across a particularly good poem that sums up the experiences of the Civil War?  It could be written by a participant or a more modern person.  Maybe you wrote it!  If so, I'd love to get some ideas for Civil War poems to check out.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who doesn't know poo from a shovel when it comes to poetry.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Confederate Thermopylae


September 8th marks the 150th Anniversary of another Civil War event.  It won't get as much coverage as Gettysburg.  In fact, outside of the local area, it won't get any coverage at all.  There will be a reenactment there September 6-8.  However, few will probably notice.  The event doesn't even get covered in a lot of history books about the war as it is, so it should be no surprise that it won't even register and the national radar.

What happened that day in the mosquito infested swamps of Sabine Pass, Texas was as improbable as it was memorable.  44 Irishmen under the command of their fellow countryman, Dick Dowling, turned back a 5,000 man invasion force by sinking two Federal gunboats and killing or capturing 200 sailors without suffering a single casualty in return.  Talk about the luck of the Irish!  Their commander, a bar owner in Houston prior to the war, had the men place stakes in the channel to mark the distances so that when the Federal gunboats arrived, they opened fire with deadly accuracy.

As a side note, the veterans of the Battle of Sabine Pass each received a medal, hung on a green ribbon (of course!) which had the date of the battle engraved on one side and the other side had the letters "D.G." for Davis Guards and either a Maltese Cross or a CSA Flag.  You can see a picture of one here.  It is thought to be the only medal authorized by the Confederate Congress during the duration of the war.

I grew up just a couple of miles from this battlefield.  It is a State Historical Site today, though hurricanes have wreaked havoc with it over the years.  If you would like further reading on the matter, I would suggest you check out Sabine Pass: The Confederacy's Thermopylae by Ed Cotham which you can find here.  It is an excellent introduction to this little known battle.

On a side note, I attended my first reenactment as a spectator here in 1985.  Later, I attended my first event as a participant here.  As many of you know, I have severe back problems now.  However, I will be attending the reenactment this year as my last hurrah.  There will be no more reenactments in my future and I think it fitting that I go out the same way I came Sabine Pass.  I'll be portraying a Regimental Surgeon.  So if you are in the area on September 7, stop by and check it out.  You can even meet Mrs. Civil War Addict and I.  Click here for more information.  Hope to see you there!

Dick Dowling of County Galway. Source.

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Married to a Civil War Addict


Have you ever wondered what it is like to be married to a Civil War Addict?  Our special guest poster has graciously offered to share her viewpoint.


My husband and I are considering purchasing a new TV, which in our house is a big purchase.  Today I received a text message about a 1940s Hangar Dance that will be held in our area.  The text message read "I could get a new uniform instead of the TV."  That got me thinking about what it is like being married to a Civil War Addict.

Here are just a few of the things that have come up in our five years of marriage which might be signs that you too are married to a Civil War Addict.

1.  If you have ever heard the phrase "It isn't a costume.  It is a uniform."
2.  If you have ever heard ANY quote from Gods and Generals.
3.  If your Thanksgiving Dinner includes hardtack and/or grog.  
4.  If you have ever heard "It is NOT a man purse.  It is a haversack!" 
5.  If your husband's idea of a romantic getaway includes destinations like Franklin or Shiloh.

Then you will know that you are married to a Civil War Addict.  I have enjoyed being married to my Civil War Addict very much!  It probably helps that I am a history addict too, although I enjoy different time periods.  It isn't everyone who gets to share their passions with the one that they are passionate about.

I am Mrs. Lee Hutch and I am married to a Civil War Addict.

Mrs. Lee Hutch

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Teaching the Civil War


See, I set a posting schedule and I've already had to break it.  Originally this post was for tomorrow, but I'll be getting another injection in my back tomorrow afternoon.  They give me "twilight sedation" which knocks me out cold.  Rather than run the risk of posting under the influence, I thought I'd just go ahead and do this today.

My normal daily title at work is "Deputy", however, I also have another title.  I have taught US History survey courses for several years now at a local community college, thus also earning the moniker "Professor" which is kind of amusing seeing as how I still remember sitting in those same seats myself many moons ago.  Naturally, I have the term "Adjunct" in front of my name which is almost like an epithet to some.  But not to me.  I'll be branching into Western Civ this fall as well.

Teaching a survey course, be it US, Western Civilization or World History, is rather like firing a shotgun loaded with buckshot at the past.  You'll hit some things and miss others by a mile!  Taking two US history survey courses (divided by the year 1877) in my state is the only history course the vast majority of college students will ever take.  Often times these courses are taught by adjuncts like me.  We impart what little bit of historical knowledge these students will ever get from college.  The rest will come from Pawn Stars and Dan Brown novels.  How do we compete with that?

I have taught, off and on, for six years.  (Including one year of teaching 8th grade social studies and, yes, coaching football.  I do live in Texas after all.)  Though we may bemoan the lack of general historical knowledge in the American public, I have found that students DO enjoy history.  But only if it is taught the right way.  Naturally, this includes the Civil War.  In fact, my students are fascinated by it.  There is not a dry eye in the room, mine included, when I describe Pickett's Charge.  The class erupts with laughter when I tell them about General Sickles and his somewhat amusing life.  When I talk about sacrifice and hardship, they get it.  They can understand that because, in their own way, they have faced it themselves in their day to day lives.  (Particularly our growing population of young veterans attending college.)

Am I "Professor of the Year"?  Not hardly.  After all, despite trying, I have not gotten a full time teaching position at a community college, though I have been a finalist a few times.  Academia says that military history doesn't matter.  I disagree.  When teaching about the Civil War, if they even get to it in US 1, a lot of folks spend their time discussing everything BUT the military.  They talk about politics and society.  It is almost as if the actual war was insignificant.  All those things are important.  But you have to talk about all of them.

Here is what I do and honestly, I do it because it seems to work with my students.  After all, everything I do is for them.  TALK ABOUT THE PEOPLE!  Tell their stories.  Let the students connect with them as individuals.  Make them human, not some black and white picture in a textbook.  You can cover everything and reach the majority of your students by simply talking about the people as if they are alive today.  Don't just tell them what happened.  Tell them about the people who made it happen and who lived through it.  You can't expect a student to give a coyote's rosy red behind about Pickett's Charge unless you tell them SOMETHING about the men who both made and repulsed the charge.  What were their hopes and dreams?  What about their families?  Otherwise, it is just meaningless information and numbers.

You know, I've done a lot of cool things in my day job.  I've gotten to see a lot.  I've closed major felony investigations and sent some bad hombres to prison.  I've been in a few tight spots as well.  But nothing compares to the feeling of walking into a classroom on the first day and seeing all those faces looking at you.  Those of you who have experienced that firsthand know exactly what I mean.

I apologize for delving into matters pedagogical, but if history were taught the right way, there would be more people interested in it.  After all, isn't history really one big reality show!

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who means no offense to those who don't teach like me since we all have our own quirks!  And the "History Teacher of the Year" award should go to my beautiful wife who is a high school teacher and coach.  And a d--n good one at that.