Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Vicksburg.........Without Reverse

In March of 2011, my wife and I visited Vicksburg for a few days.  It is technically the closest National Battlefield Park to where we live, but it is still a 7-8 hour drive.  We stayed at a very nice plantation home where General Grant slept following the surrender.  In fact, you can even book the room he slept in AND sleep in the same bed that he did.  (I would assume that it isn't the original mattress!)

We drove out to the battlefield to begin our tour.  My wife's car is a standard and somewhere around tour stop Number 3, she said that it wasn't going into reverse.  We decided to drive back to Cedar Grove and take a look. Sure enough, it was missing a bolt.  The people were nice enough to recommend a mechanic on the outside of town.  He took a look at it and was able to order the part.  Naturally, someone had to drive over to Jackson to pick it up!

Since the part wouldn't be there until later that afternoon, we were faced with a bit of a dilemma.  We had to leave the next day to head home.  Our whole point in going in the first place was to visit the battlefield.  So we did what any Civil War Addict would do.  I said "Damn the reverse gear!  Full steam ahead!"  Luckily given the terrain, we were able to tour the entire battlefield without reverse.  We just had to be careful where and how we parked.  Generally speaking, we could just roll out of the space if we parked on an incline.  The part arrived that afternoon and they fixed it for us.

I must say that everyone was a big help.  From the staff at Cedar Grove who helped diagnose the problem to the person who drove over to Jackson to pick up the part we needed.  I've been to Vicksburg several times and the citizens go out of their way to make you feel welcome.

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

Sunday, April 28, 2013

What is a Civil War Addict?

I wish there was an easy answer to this question.  How does one become a Civil War Addict?  Or better yet, how does one know if they are a Civil War Addict?  Is it the ability to quote Gettysburg and Gods and Generals at length.  (I hope not!)  Is it that feeling that makes me grow misty eyed when I visit battlefields.  Is it the tremendous weight of the past that presses down on me like a heavy burden and fills me with the desire to share my devotion to this time period in our history with everyone?

Bruce Catton wrote the following:

We are people to whom the past is forever speaking. We listen to it because we cannot help ourselves, for the past speaks to us with many voices. Far out of that dark nowhere which is the time before we were born, men who were flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone went through fire and storm to break a path to the future. We are part of the future they died for; they are part of the past that brought the future. What they did—the lives they lived, the sacrifices they made, the stories they told and the songs they sang and, finally, the deaths they died—make up a part of our own experience. We cannot cut ourselves off from it. It is as real to us as something that happened last week. It is a basic part of our heritage as Americans (.Bruce Catton. America Goes to War: The Civil War and Its Meaning in American Culture.Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2011. Project MUSE. Web. 28 Apr. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.)

I agree with Mr. Catton. To be a Civil War Addict is to be both blessed and cursed with the weight of the past. I cannot describe my dedication to the memory of our Civil War to most people because they don't understand. I'm lucky that my wife does. But most people do not. I am the happiest when I am visiting a battlefield or working on one of my writing projects. Maybe my obsession (if you want to call it that) is a little strange. Since I'm not teaching, this blog and my website are the only means in which I have to share my love of history with the public. One day I hope that I'll be able to work full time in some field related to the Civil War, but I'm realistic to know that it is probably just a pipe dream. But still I hope.

At least I'm in good company. It sounds like Mr. Catton was a Civil War Addict too!

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

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Shiloh Photo Tour Posted


I have posted our photo tour of Shiloh over on my homepage.  Click here for the direct link.  Note that my wife said that there are some things she wants to "clean up" with the layout of the page and what not, but the photos won't change.  Take a look.  She really does take amazing pictures. On our numerous battlefield trips, she supplies the pictures and I supply the panache.

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

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fighting Fools

Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse, Cold Harbor.  No, this isn’t a National Park Service commercial.  It is a list of the major engagements of which the “Fighting Fools” of the 8th Ohio Infantry took part.  Now, the vast majority of my ancestors were Confederates who fought in the Western Theater.  (And two Federal ancestors who did as well.)  But I do have a handful of ancestors (three Confederate and two Federal) who fought in the, “gasp”, Eastern Theater!

My two “Yankee” ancestors weren’t true Yankees I suppose because they were immigrants.  When the war began, they enlisted in the 8th Ohio Infantry for 90 days.  Once their enlistments expired, they reenlisted for three years.  After the three years were up, one of them went home and his brother joined the 4th Ohio Battalion for the duration of the war.

The 8th Ohio was part of the “Gibraltar Brigade” and their exploits at Antietam and Gettysburg earned them the respect of friend and foe alike.  There are some good references available for them online.  Check them out if you are interested.  Click here for a really good list of sources or here for some more!

You know, if I had to have ancestors fighting in that little sideshow in the East, the 8th Ohio is a good regiment for them to have belonged.

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

(My wife was discharged from the hospital this morning and is recovering nicely.  Thank you for all of your prayers and well wishes.)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Of Men and Meninges

I've been in a hospital since Monday morning with my wife.  It has allowed me ample time to observe modern medicine in action.  Or inaction.  Three doctors look at the same test results and all three tell you something different.  At least a Civil War doctor would amputate something!  But finally, it looks like the doctors have agreed.

The experience has caused me to reflect on illness during the Civil War.  The microbe killed more than the Minie Ball.  Diarrhea killed more men than combat.  And as often as I have seen people flailing around at reenactments pretending to have been shot, I wonder why you don't see more of them running wildly towards the latrine.  That would be more accurate.  Though both are somewhat inappropriate.

When you have a spouse diagnosed with something that would have been fatal during the 19th Century, it makes you stop and think.  Or at least it makes me stop and think.  Luckily she will be okay.  I cannot express how relieved I am.  I don't know what I would do if I lost my tour partner.  A Civil War battlefield just wouldn't be the same without my little redhead.

And if you are in the mood for some cheerful medical reading, check out the multiple volume Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. It should be standard reading at Medical Schools.

I am Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Reflections on Shiloh and Life

Every Civil War Addict has their own favorite battlefield.  Shiloh is mine.  I first visited Shiloh as a teenager and was struck by the quiet beauty of the place.  When I closed my eyes, I could hear the echo of the cannons.  At that time I was unaware of the ancestors I had who fought there, but that should have been obvious to me given the almost visceral connection I felt from the moment I entered the park.

In March of 2012 my wife and I visited Shiloh together.  She too had ancestors who fought there.  At one point in the battle, her ancestors in the 9th Illinois were directly opposite a regiment with my ancestors.  This was not an easy trip for us to make financially.  The college had limited the number of classes that we adjuncts were allowed to teach and I had to take off (without pay) from my part time police job.  We almost didn't make it, but still, Shiloh beckoned.

On this expedition we spent a day and a half at the park.  I hoped that making the journey despite the potential hardships might help give me some sense of direction as to where I wanted my love of history to take me.  I left with enough memories to last a lifetime.  God blessed me with a wife who enjoys history as much as I do.  We even visited Civil War battlefields on our honeymoon.  Not many guys can say that.

I am sitting beside her hospital bed as I type this post.  We are awaiting tests and test results.  I have faith that things will turn out okay.  They have to.  After all, Shiloh still beckons.

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

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Western Theater Documentary!

I came across a post over at the Armchair General Forum which had links to a new documentary that should be out in 2014.  You can see the trailer here and view their Facebook page here.  If the trailer is any indication, this quite possibly could be the best Civil War documentary I have ever seen.  And that is saying a lot!

Of course, as a Western Theater historian and enthusiast, I may be a little biased.  Please keep an eye out for the release and help spread the word.  The Federal and Confederate soldiers who fought in the Western Theater earned the right to have their story told.

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

EDIT:  And Happy San Jacinto Day to all!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

My First Battlefield Visit

I believe the year was 1986.  My parents took my brother and I to watch the reenactment of the Battle of Sabine Pass.  Since I grew up in the exotic town of Port Arthur, Texas, it was a very short drive out there.  I had no idea that I had grown up just a few miles from the site of one of the most improbable victories in the annals of military history.  (Okay, so I may be exaggerating a little.)

I remember watching the recreated battle and being amazed by the sound of the artillery and rifles.  They even had a mock ironclad (the USS Clifton, I believe) offshore firing at the Confederates.  Afterwards, we walked through the camp and I got to talk to some of the participants and also get some pictures taken.

Fast forward to 1997.  I participated in my first reenactment.  I was now reenacting the Battle of Sabine Pass just as I had seen done 11 years earlier.  What a thrill!  I have been reenacting off and on ever since, though sadly not as much as I would like.

Anytime someone questions the money I've spent on Civil War gear, or books, or trips, or movies, or anything else related to that, I look back to the September day in 1986 and blame my parents for taking me out there in the first place!

I am Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


I was lucky enough to give two presentations this week on the Battle of Nashville.  It is nights like these that make me miss being in a classroom.  Last night I had a gentleman tell me that "it is almost like you could see the battle and were just describing it for us."  I take that to be a compliment of the highest order.

Here I am giving the presentation! (Credit to my hot redheaded wife who took the picture.)  I've gained some weight since I quit smoking.

And our thoughts are prayers are with the men and women of the fire and police agencies in McLennan County Texas which includes the towns of West and Waco.  

First Tennessee Infantry

As part of my blog, I will profile units in which my ancestors served.  I will trade off between Confederate and Federal units.  I'll begin with the famed First Tennessee Infantry.  Many people may be familiar with them because of the wonderful memoir written by Sam Watkins.  He served in Company H.  My ancestors served primarily in Company G, also raised in Maury County.

Without getting bogged down in details, the 1st Tennessee fought at Shiloh, Perryville, Stones River, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Franklin, Nashville, and Bentonville.  They were fearless on the attack and tenacious on the defense.  The men of the 1st Tennessee stayed the course until the bitter end.

I am related by blood or marriage to the following:

Morgan Fitzgerald
Haywood Taylor
Henderson Vestal (killed at Perryville)
John L. Jacobs

There are even folks in England that reenact as members of the 1st Tennessee.  That is pretty cool.

My next regimental post will discuss the "Fightin' Fools" of the 8th Ohio Infantry.

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

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hard Luck Soldiers

If I close my eyes, I can smell the powder and hear the cannons.  Federal troops advance across a cornfield, taking casualties from artillery fire.  They move up a hill and charge the Confederate entrenchments.  Minnesota troops plant their battle flag atop the Confederate positions.
Lieutenant Colonel William Shy is shot in the head as he attempts to stem the raging torrent of Federal troops.  The Confederate defense collapses.  1500 men are captured.  Thousands more stream towards the rear, trying to escape total disaster.
Federal Cavalry come within 700 yards of cutting off their escape.  But the Army of Tennessee stages a fighting withdrawal that allows thousands of men to reach safety across the Tennessee state line.  Though they would fight again in smaller actions, the Battle of Nashville marks the dénouement for the Army of Tennessee, the Confederacy’s hard luck soldiers. 

I am always partial to the underdog and in the American Civil War, the soldiers of the Army of Tennessee were the ultimate underdogs.  Plagued by bad leadership at the top and political interference, they fought fanatically against a foe superior in numbers and material.  Their greatest victory at Chickamauga proved hollow.  Their worst defeat at Nashville nearly destroyed them.  There are no major motion pictures devoted to their service.  They died along  the muddy hollows around Shiloh Church, the fields of Perryville, the high ground of Kennesaw Mountain, and the cold, wet earth outside Nashville.  Pound for pound they were some of the toughest troops our country has ever produced, yet we barely remember them now.

I salute the Confederate soldiers of the Army of Tennessee along with their Western Federal opponents.  Fortes creantur fortibus. 

I am Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War addict. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

In Honor of My Ancestors

I would like to list the regiments in which my ancestors served.  Note that both sides are represented.  In the future I will talk more about some of their individual stories, but in the meantime, here is the list.


33rd Alabama Infantry
43rd Alabama Infantry
4th Alabama Cavalry
11th Arkansas Infantry
4th Louisiana Infantry
6th Louisiana Infantry
1st Tennessee Infantry
2nd Tennessee Infantry
20th Tennessee Infantry
24th Tennessee Infantry
48th Tennessee Infantry
1st Tennessee Cavalry
9th Tennessee Cavalry
11th Tennessee Cavalry
19th Tennessee Cavalry
22nd Tennessee Cavalry
Sparkman's Light Artillery (aka Maury Artillery, TN)
11th Texas Cavalry
13th Texas Cavalry
14th Texas Cavalry
36th Texas Cavalry
37th Texas Cavalry
4th Texas Infantry


7th Illinois Infantry
8th Ohio Infantry
160th New York Infantry
98th New York National Guard

Brave men, all.

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

The First Step

They say the first step is admitting that you have a problem.

When I was five years old I checked out my first book from the Port Arthur Public Library.  It was a picture book about the Civil War.  I don't know the name of it, but I do remember that it was a big book (at least in my five year old mind) and had a hard red cover.  I have been addicted to the war ever since.

It certainly didn't help matters that I grew up around my great-grandmother who was born in 1898.  She knew several Confederate veterans as a child and even attended a United Confederate Veterans reunion with her Uncle.  When she wasn't threatening to "settle my hash", she told me stories about the veterans she had known in her childhood.  She and I probably watched Gone With the Wind about a hundred times!  It was her favorite movie.  Thanks to her, I'll never wear a hat inside.  She has been gone for 19 years, but I still miss her.

I cannot explain the deep abiding passion I have for the Civil War.  It is certainly stronger than my fear of clowns.  Or my love of redheads..  Since I first opened that book 30 years ago, I have been unable to escape the hold that the Civil War has on me.

This blog will explore some of the areas of the war that are of particular interest to me.  And I will also explore why I have this connection with those traumatic years.  Maybe I will find some answers.  And maybe I will just end up with more questions.

I have been an occasional adjunct history instructor, though adjuncting is a tough way to make a living.  So I work full time in a field unrelated to history by day and study the past by night.  I am available to give presentations on Civil War topics anywhere in the Greater Houston/Southeast Texas area.  I normally do several each year and I always have room for one more.

My name is Lee Hutch.  And I am a Civil War addict.