Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, I would like to remember a few of my Civil War ancestors who gave their lives for what they believed in.

1.  Henderson Vestal, 1st TN Infantry, Killed at Perryville
2.  David Martindale, 4th TX Infantry, Killed at Antietam
3.  Thomas Godkin, 160th NY Infantry, Killed in a skirmish with Confederates in Louisiana, 1864
4.  Edmund Fitzgerald, 24th TN Infantry, Killed at Shiloh
5.  William Cincinnati Pearson, 43rd AL Infantry, Killed at the Battle of the Crater

This holiday has its origin in the post Civil War era where it was formerly known as Decoration Day.  So as we remember veterans of more recent wars, please take a minute and remember veterans of more distant wars as well.

Fortes Creantur Fortibus

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

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Post War Life


I have been suffering from a herniated lumbar disc for the past 6 months or so.  It was brought on by years of mistreating my back.  Having been a firefighter, patrol officer, and now an arson investigator is not something that is easy on the joints.  The word suffering doesn't come close to describing the pain either.  We all have our crosses to bear.  This is mine.

Soldiering in any era is a difficult and demanding task.  I've been wondering about how their service effected soldiers in the post Civil War era.  How many of them spent a lifetime in pain brought on by long marches, carrying heavy loads, and sleeping outdoors in all sorts of weather.  Today at least, we know ways that we can ease the pain associated with these conditions either through medication or exercise.  Back then there wasn't a whole lot they could do.  I can recall one particular line from the tune "Good Old Rebel" which states "I caught the rheumatism a-camping in the snow."  I could not imagine dealing with what I am in a world that did not have NSAIDs and sleep aids.  But our ancestors did just that.

So on this Memorial Day Weekend, let us not only remember those Civil War soldiers who gave their lives in combat, but also those who spent the rest of their lives in pain, both physical and mental, because of their service.

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

Monday, May 20, 2013

Best Brigade?

I previously pontificated about Civil War commanders.  Today I've been thinking about those following the commanders.  The question that I've been asking myself  is simple to ask but hard to answer.  If you could pick one and only one brigade from either side to either attack or defend, which brigade would that be?

On the Northern side, I immediately think of the Irish Brigade, the Iron Brigade, or the Gibraltar Brigade.  Of course, those aren't the only options.  On the Confederate side, the Texan in me immediately wants to yell out "Hood's Texas Brigade."  But what about Granbury's Texans?  Or the Stonewall Brigade?  As I ponder the possibilities, my head feels like it is going to burst!

This is not to take away from all of the brave soldiers on both sides who did not serve in a "famous" brigade. But I am left to wonder which troops might be considered the "best" or to phrase it another way, "elite."  I've thought about this all day and I have to confess that I am unable to narrow it down.

Can you?

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

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Two Generals, Two Towns, Two Tornadoes

My thoughts this week are with my fellow Texans who were struck by a series of tornadoes earlier this week.  Two of the towns hit by the storms were Granbury and Cleburne.  Now, I am sure that Civil War Addicts already knew this, but the towns were named for Confederate generals.

Hiram Granbury, a Mississippi native, moved to Waco, Texas as a young man.  He enlisted in the 7th Texas Infantry and was elected Major.  By the Tennessee Campaign of 1864, he commanded a brigade made up of several Texas regiments.  None other than General Patrick Cleburne called Granbury's Texas Brigade a "Band of Heroes".  Granbury was killed leading his men into battle at Franklin on November 30, 1864.  His last words were "Forward, men, forward!  Never let it be said that Texans lag in a fight!"

General Patrick Cleburne, a native of Ireland, served in the British Army before immigrating to the United States.  He found himself living in Arkansas prior to the war.  When the Civil War began, he enlisted as a private in the Yell Rifles and was later elected captain.  By 1864 he was a division commander in the Army of Tennessee.  His chances for greater promotion were destroyed by his proposal to free the slaves in exchange for military service.  But his troops were some of the best the Confederacy had to offer.  Like his subordinate Hiram Granbury, General Cleburne was killed leading his division into combat at Franklin.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the citizens of these towns as they recover from Mother Nature's wrath.

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

P.S.  Sherman, Texas is named after Sidney Sherman, not William T. Sherman!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Civil War "Characters"

The Civil War truly is the American Iliad.  Where else can we find the likes of Benjamin Butler, Daniel Sickles, or Braxton Bragg?  I know that some other time periods may come close, but in my humble opinion, none can rival the Civil War era for the sheer number of charlatans!

Maybe I am wrong, but we just don't have the same kind of folks now that we did back then.  Take Sickles for instance.  He murdered his wife's lover in broad daylight, introduced a prostitute to Queen Victoria, and lost a leg at Gettysburg.  (He did save the leg and donated it to a museum.  He would visit it on occasion.)  Despite this, he went on to a successful postwar career!  Sickles was even awarded the Medal of Honor 34 years after he earned it.

Daniel Sickles would get my vote for Civil War era charlatans.  But there are others.  "Spoons" Butler, for example.  My point is that our history is rich with heroes and villains alike.  Sometimes the line between the two may get a little blurry.

Who is your favorite Civil War Charlatan?

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

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Civil War Dream Team

I have been thinking lately about Civil War commanders.  We all have different opinions on what makes a good leader.  I have always thought that the best commanders (or the best bosses in the regular world) put the needs of their people first.  Somewhere along the way I read a quote that said the best commanders put their butts on the line to protect their people, not their people on the line to protect their own butt.  I have tried to consider the Civil War in light of that quote.

As I ponder Civil War commanders and their leadership abilities, I look at one commander from each side.  First, I think of General Hancock.  What Civil War Addict could forget his famous quote at Gettysburg?  When urged to remove himself from the field of fire during Pickett's Charge, he replied "There are times when a Corps commander's life doesn't count."  He was wounded during the attack and refused to go to the rear, instead choosing to remain behind and see his men through the engagement.

On the Confederate side, I think of General Patrick Cleburne.  With his many battlefield successes, he always gave credit to his men.  At his last battle, Franklin, he was killed leading his troops into battle.  General Cleburne was last seen on foot with his sword raised and kepi in the air.  He died leading brave men into battle.

Both of these men are, in my opinion, good leaders and good commanders.  I think we'd all love to have a boss like this in the modern world.  If you are looking for examples of good leadership, look no further than Generals Hancock and Cleburne.  These are in my opinion two of the best commanders of the war.

Who are your picks?

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

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Civil War Fiction

I received my copy of Hell or Richmond by Ralph Peters today.  Obviously I cannot comment on it yet since it just arrived.  But it got me thinking about Civil War fiction.  I have a large collection of Civil War novels.  It is not as large as my collection of non-fiction, of course.  I know there are quite a few history types out there that don't read historical fiction.  However, I have always read both.

I have my favorite Civil War novels just as I have my favorite battlefields, non-fiction books, and generals.  I am far from being a literary critic, though my minor was English literature/creative writing.  Many people have asked me in the past what my favorite Civil War novel is.  The answer surprises some folks who think that I'll go along with the "industry standard" which seems to be The Killer Angels.

My favorite Civil War novel is The Black Flower by Howard Bahr.  It concerns my favorite battle.....the Battle of Franklin.  So I guess it is only natural that I prefer this novel to all others.

What is your favorite Civil War novel?

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

Monday, May 6, 2013

The War Within

My career has exposed me to things that sometimes I would have rather not seen.  I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me on occasion.  I think if you talk to anyone who is involved in fire/ems/law enforcement, they'd tell you the same.....if they were being honest.  As a former adjunct history professor (and soon to be again I hope), I have also had the pleasure of teaching many veterans in class.  Some of them were suffering what we call PTSD in the modern era, though it has had many names in the past.  As long as humans have experienced trauma outside the realm of everyday experience, they have suffered from this issue.

Being a Civil War Addict, I often wonder about those hidden casualties of the war.  How many soldiers on both sides went home still reliving the war each night in their dreams?  How many of them were never able to function fully in society again?  These are the war's unseen and often uncounted victims.  And it isn't just the soldiers either.  Civilians faced the harsh realities of war as well, though not on the same level as in Europe during World War 2.  Think of the children who, while sheltered in basements, heard battles raging outside.  Or witnessed the awful carnage of having a field hospital set up in their yard or home.  To think that they faced all this and went on about their lives as if nothing had ever happened is simply not accurate.

Within the past few years, there has been some recent scholarship on this issue, however it is still vastly unstudied.  We would rather talk about what happened during Pickett's Charge rather than what happened to the soldiers who survived it but were never quite the same again.  Plus, the records are difficult to piece together.  It isn't a "sexy" topic, but it is one that we do need to understand.

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

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Civil War Time Traveller

If you could go back in time and witness one (and only one) Civil War event, which would it be?  Would you want to see Jackson standing like a stone wall?  Perhaps you would want to see Robert E. Lee attempting to lead the Texas brigade into combat at the Battle of the Wilderness.  The options are endless.

For me the answer is simple.  I would like to return to the afternoon of November 30, 1864 at around 4 pm.  I want to feel the ground shake as 19,000 Confederate soldiers march in unison across what will become a valley of death.  I want to see the battle line which stretched for 2 miles across the valley.  I want to see 200 battle flags bathing the column in a sea of red.  I want to hear the rebel yell echoing through the air.

Yes friends, I would like to witness the opening minutes of the Battle of Franklin.  But just the opening minutes.

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

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Stonewall Jackson and the Moon

Dear Readers,

I was shocked to see that CNN had a story on their website today about the Civil War.  Apparently a full moon had something to do with the death of Stonewall Jackson.  Click here for the story.  It is an interesting take on things.

The history books have always said it was a case of mistaken identity, obviously.  (I rather doubt they would have shot him on purpose.)  I am just happy that a national news organization had a Civil War story.

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