Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Michael Hutcheson in the "History of the Twenty-Seventh Arkansas Confederate Infantry"

Last week I ordered a copy of Silas C. Turnbo's History of the Twenty-Seventh Arkansas Confederate Infantry which was edited by Desmond Walls Allen, who has compiled several other books on Arkansas history; you can find his work at http://arkansasresearch.com. Turnbo was a member of the 27th Arkansas Infantry, and his history of the regiment is made up of dozens of stories about his experiences while a member of the 27th. Turnbo wrote several books in his lifetime concerning his life's experiences in the Arkansas Ozark region, all of which can be found at Allen's aforementioned website.

My 4th great uncle, Michael M. Hutcheson, son of Richard C. Hutcheson and Nancy I. Wolf, was a 1st Lieutenant in the 27th. His service records indicate he was in Companies A and H, but when Turnbo mentions him in one of his stories, he states that he was of Company I. Hutcheson's portrayal in Turnbo's story does not come off as very flattering. However, it's clear there is a significant amount of bias on Turnbo's part in regards to his thoughts on Hutcheson's character. I will share the excerpt and then share my thoughts on it.

An excerpt from the chapter "A Wearisome March and Sore Feet", pgs. 59-60:

"Some of the men's feet were made so sore by bad fitting old shoes that they were compelled to fall out of ranks and sit down, but when the rear guard came along, these men were forced to travel on. I remember on one occasion during that day, my feet became so sore that I could hardly walk and my company officers gave me permission to stop and rest my feet awhile. I did so and pulled off my shoes and socks and found my feet were badly blistered. Not very long after the rear guard came along in charge of Lieutenant Hutchison of company I. This man was of an overbearing nature and one of the few of Shaler's pets and would do almost anything to please him, and that day when he came along with the guard, he ordered me to get up and go on. I showed him my sore feet, but he had no sympathy for me and ordered the guards to bayonet me if I refused to get up and start on and I was compelled to go along barefooted until I caught up with my company. I told my officers how it was and Captain Fred Woods gave me a written pass to remain behind the army and catch up with it when I could, and the renowned Lieutenant Hutchison dare not order his men to abuse me again.

This was one of the cases I could forgive, but never forget. Some months after this, while Hutchison was in charge of the rear guard again, he tried this on a bunch of tired soldiers who had dropped out of ranks and were lying down by the roadside. When the officer came along with the guard, he ordered his men to prod them with their bayonets if they did not get up and march along with them. This greatly angered them and they informed him if he dared to carry out his order he would sure regret it and he went on without molesting them any more."

I think it needs to be noted, my own bias as well as Turnbo's aside, that yes, it was perhaps overly harsh and rash of Hutcheson to order that the soldiers be poked and prodded by bayonets if they did not continue to march. But to be fair, dropping out because of sore feet was a popular way for a soldier to desert or become captured. Some would wait until the unit was out of sight and them leave for home, or if the unit is being pursued, he would often get captured this way. Hutcheson was technically doing his duty by making sure that the men stayed with their command. If the unit was in the process of marching, then all the men within that unit were under orders to march, and as an officer, it was Hutcheson's job to make sure his subordinates followed their orders. It's pretty plain and simple. So while it's probably Turnbo's description of Hutcheson as being "overbearing" is accurate, referring to him as one of Shaler's "pets" seems to be a defensive reaction on his part from being annoyed by Hutcheson's confrontation with him.

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