An Interview With Civil War Reenactor Dennis Hutchinson
Updated: Sep 23, 2020
Dennis Hutchinson grew up on a Dairy farm in Vigo County, Indiana. He received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University in 1975. He worked at American Electric Power for 40 years before retiring. His interests are Civil War History, reenacting and giving living Histories. Dennis also restores and shows Antique Tractors and shows a car and truck at Car Shows. He belongsto several organizations; Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite, Southern Indiana Civil War Roundtable, Spencer County Historical Society, Friends of the Lincoln Pioneer Village, Kentucky Antique Farm Machinery Association, Captain of Cobb’s Kentucky Battery and he is presently Commander of the Department of Indiana Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) and is a Past Camp Commander of the John W. Foster Camp #2 SUVCW located in the Evansville, Indiana area.
1. What inspired you to become a Civil War reenactor?
My long interest in the Civil War. I have always been interested in the Civil War, but my interest grew when my Grandmother returned from the Gettysburg battlefield and gave me a small booklet about the Civil War. I saw my first reenactment when I was in my early 20’s at the Billie Creek Village near Rockville, Indiana and wanted to be involved. In 1996 two of my friends from Church and myself decided to join a Confederate Artillery group, Cobb’s Kentucky Battery.
2. What's your favorite (and least favorite!) part of reenacting?
The favorite part of reenacting is camping out, cooking over a fire and listening to the tall stories and jokes told around the campfire at night with my fellow reenactors. And of course burning some Black Powder with muskets and Cannon at the reenactment.
The least favorite is packing up to go home after a reenactment.
3. Did any of your ancestor's serve in the Civil War? If so, what's their story?
I have 3 ancestors who enlisted in Union Regiments during the Civil War in the Western Theater. After joining Cobb’s I asked my uncles about an old picture of a soldier holding a sword and rifle that I remember seeing at my Grandparent’s house before I was a teenager. They told me that it was my Great Great Grandfather, Andrew Gosnell. Andrew Gosnell enlisted in the 31st Indiana Volunteer Infantry in September of 1861. Andrew was slightly wounded in the hand at Shiloh and was captured at the battle of Murfreesboro, TN and was imprisoned in Libby Prison until he was exchanged. I have been researching the history of this unit since 1996 and have a website on Andrew and the Regiment; www.31stIndiana.com
John Hewitt, my Great Grand Uncle enlisted in the 72nd Ind. Vol. Inf. John died December 9, 1862 and is buried at the National Civil War Cemetery in Nashville, TN. I just recently found a 3rd ancestor this year, who was in the Civil War.
James H. Reese, another Great Grand Uncle, joined the 18th Indiana Light Artillery, which was the famous Eli Lily artillery unit.
4. What reenactments (or ceremonies) have you participated in?
I’ve participated in the Battle of Sacramento, Columbus Belmont, Battle of Parkers Crossroads and other smaller reenactments on and off since 1997. I’ve attended several major National Anniversary Events, such as;
133rd Anniversary of Spring Hill, TN in 1997.
138th Anniversary of Shiloh, TN in 2000.
137th Battles for Atlanta, GA in 2001.
150th Anniversary of Shiloh, TN in 2012.
150th Anniversary of Chickamauga in 2013.
5. What advice would you have for people interested in becoming a Civil War reenactor?
Before buying a uniform and equipment, find a group that you think you will fit in with. Get to know their values and their beliefs. See if you can borrow an outfit and spend a weekend with them before deciding for sure.
6. Why do you think the Western Theater of the Civil War is important?
General Grant makes it clear that the Western Theater or Western troops were critical to the winning of the war in Chapter 65 of his Memoirs. After the capture of Petersburg, VA, General Grant invited President Lincoln to see him near City Point, VA in early April, 1865.
The following quote is from chapter 65 of the PERSONAL MEMOIRS OF U. S. GRANT; “Mr. Lincoln knew that it had been arranged for Sherman to join me at a fixed time, to co-operate in the destruction of Lee’s army. I told him I had been very anxious to have the Eastern armies vanquish their old enemy who had so long resisted all their repeated and gallant attempts to subdue them or drive them from their capital. The Western armies had been in the main successful until they had conquered all the territory from the Mississippi River to the State of North Carolina, and were now almost ready to knock at the back door of Richmond, asking admittance.” Grant essentially told Lincoln it would be a great humiliation on the Eastern Armies if they were not able to subdue General Lee by allowing Sherman’s Western Army to complete the task. Grant therefore held Sherman back, and the Army of the Potomac was involved in the surrender of the Southern Army of Virginia at Appomattox Court House. Very few Historians emphasize or even know this and unfortunately the Eastern Theater armies have gained more fame than they deserve in my opinion.
7. What Civil War general do you see yourself most like, and why?
I would like to think that I would be like General U. S. Grant. When I was younger and my beard was black, I even looked like General Grant.
Visit Dennis Hutchinson's 31st Indiana Volunteer Infantry website.