The Hutchinson Family Singers

A photograph of the Hutchinson brothers. Jesse, Jr., (third from the left) is standing with a hand on a brother's head.

Thanks to George Fullerton of Goffstown, New Hampshire, for this image of the Hutchinson family.

One of the best-known musical ensembles of the War years was the Hutchinson Family, a group consisting of various combinations of the children of Jesse Hutchinson, a farmer from Milford, New Hampshire, and his wife Mary.

According to the Biography Channel, "...all of [the 13 living Hutchinson offspring] at one time sang in the family ensemble. They were originally known as the Hutchinson Family or 'Tribe of Jesse' when they performed locally, singing the popular songs of the time. By 1841, however, a son, Jesse (1813-1853), had settled in Boston, and he became the musical director and manager of a quartet made up of four of his siblings: (Adoniramro) Judson (1817-1859), John (1821-1908), Asa (1823-1884) and Abby (1829-1892). (Another brother, Joshua, occasionally substituted for a missing member.) They began to travel throughout New England and New York State (occasionally using the name 'Aeolian Vocalists.') They soon changed their name to the Hutchinson Family and it was by that name that they performed in New York City (1842) and Great Britain (1845-1846). Although not limiting their appearances to such groups, they often performed before socially progressive gatherings -- temperance, abolitionists, women's rights groups -- or in prisons and almshouses. The brothers Judson and Jesse composed most of their songs. Judson moved to Minnesota in 1855 and helped found the town of Hutchinson. With the death of Judson (1859), they split into two ensembles -- the 'Tribe of John' and the 'Tribe of Asa' -- but both still billed themselves as the Hutchinson Family. During the Civil War they popularized such tunes as 'The Battle Cry of Freedom' and 'Tenting on the Old Camp Ground'. . . .The two Hutchinson groups -- by this time including children and grandchildren of the original members -- continued performing into the 1880s."

Mark Boatner, writing in his Civil War Dictionary, states that ". . .in the summer and fall of 1861 [Union General George B.] McClellan barred their appearances in the [Virginia] camps when their anti-slavery songs had angered many of the soldiers. After the offending verses were read by [Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P.] Chase to [President Abraham] Lincoln at a cabinet meeting, the President said, 'It is just the character of song that I desire the soldiers to hear.' Thereafter the Hutchinsons were permitted tunefully to do their part for the war effort."

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Last modified 16-April-2001