Alligator Fever

John Hartwell

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Central Massachusetts
In another thread, I mention a gunboat on the Mississippi that kept for a time a pet alligator, that “at last, like other Southerners, became so unmanageable that he had to be thrown overboard."

It seems there was quite a lot of alligator taming attempted by northern men stationed for the first time in the “moister” regions of the Southland. Baby ‘gators are manageable, and seem quite tame -- and, how ‘bada*s’ can you get? But such an infatuation could not last. The critter’s personality issues become more obvious as they grow -- and grow they do. Some, however, do seem to have lasted long enough to be taken home after the war. We have, for instance, a notice from July 15, 1865, that “A Naval Officer from Jersey City has very kindly informed the police that a ‘pet alligator’ of his is at large in that city. He forbids all persons from harboring the runaway.”

Young ones could also be consigned to Adams Express: "A lady in Bridgeport, Conn., recently received by express a young alligator ten inches long. It is said to be a love of a beast." [N.Y. World, May 29, 1863]

A letter in the June 2, 1863 Boston Traveller, from a soldier on Seabrook Island, S.C., noted that: “The Alligator fever is raging just now, and if we stop here long, every man in the regiment will have his pet alligator to tote on the march. ‘Sogers’ take to pets as naturally as crinoline at ‘sweetsixteen’ takes to moonshine and poetry.” He also notes “this would be a big field for an enterprising Saint Patrick to go into the snake-banishing business. For the variety, size, and number of snakes it beats all the places I have ever seen. I have looked at the ‘dirty cusses’ wriggling and squirming until I’m all of a squirm myself.”
The Camden Democrat of Jan. 4, 1862 reports:
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I have reported at length of this leviathan in another thread.

Finally, of a rather different nature, something from the Confederate side. The Cleveland Plain Dealer of 26 Feb. 1862, prints a letter purportedly written by a “North Alabamian on Dog River, below Mobile.” It is a long letter, telling of the first appearance of camp fever, (one symptom of which is “a mighty fear of gunpowder”). and reporting that “every officer has six servants and seven cooks,” and when on drill “they do cavort around beautiful” in their feathers and braid and fancy uniforms, until they get “down on brandy,” whereupon they become “mean and mullish.” Towards the end, the writer has to report some sad news:

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Northern Light

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Jul 21, 2014
I have heard stories, likely apocryphal, of people buying baby alligators as pet and then flushing down the toilet when they became too.... "alligatorish". They are said to liver in the sewers of major cities, where they harass city sewer workers. :D
Having an alligator for a pet is just wrong on any level. People are weird.:eek:
 

O' Be Joyful

Sergeant Major
I have heard stories, likely apocryphal, of people buying baby alligators as pet and then flushing down the toilet when they became too.... "alligatorish". They are said to liver in the sewers of major cities, where they harass city sewer workers. :D
Having an alligator for a pet is just wrong on any level. People are weird.:eek:

Well, I don't if you should trust this or not NL, with all that fakie news stuff :smile: out there, but this is a good opportunity to let everyone know that Feb. 9 is Alligators in the Sewers Day in N.YC. This will give everyone time to order their Party Hats. :dance: :frog:

“I want it to be true,” said Michael Miscione, of the entrenched myth that there are alligators in the bowels of the city.

Because of his passion for this longstanding legend, Mr. Miscione, the official borough historian for Manhattan, has long been observing Feb. 9 as Alligators in the Sewers Day, an unofficial holiday to honor discarded pets or escaped beasts that have grown large below our streets.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/10/nyregion/gators-in-the-sewer-i-want-it-to-be-true.html

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Northern Light

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Jul 21, 2014
Well, I don't if you should trust this or not NL, with all that fakie news stuff :smile: out there, but this is a good opportunity to let everyone know that Feb. 9 is Alligators in the Sewers Day in N.YC. This will give everyone time to order their Party Hats. :dance: :frog:

Articles such as this renew my faith in the absurdity of life! I will personally celebrate the day with Alligator Pie.
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And of course, CAKE! But should I go with the cutsie cake,
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or the REAL DEAL cake.
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Decisions, decisions!
 

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John Hartwell

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Central Massachusetts
One of the survivors of the Sultana can credit his survival to the boat's mascot, an alligator that was kept on board in a crate. When the boat exploded, this gentleman dispatched the alligator, threw the crate in the river and rode it to safety- the crate not the alligator.
The man in question was private D, W. Lugenbeal, 135th Ohio.
“On board the boat was a pet alligator. He was kept in the wheel-house. It was a curiosity for us to see such a large one. We would punch him with sticks to see him open his mouth, but the boatmen got tired of this and put him in the closet under the stairway. When I came down stairs every loose board, door, window and shutter was taken to swim on, and the fire was getting very hot. I thought of the box that contained the alligator, so I got it out of the closet and took him out and ran the bayonet through him three times. While I was doing this a man came to me and said the box would do for he and I both to get out on. My intention was to share it with him, but I did not speak and I do not know what became of him. I took off all my clothing except my drawers, drew the box to the end of the boat, threw it overboard and jumped after it but missed it and went down somewhere in the mighty deep. When I came up I got hold of the box, but slipped off and went down again. When I arose to the surface again I got a good hold of it and drew myself into it with my feet out behind, so that I could kick, the edges of the box coming under each arm as it was just wide enough for my breast and my arms coming over each edge of the box; so you see I was about as large as an alligator.”
[quoted in C. D. Bery's Loss of the Sultana and Reminiscences of the Survivors (1892)]​
This gator was clearly more of a tortured captive than a pet or mascot. (maybe somebody should poke them with a stick!) I like to think that in saving his own life, Lugenbeal mercifully put the poor critter out of its misery.

A few more wartime mentions of alligators:
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Late in April 1865, John Hay, the late President’s secretary, was at Fort Clinch, Fla. His diary entry for April 25, reads: “Tea with Col. Hawley & family. Best possible New England Tea. A visit to the pet alligators. Bit in the thumb.” (I bet he was poking it with a stick!:cautious:)

Capt. Charles B. Hayden, 2nd Michigan, writes from near Vicksburg on June 27, 1863: “The country is not so bad as I was at first led to believe. There are not so many snakes or other infernal machines as was represented. The alligators eat some soldiers, but if the soldiers would keep out of the river they would not be eaten.” Which makes perfectly good sense -- just put down the sticks and keep out of the river!
 
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