Louisa May Alcott's Army Mules Were People, Too

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JPK Huson 1863

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mule Libby single.JPG

This fellow, one of the leaders in a 6 mule team harness sports the Federal flag- in Richmond, with Libby tobacco warehouse prison as backdrop.

mule libby.JPG



Best, ever, hand's down delightful passage on animal behavior. Pre- cute kitten memes and video forwards there were books- chunks of paper, packed with words held together by cardboard. Story sandwiches. Louisa My Alcott wrote a sandwich- well, many. Least well known is a thin recipe all about when she nearly died of typhoid, serving as an Army nurse in Washington, DC.

Always observant, vastly tolerant of human frailty of spirit Alcott could write sideways- here her Army Mules are human and Mule, a skewer through one, loving co-inhabitant of a chaotic, war time city with the latter.

From “Hospital Sketches


" The mules were my especial delight; and an hour’s study of a constant succession of them introduced me to many of their characteristics; for six of these odd little beasts drew each army wagon and went hopping like frogs through the stream of mud that gently rolled along the street. The coquettish mule had small feet, a nicely trimmed tassel of a tail, perked-up ears, and seemed much given to little tosses of the head, affected skips and prances; and, if he wore the bells or were bedizened with a bit of finery, put on as many airs as any belle.

The moral mule was a stout, hard-working creature, always tugging with all his might, often pulling away after the rest had stopped, laboring under the conscientious delusion that food for the entire army depended upon his private exertions. I respected this style of mule; and, had I possessed a juicy cabbage, would have pressed it upon him with thanks for his excellent example. The histrionic mule was a melodramatic quadruped, prone to startling humanity by erratic leaps and wild plunges, much shaking of his stubborn head, and lashing out of his vicious heels; now and then falling flat and apparently dying à la Forrest; a gasp—a squirm—a flop, and so on, till the street was well blocked up, the drivers all swearing like demons in bad hats, and the chief actor’s circulation decidedly quickened by every variety of kick, cuff, jerk, and hauls....... "



mule mess crt aug 63.JPG

Mess cart sketch, from August, 1863
All photos from LoC

Cont'd......
 

JPK Huson 1863

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mule crossing va.JPG

Mule team crossing a creek, somewhere in Virginia. Why several members of the clergy appear to have attended the event is unexplained.



" When the last breath seemed to have left his body, and “doctors were in vain,” a sudden resurrection took place; and if ever a mule laughed with scornful triumph, that was the beast, as he leisurely rose, gave a comfortable shake, and, calmly regarding the excited crowd, seemed to say—“A hit! a decided hit! for the stupidest of animals has bamboozled a dozen men. Now, then! what are you stopping the way for?”

The pathetic mule was, perhaps, the most interesting of all; for, though he always seemed to be the smallest, thinnest, weakest of the six, the postilion with big boots, long-tailed coat and heavy whip was sure to bestride this one, who struggled feebly along, head down, coat muddy and rough, eye spiritless and sad, his very tail a mortified stump, and the whole beast a picture of meek misery, fit to touch a heart of stone.

The jovial mule was a roly-poly, happy-go-lucky little piece of horseflesh, taking everything easily, from cudgeling to caressing; strolling along with a roguish twinkle of the eye, and, if the thing were possible, would have had his hands in his pockets and whistled as he went. If there ever chanced to be an apple-core, a stray turnip, or wisp of hay in the gutter, this Mark Tapley was sure to find it, and none of his mates seemed to begrudge him his bite. I suspected this fellow was the peacemaker, confidant, and friend of all the others, for he had a sort of “Cheer-up-old-boy-I’ll-pull-you-through” look which was exceedingly engaging
."

mule amm cav.JPG

Snip from the larger, LoC photograph showing-
mule amm cav2.JPG
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Since the thread is nurse Alcott's delight in Mules, might be off thread, drawing attention to her entire chapter here. She was similarly smitten by pigs. But maybe it's ok. Pigs are mules, too. :angel:

" Pigs also possessed attractions for me, never having had an opportunity of observing their graces of mind and manner till I came to Washington, whose porcine citizens appeared to enjoy a larger liberty than many of its human ones. Stout, sedate-looking pigs hurried by each morning to their places of business, with a preoccupied air, and sonorous greeting to their friends. Genteel pigs, with an extra curl to their tails, promenaded in pairs, lunching here and there, like gentlemen of leisure. Rowdy pigs pushed the passer-by off the sidewalk; tipsy pigs hiccoughed their version of “We won’t go home till morning” from the gutter; and delicate young pigs tripped daintily through the mud as if they plumed themselves upon their ankles, and kept themselves particularly neat in point of stockings. Maternal pigs, with their interesting families, strolled by in the sun; and often the pink, babylike squealers lay down for a nap, with a trust in Providence worthy of human imitation. "

Happy Birthday, Four Footed Forum!
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EJ Zander

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View attachment 135352
This fellow, one of the leaders in a 6 mule team harness sports the Federal flag- in Richmond, with Libby tobacco warehouse prison as backdrop.



View attachment 135353



Best, ever, hand's down delightful passage on animal behavior. Pre- cute kitten memes and video forwards there were books- chunks of paper, packed with words held together by cardboard. Story sandwiches. Louisa My Alcott wrote a sandwich- well, many. Least well known is a thin recipe all about when she nearly died of typhoid, serving as an Army nurse in Washington, DC.

Always observant, vastly tolerant of human frailty of spirit Alcott could write sideways- here her Army Mules are human and Mule, a skewer through one, loving co-inhabitant of a chaotic, war time city with the latter.

From “Hospital Sketches


" The mules were my especial delight; and an hour’s study of a constant succession of them introduced me to many of their characteristics; for six of these odd little beasts drew each army wagon and went hopping like frogs through the stream of mud that gently rolled along the street. The coquettish mule had small feet, a nicely trimmed tassel of a tail, perked-up ears, and seemed much given to little tosses of the head, affected skips and prances; and, if he wore the bells or were bedizened with a bit of finery, put on as many airs as any belle.

The moral mule was a stout, hard-working creature, always tugging with all his might, often pulling away after the rest had stopped, laboring under the conscientious delusion that food for the entire army depended upon his private exertions. I respected this style of mule; and, had I possessed a juicy cabbage, would have pressed it upon him with thanks for his excellent example. The histrionic mule was a melodramatic quadruped, prone to startling humanity by erratic leaps and wild plunges, much shaking of his stubborn head, and lashing out of his vicious heels; now and then falling flat and apparently dying à la Forrest; a gasp—a squirm—a flop, and so on, till the street was well blocked up, the drivers all swearing like demons in bad hats, and the chief actor’s circulation decidedly quickened by every variety of kick, cuff, jerk, and hauls....... "



View attachment 135354
Mess cart sketch, from August, 1863
All photos from LoC

Cont'd......
These pics are great. Those guys are veterans. Look at the side of their abdomen where the trace rubs on both the lead mule and the swing mule behind him. Hair worn off and down to bare skin. Not weeping, probably callused up.
Their feet look pretty good.
Thanks for posting these I dont how you find all these super photos but they are a joy to look at.
 

donna

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Don't have here at Ky. home. Have at Florida house. We going Memorial Day week so will look for it. I have an album on my Dad when he was young. Has pictures of his Dad and Mother in it. It an album I put together, one of my scrapbooking projects.
 

NH Civil War Gal

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"Dying a la Forrest"? :laugh: I take it she means they're tough! I like mules, too - they love their independence. Sometimes, they can be downright heroic, even if by accident. Take the famous Charge of the Mule Brigade at Chickamauga. Longstreet didn't see that coming!
What was the charge of the mule brigade? It sounds wonderful actually!
 

diane

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What was the charge of the mule brigade? It sounds wonderful actually!
Here you go! Battle of Wauhatchie, during the Chattanooga campaign, the artillery fire spooked the string of critters:

THE CHARGE OF THE MULE BRIGADE

Author Unknown


Half a mile, half a mile,
Half a mile onward,
Right through the Georgia troops
Broke the two hundred.
"Forward the Mule Brigade!
Charge for the Rebs," they neighed.
Straight for the Georgia troops
Broke the two hundred.

"Forward the Mule Brigade!"
Was there a mule dismayed?
Not when their long ears felt
All their ropes sundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to make Rebs fly.
On! to the Georgia troops
Broke the two hundred.

Mules to the right of them,
Mules to the left of them,
Mules behind them
Pawed, neighed, and thundered.
Breaking their own confines
Breaking through Longstreet's lines
Into the Georgia troops
Stormed the two hundred.

Wild all their eyes did glare,
Whisked all their tails in air
Scattering the chivalry there,
While all the world wondered.
Not a mule back bestraddled,
Yet how they all skedaddled --
Fled every Georgian,
Unsabred, unsaddled,
Scattered and sundered!
How they were routed there
By the two hundred!

Mules to the right of them,
Mules to the left of them,
Mules behind them
Pawed, neighed, and thundered;
Followed by hoof and head
Full many a hero fled,
Fain in the last ditch dead,
Back from an ***'s jaw
All that was left of them, --
Left by the two hundred.

When can their glory fade?
Oh, what a wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made!
Honor the Mule Brigade,
Long-eared two hundred!

www.civilwarpoetry.org/union/battles/mules.html
 

WJC

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View attachment 135352
This fellow, one of the leaders in a 6 mule team harness sports the Federal flag- in Richmond, with Libby tobacco warehouse prison as backdrop.

View attachment 135353



Best, ever, hand's down delightful passage on animal behavior. Pre- cute kitten memes and video forwards there were books- chunks of paper, packed with words held together by cardboard. Story sandwiches. Louisa My Alcott wrote a sandwich- well, many. Least well known is a thin recipe all about when she nearly died of typhoid, serving as an Army nurse in Washington, DC.

Always observant, vastly tolerant of human frailty of spirit Alcott could write sideways- here her Army Mules are human and Mule, a skewer through one, loving co-inhabitant of a chaotic, war time city with the latter.

From “Hospital Sketches


" The mules were my especial delight; and an hour’s study of a constant succession of them introduced me to many of their characteristics; for six of these odd little beasts drew each army wagon and went hopping like frogs through the stream of mud that gently rolled along the street. The coquettish mule had small feet, a nicely trimmed tassel of a tail, perked-up ears, and seemed much given to little tosses of the head, affected skips and prances; and, if he wore the bells or were bedizened with a bit of finery, put on as many airs as any belle.

The moral mule was a stout, hard-working creature, always tugging with all his might, often pulling away after the rest had stopped, laboring under the conscientious delusion that food for the entire army depended upon his private exertions. I respected this style of mule; and, had I possessed a juicy cabbage, would have pressed it upon him with thanks for his excellent example. The histrionic mule was a melodramatic quadruped, prone to startling humanity by erratic leaps and wild plunges, much shaking of his stubborn head, and lashing out of his vicious heels; now and then falling flat and apparently dying à la Forrest; a gasp—a squirm—a flop, and so on, till the street was well blocked up, the drivers all swearing like demons in bad hats, and the chief actor’s circulation decidedly quickened by every variety of kick, cuff, jerk, and hauls....... "



View attachment 135354
Mess cart sketch, from August, 1863
All photos from LoC

Cont'd......
Thanks for posting this.
Ms. Alcott had a way with words!
A late family friend, a veteran of WW1, served in a cavalry unit that was furnished mules as mounts on arrival in France.
 
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