War Elephants

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Carronade

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Location
Pennsylvania
then the difference in climates
Climate was cited by Lincoln in his response to King Mongkut (perhaps best known to Westerners from The King and I). Of course they might have done better in the southern states.

Modern firearms limited the value of elephants in combat. If they could stand the climate, they might have been most valuable for logistics or engineering. British and other armies made extensive use of elephants as late as the Burma campaign of WWII, as noted by General William Slim: "They built hundreds of bridges for us...... Without them our retreat from Burma would have been even more arduous and our advance to its liberation slower and more difficult."

An elephant is about five times the size of a horse, so armies that fed thousands of horses could probably support a few pachyderms.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

jgoodguy

Banished Forever
-:- A Mime -:-
is a terrible thing...
Don’t feed the Mime
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Location
Birmingham, Alabama
The King of Siam offered to supply elephants to Abraham Lincoln, who politely declined his offer. What if Lincoln had accepted? Would elephants have made a difference? In what way?
We would have threads along the line of "The unfair advantage of Union Elephants" or would Meade won Gettysburg without that Elephant change.
 

Hussar Yeomanry

Sergeant
Joined
Dec 6, 2017
Location
UK
Referring to British use of elephants, one lesser known uses was that after calling up so many horses to supply the army (etc) we had a major crisis in transportation. Therefore at least one steel works (Tommy Wards) acquired an elephant from a local circus and for many years used it successfully to move heavy loads around one of its plants.

Apparently the camels that were also tried were less of a success...
 

diane

Retired User
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
It would been interesting if Lincoln had accepted the King's offer! However, as I understand it, the offer was made in light of a trade treaty Buchanan's administration had negotiated - the king thought elephants could be used by Americans the same way Siamese used them. The letter was actually addressed to Buchanan but he was out of office by the time it reached the White House - so Lincoln answered it. By that time, he definitely had much more to worry about than whether elephants could be established as work animals in the US! In the war - I don't know how they would have worked out. Maybe too big! (Of course, if a general was mounted on his war elephant, he would definitely be impressive...)
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
King Rama IV did not offer, as is often claimed, "a herd of war elephants," but a breeding stock to begin supplying the country with the useful creatures. There was no mention whatsoever of military use in the official communications.

President Lincoln's reply gives excellent reasons for declining:

"I appreciate most highly Your Majesty's tender of good offices in forwarding to this Government a stock from which a supply of elephants might be raised on our own soil. This Government would not hesitate to avail itself of so generous an offer if the object were one which could be made practically useful in the present condition of the United States.
"Our political jurisdiction, however, does not reach a latitude so low as to favor the multiplication of the elephant, and steam on land, as well as on water, has been our best and most efficient agent of transportation in internal commerce."
The complete letter here:
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/lincoln-and-the-elephants.134225/#post-1532845
 
Last edited:
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

E_just_E

Captain
Forum Host
Retired Moderator
Joined
Sep 3, 2014
Location
Center Valley, PA
The King of Siam offered to supply elephants to Abraham Lincoln, who politely declined his offer. What if Lincoln had accepted? Would elephants have made a difference? In what way?
Elephants eat about 500 lbs of food a day or about the ration equivalent of at least 150 men or so. I'd take 150 men over an elephant :smile:
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
Cover 'em with sheet iron and you have the first, non-rail constrained, 'Land Monitor'... I believe it would have had more physiological effect than tactical value... :eek:
154

Cheers!
USS ALASKA
 

E_just_E

Captain
Forum Host
Retired Moderator
Joined
Sep 3, 2014
Location
Center Valley, PA
Cover 'em with sheet iron and you have the first, non-rail constrained, 'Land Monitor'... I believe it would have had more physiological effect than tactical value... :eek:
154

Cheers!
USS ALASKA
This can cut both ways. Elephants are extremely easily spooked. I can just imagine a herd of them demolishing everything around them first during a cannonade. Pretty sure they did not have canons in Siam :smile:
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
This can cut both ways. Elephants are extremely easily spooked. I can just imagine a herd of them demolishing everything around them first during a cannonade.
Indeed sir, like poison gas or flame throwers - a change in the wind and they become as dangerous to the user as the intended target. My post was meant in just pure sillyness...like the knights of old, armoring the steed drastically reduced mobility if it could move at all...

Pretty sure they did not have canons in Siam :smile:
http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30353457

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 

Carronade

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Location
Pennsylvania
I read somewhere that mahouts would carry a hammer and spike to kill their elephant if it went out of control. In the Civil War era a revolver might do the trick if one knew where to aim for the brain.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top