From Crickets to Camels: One Historian Examines the Animal Cost of War

Earl Hess has added the study of human-animal relationships and their roles in the Civil War to his long list of scholarship. In his new Animal Histories of the Civil-War Era, he gathers essays on subjects ranging from insects and bees to hogs, dogs, camels, and horses. The war not only exposed the need for an Army veterinarian service, but the scope of suffering and slaughter of millions of animals possibly contributed to the movement toward humane treatment of animals that was gaining ground in the mid-1800s.

CWT: How did you come to the topic of animal histories?

EH: In 2018, historian Joan Cashin hosted a panel on animals and the Civil War at the Southern Historical Association conference. I attended that and had the idea of doing a book length anthology. One of the things I wanted to do was look at what animal studies tell us about the relationship between animals and people. The other thing I wanted to do was understand animals within warfare, as opposed to peacetime connections with humans.

CWT: You contributed chapters on wildlife, vegetarians, and artillery horses.

EH: Animal literature tends to be mostly about horses and dogs, because they had the most widespread contact with humans. But I read soldiers’ accounts and they talk about insects, lightning bugs, and chiggers. Wildlife is part of the animal world, and the soldiers had a lot of contact with animals of a wild nature.

The vegetarian issue is because my wife and I are vegetarians, so we are sensitive to that issue for many different reasons. We don’t think it is a high thing to do for humans to kill sentient creatures just to consume them, and for other reasons too. It struck me that there is a vegetarian perspective of the Civil War. The Army ration was heavily oriented toward meat-eating. Well, a lot of soldiers didn’t like it. They couldn’t eat it without getting sick. There were very few vegetarians in the Union or Confederate Army. But there were a lot of soldiers who could have benefited from such a diet. Some may wonder what this has to do with animal studies. The field does deal with vegetarianism and with the philosophical and other aspects of the huge industry created to nurture and then kill and eat animals. It’s part of that story of animal history. The essay I wrote on artillery horses as warriors talks about the bond between artillery horses and men. We have to understand that some animals, like dogs and horses, were not just used for military purposes. They were weaponized. They were made into warriors. Did they like it? Some adapted to it; some didn’t. Some horses liked it and got involved in it and developed very close and loving relationships with the artillerymen assigned to take care of them. Other horses couldn’t submit to military regimentation. They kicked; they tried to escape. Some died in service because they were so stressed. Horses died by the tens of thousands from disease, combat, and overwork in the field. I think it is important for readers interested in the Civil War to understand all this.

CWT: I was surprised to learn about the absence of veterinarian care.

EH: There were probably only six real veterinarians in America in the 1860s. The practice was in its very infancy. Men had to dig into their civilian experience with home remedies to figure things out. Animal care was horrible in the Civil War.

CWT:  Horses seemed so disciplined on the battlefield.

EH: Horses have a herd instinct and understand a pecking order. They respond to other horses or humans who establish dominance over them. Not all horses are smart, but many are clever. Not just artillery horses, but cavalry horses. Some cavalrymen said their horse was smarter than some of their comrades. Horses picked up on bugle signals: they associated a particular bugle signal with a particular movement very quickly without being told what to do. That is really an aspect of cooperation between animal and humans. It is not dominance by the human; it is a cooperative venture between the two. The same could be said for dogs, although dogs were much less used than horses in the Civil War. One of biggest things to draw from animal studies is the concept of agency: that animals are not just machines, passive acceptors of what they’re told, but that there is some degree of opportunity of animals who have a relationship with humans to kind of affect that relationship or have some influence on setting some guidelines on setting what they are or are not willing to do.

A hog flees for its life, Civil War
A hog flees for its life. Many soldiers on both sides had the skills to slaughter and butcher an animal. (North Wind Picture Archives/Alamy Stock Photo)

CWT: The book also describes how dogs were used. 

EH: Lorien Foote explores how animals were used to control enslaved populations. Some Confederate units used dogs to track down escaped Union prisoners, and in one case they were used in a small skirmish with Black troops. I wouldn’t overemphasize this; they were not used by the thousands. But apparently South Carolina used dogs in this kind of way to enforce slavery and domination of Blacks after the Civil War and during the war itself.

CWT: There was a proposal to kill dogs because they harmed sheep needed for uniform wool.

EH: Joan Cashin found a proposal by a Virginia legislator to propose that all dogs should be killed for the war effort. People who raise sheep tended to be really angry at dogs. In many Southern states there are so many dogs that they were pretty much out of control. It is an amazing proposition to kill all the dogs, or propose to tax dogs as an alternative way to control them. But most dogs in the 19th century were not household pets. People kept them for a variety of reasons. They helped them to hunt, or protect their property, or to control Blacks. 

CWT: Hogs are also featured. 

EH: Southerners ate more pork than anyone else, and the primary meatpacking place in America in the 1860s was Cincinnati, just on the north bank of the Ohio River, just a stone’s throw from Southern territory, so it was a southern-leaning city. An estimated 6.8 millions hogs were eaten during the war, and the Federal Army did a good job of feeding on Southern hogs as they went through the South. The Confederates tried to eat as many as they could. 

CWT: Sheridan captured 15,000 hogs in the Shenandoah Valley?

EH: Meat went bad quickly in the 1860s. Spoiled meat was issued to soldiers and then thrown away. The process of providing meat to soldiers was the biggest headache for commissaries and the most expensive task for the government. It created all sorts of environmental problems. If you have a camp of several thousand men camped for a few weeks, a gigantic slaughter yard quickly formed filled with entrails and offal that created a health hazard.

CWT: Obviously, animals were swept into the war, but not on equal footing. 

EH: People in the modern world are very much separated from animals. We have no hand in killing the animals that we eat. We pick up the steak ready to cook. We don’t think of it as an animal. Our relationship with animals tends to be focused primarily on pets. One of the things animal historians try to do is break through all that and demonstrate that animals have been with us on the voyage of life, even if we haven’t recognized that. I think an animal-centered vision of the Civil War gives us a better understanding of the conflict’s history and tends to make us more humble.

Thank you for visiting If you buy something through our site, we might earn a commission.

We use cookies to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. View more
Cookies settings
Privacy & Cookie policy
Privacy & Cookies policy
Cookie name Active Photo de la page Sécurité RGPD

Sécurité RGPD

Pensez voyage. Pensez à VOYAGES-EN-PATRIMOINE.COM.


Chez VOYAGES-EN-PATRIMOINE.COM, nous créons des moments inoubliables pour nos clients du monde entier et faisons de leurs rêves une réalité. Prendre soin des données personnelles que vous partagez avec nous est une partie importante de ce processus. Nous voulons que vous sachiez que vos données sont en sécurité chez nous, et que vous sachiez comment nous les utilisons pour vous offrir une expérience meilleure, plus passionnante et unique. Visitez le site web du groupe VOYAGES-EN-PATRIMOINE.COM pour plus d'informations sur nous.


Ce que comprend cette politique de confidentialité

Le contrôleur des données est FGF454 qui fait partie du groupe VOYAGES-EN-PATRIMOINE.COM. Nous nous efforçons de faire ce qui est juste dans la manière dont nous recueillons, utilisons et protégeons vos informations personnelles. Votre vie privée est importante pour nous, alors prenez le temps de lire notre politique de confidentialité qui explique : Quels types de données personnelles nous collectons et pourquoi nous les collectons.Quand et comment nous pouvons partager des données personnelles au sein du groupe VOYAGES-EN-PATRIMOINE.COM et avec d'autres organisations.Les choix que vous pouvez faire, y compris la manière d'accéder à vos données personnelles et de les mettre à jour.Nous avons essayé de rendre cet avis aussi simple que possible, mais si vous n'êtes pas familier avec les termes "contrôleur de données" ou "catégories spéciales de données personnelles", veuillez lire la définition de ces termes et d'autres dans le glossaire des termes clés. 

Données personnelles collectées

Lorsque vous vous inscrivez à l'un de nos services, vous pouvez nous fournir des informations : Vos données personnelles, qui comprennent, sans s'y limiter : votre adresse, votre adresse électronique, votre numéro de téléphone et votre date de naissance.Les détails d'accès à votre compte, tels que votre nom d'utilisateur et votre mot de passe.Lorsque vous effectuez des achats sur notre site web ou utilisez nos applications mobiles, nous pouvons capturer : Informations sur le passager, détails du passeport, détails des autres documents d'identité.Préférences de voyage et données d'assurance.Informations médicales pertinentes et toute exigence spéciale, diététique, religieuse ou liée à un handicap.Des informations sur vos achats, notamment ce que vous avez acheté, quand et où vous l'avez acheté, comment vous l'avez payé et des informations sur votre crédit ou d'autres paiements.Des informations sur la façon dont vous naviguez sur nos sites web et nos applications mobiles.Des informations sur le moment où vous cliquez sur l'une de nos publicités, y compris celles affichées sur les sites web d'autres organisations.Des informations sur la manière dont vous accédez à nos services numériques, notamment votre système d'exploitation, votre adresse IP et les détails de votre navigateur.Préférences sociales, intérêts et activités.Lorsque vous nous contactez ou que nous vous contactons ou lorsque vous participez à des promotions, des concours, des enquêtes ou des questionnaires sur nos services, nous pouvons acquérir : Les données personnelles que vous fournissez lorsque vous vous connectez à notre site, y compris par courriel, courrier et téléphone ou par le biais des médias sociaux, telles que votre nom, votre nom d'utilisateur et vos coordonnées.Informations sur les courriels et autres communications numériques que nous vous envoyons et que vous ouvrez, y compris les liens qu'ils contiennent et sur lesquels vous cliquez.Vos réactions et réponses aux enquêtes et questionnaires destinés aux clients.

Autres sources de données personnelles

 Nous pouvons utiliser des données personnelles provenant d'autres sources, telles que des fournisseurs d'informations spécialisées, des partenaires commerciaux et des archives publiques.Votre compagnie d'assurance, ses agents et le personnel médical peuvent partager avec nous des données personnelles pertinentes dans des circonstances où nous devons agir en votre nom ou dans l'intérêt d'autres clients ou en cas d'urgence.Si vous vous connectez en utilisant vos identifiants de médias sociaux, par exemple Facebook, Google+ et Twitter, vous acceptez de partager vos données d'utilisateur avec nous. Par exemple, votre nom, votre adresse électronique, votre date de naissance, votre lieu de résidence et toute autre information que vous choisissez de partager.Nous pouvons utiliser des images de vidéosurveillance recueillies dans ou autour de nos entreprises, locaux et autres bâtiments.Les données personnelles que vous fournissez sur d'autres personnes Nous utilisons les données personnelles que vous fournissez sur d'autres personnes, telles que les personnes incluses dans votre réservation.Lorsque vous fournissez des données personnelles concernant d'autres personnes, assurez-vous qu'elles sont d'accord et que vous êtes autorisé à transmettre leurs données. Vous devez également vous assurer, le cas échéant, qu'ils comprennent comment leurs données personnelles peuvent être utilisées par nous.

Utilisation de vos données personnelles

Nous utilisons vos données personnelles de plusieurs façons, comme expliqué ci-dessous. pour fournir les produits et services que vous avez demandés
Save settings
Cookies settings