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Animal Logistics in the American Civil War

..was the title of Lt. Col. Joe Whitehorne's (at right) talk at the National Army Museum last June, one which provided us with many statistics. Twenty-five cattle for instance were needed to feed 25 men for one month, so that an army of 50,000 men would therefore require 1,250 cattle to consume in that time. These herds of cattle travelled overland, with 20 herders for every l,000 animals. Much freight however was moved by rail, 16 railroad cars making up a full 'Northern' train, each car carrying as many as 6 army wagons.

Whereas horses were used by the cavalry and artillery, mules were used for wagons. The Union's standard 6 mule wagon could haul loads of 3,400lbs on good roads, 2,700lbs on poor roads and only 1,800lbs on bad ones, a total of 125 wagons being normally required to transport food supplies for 1 0,000 men. As for forage, a horse required 14lbs of hay and 12lbs of grain per day, a mule the same amount of hay but only 9lbs of grain.

To give some idea of the numbers involved and the amounts required to keep them supplied, in 1864 Hancock's Corps consisted of 27,000 men. To keep them going they needed 800 wagons, 600 to carry rations and ammunition and 200 to carry the baggage and equipment. In May that same year, Grant had an army of some 120,000 men, supplied by 4,000 wagons stretching no less than 130 miles when placed in a single line. Sherman's force, in his famous March to the Sea, consisted of 4 Corps of 60,000 men and 2,500 wagons. Not least, the planning of any march had to take into account the need for water for both men and animals.

Southerners usually brought their own mounts to war, but in the North it was the Union Quartermaster General who had responsibility for providing the horses. Buyers and inspectors became one and the same thing, leading to a good deal of fraud and equine health problems.

Joe concluded his talk by discussing various Union Cavalry equine diseases such as hoof rot and glanders, based on Union Veterinary reports.

© ACWRT (UK) 2000 & 2001


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