THE POOR ARMY MULE – Over-worked and Under-appreciated!
If one of the most overlooked aspects of the Civil War is logistics, then the most participants of this conflict would be the draught animals, particularly mules.
A “mule” is a cross between a female horse (mare) and a male donkey (a domesticated ass).
This sturdy animal has a couple of advantages over the horse, even the huskier breeds of draught horses used for pulling loads.
For instance, Percherons and Clydesdales. (Does the Budweiser beerwagon team ring a bell?)
George Washington (1732-1799), effectively began the mule industry in America at his estate, Mount Vernon. Washington noted by comparison – the horse “ate too much, did too little work and died too young.”
That said, the mule can survive on much less and poorer forage than a typical hay-burner.
Second and perhaps more important – mules are less injury prone, more surefooted and tougher than their cousin, which enabled them to work longer and harder than horses, and under more difficult circumstances.
The disadvantages of army mules are well known. They are famous for violent and unpredictable kicking habits and have an extremely stubborn nature. Because of this trait, they are most effectively used as pack animals or in teams to pull wagons full of supplies.