Copyright © 2006 by St. Louis Public Library. All rights reserved.
V. ANIMAL & PEOPLE POWER
Horses in the US:
Mules in the US:
Oxen in the US:
Animals (horses, oxen, & mules) killed at Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863):
Artillery horses according to regulations were to receive 14 pounds of hay and 12 pounds of grain per day, or 80 pounds of pasturage if dried foods were not available. Since an artillery regiment by regulations had 90 horses, it would have required 2,340 pounds of hay and grain per day to feed its horses (16,380 per week, or 70,200 pounds per month). When hay and grain were not available, an artillery regiment would have required 7,200 pounds of pasturage per day (50,400 per week, or 216,000 per month).
An average horse could on hard-paved fairly level roads pull 3,000 pounds 20-23 miles per day. That was reduced to 1,900 pounds on a macadamized road, and 1,100 pounds on a rough road. These figures were maximum possible loads: horses working in teams of four to six generally were pulling 1,500-2,000 pounds of supplies and equipment each. This meant that a wagon pulled by six horses could pull an average load weighing 9,000-12,000 pounds, but that total would need to be reduced accordingly if the animals were hauling their own hay and grain.
By mid-1863, the US Army required 500 new horses per day to replenish losses due to overwork, injury, or death. If that rate of loss had held steady through four years of war, the Union Army would have lost 730,000 horses to death, injury, or overwork. It seems safe to assume that the Confederate Army lost horses at somewhat more than about half the rate of the Union Army. This figure relates closely to those generated by the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, which estimates that at least one million horses died during the Civil War. The average Union Army cavalry horse served for four months before being rendered useless to the army. Supply and demand coupled with inflationary pressures increased the price of a good horse from $125 in 1861 to $185 in 1865. Losses of oxen and mules would have been substantially less than those of horses, partly because of the fewer overall numbers of such animals in service, and partly because such animals were not used for cavalry duties (usually, anyway-- mules were on occasion utilized temporarily as mounts for mounted infantry soldiers).
Soldiers on the march usually carried a load weighing about 45 pounds, although in a pinch they were expected to carry even more. Since the average Civil War soldier weighed 140 pounds, he was routinely expected to carry 1/3 his body weight while on the march. Items carried included musket, bayonet, and weapons cleaning equipment, 40 rounds of ammunition, 3 or 4 days rations, canteen, blanket or overcoat; shelter-tent half (another man carried the other half), ground sheet, and mess gear, plus any personal items like Bibles, playing cards, dice, etc.
[Sources of statistics and bibliography included in last installment of this article.]
Thomas A. Pearson, Reference Librarian
Special Collections Department
St. Louis Public Library