restricted access Mulberry
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62 Flora tops in the woods, above white waxen beads of mistletoe, which I have never seen before.”6 • USS Mistletoe—Fifty-ton steam tug used by the Union Navy on the Western Rivers.7 M u l b e r ry The Civil War may be indirectly implicated in the continuing devastation of American forests by an army of insects proven to be less stoppable than the armies of the Union or Confederacy. When southern cotton became unavailable in the North, Leopold Trouvelot, a Boston naturalist, accelerated his research into producing a viable silkworm for the northern textile industry. It led to his infamous, late 1860s importation of gypsy moth eggs from France in an effort to crossbreed them with silkworm moths. Because the two insects were only distantly related, they could not interbreed and the experiment failed. Either accidentally or intentionally, gypsy moth caterpillars were soon released into a hospitable environment and became the gypsy moth plague that causes damages valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars to North American forests each year.1 The intended host plants for the silkworm caterpillars were native red mulberry (Morus rubra) and white mulberry (M. alba), an introduced Asian species that serves as the foundation of silk production in other parts of the world. Promoted by the U.S. government, white mulberry was widely planted before the Civil War in an unsuccessful effort to develop a domestic silk industry. Like the gypsy moth, white mulberry has become an invasive species with negative ecological impacts on natural areas. It hybridizes with and transmits disease harmful to red mulberry and displaces other native vegetation.2 Red mulberries are small- to medium-sized trees that grow throughout the eastern United States. Many species of birds and small mammals relish their raspberrylike fruits. Choctaw and Natchez Indians made cloth from the bark. Settlers made rope, cordage, brown paper, and chair bottoms . The wood is very durable and during the war was used for fence posts, cooperage, crossties, and boat construction. One writer of the period stated: “it [red mulberry wood] is employed in naval architecture at Philadelphia and Baltimore, for the upper and lower parts of the frame, for knees and floor timbers, and for tree-nails.”3 A Confederate surgeon re-   Oaks 63 ported that the fruit was used as a laxative and as a refreshing drink.4 Soldiers and civilians occasionally wrote of eating the fruits when they found them. Major James A. Connolly, 123rd Illinois Infantry, writing to his wife on June 9, 1864, from camp near Acworth, Georgia: “I am sitting in the door yard of a ‘Georgia planter,’ under the shade of his mulberry trees, the ripe fruit hanging above me. Think I shall climb the tree and eat some of it after finishing this.”5 Kate Stone, Brokenburn Plantation near Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, on May 27, 1861: “Ashburn and Johnny, the youngest of the boys, brought us some mulberries from their ride in the woods, but nobody but children cares to eat mulberries.”6 Assistant Surgeon Dr. Daniel M. Holt, 121st New York, near Charles City, Virginia, in a letter to his wife on June 15, 1864: “The mulberry, too, is a fine tree, from which I have frequent repasts of the blackberry-like fruit which it yields.”7 Private William G. Bentley, 104th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, in a letter to his family from Mount Vernon, Kentucky, on June 14, 1863: “I was foraging this morning and got some light biscuits and all the mulberries I could eat.”8 John Hay, assistant secretary to President Lincoln, near Beaufort, South Carolina, on May 23, 1863: “Bannister having a convalescent appetite went off with me to eat plums & mulberries.”9 Private S. O. Bereman, 4th Iowa Cavalry, near Vicksburg, Mississippi, on May 19, 1863: “Went on to within 4 miles of Vicksburg and went into camp. We were told it was much healthier out here than closer to the city! Got all the mulberrys we could eat, but it dont last long.”10 Oa ks Timbers hewn from mighty oaks (Quercus spp.) framed the ships of both Union and Confederate navies. More than thirty species of oaks are na- ...


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