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120 Fauna B e a r s Black bears (Ursus americanus) were the largest wild, terrestrial animals found in that part of the United States where most Civil War campaigns occurred. Already reduced in range and numbers by hunting because of their omnivorous feeding habits that included depredation of livestock, gardens, and bee hives, bear populations thrived only in the larger, more remote forests, especially in southern swamps. Earlier, bears provided considerable food for settlers and Native Americans. Their fat, used for cooking oil, and skins were traded commodities throughout the colonial era. By the time of the Civil War, bear/human interactions usually resulted in the attempted extermination of the bear only because of perceived (but occasionally legitimate) competition with humans—a scenario common if any species of predator was involved. Then, as today, the presence of a bear created excitement on any occasion. Kate Stone, Brokenburn Plantation near Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, on May 26, 1862: “In the afternoon there was a cry raised that there was a bear in the cane. The boys with their dogs and guns turned out in force . . . as did all the Negroes who could get mules, while the others armed themselves with axes and sticks and cautiously approached the outskirts. The excitement ran high and we at the house had full benefit as it was in the canebrake just back of the yard. We could hear the barking of the dogs, the reports of the guns, and the cries and shouts of the whole party. It was very exhilarating. They returned in the highest state of excitement but without the bear.”1 Rev. Francis Springer, chaplain, 10th Illinois Cavalry, at Fort Smith, Arkansas, on Dec. 31, 1863: “On another occasion I heard several citizens express surprize that the General [James G. Blunt] had become so much enraptured with a half-grown bear which some boys had on exhibition in town, that he procured the animal & was leading it through the streets on the Sabbath day to his quarters.”2 Lieutenant Jacob Ritner, 25th Iowa Infantry, in a letter to his wife from near Delta, Mississippi, on Nov. 30, 1862: “Well, I have had my dinner. I had sassafras tea, bear-meat, and hard crackers. There are plenty of bears   Birds 121 round here. A man who lives here killed two day before yesterday, and I got some of the meat.”3 Private Isaac Jackson, 83rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, at the mouth of the White River in Arkansas on Nov. 16, 1864: “This place we are camped on is an island formed by the Mississippi, White, & Arkansas Rivers and the Arkansas cut off which runs from the ‘Ark’ to the White River. We are not bothered the least by Rebs here and it said that there are plenty of bear and deer on the island. Several have been killed they say, but I have not seen any yet.”4 • The following passage, although out of the normal geographic scope of this book, may be a rare Civil War reference to the grizzly bear (U. arctos horribilis). Grizzly bears were still present in the Arizona Territory mountains at the time; however, black bears as a species can be black or any shade of brown. Sergeant George O. Hand, 1st California Volunteers, at Tucson, Arizona Territory, on Nov. 10, 1862: “Some boys killed a large brown bear today. Mexicans & Indians will not eat it—superstition is the cause.”5 • Busby—a bearskin hat worn by some military units, especially those of German origin, in the Civil War.6 B i r d s More than 700 kinds of birds are found in North America. At least 230 species live today in that part of the United States where most of the Civil War was fought. Five species—passenger pigeon, zenaida dove (Zenaida aurita), Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis), Key West quail-dove (Geotrygon chrysia), and ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis ), which were present during the war, have since disappeared.1 Others are much less common now. The diversity of bird life is great and often divided into groups such as waterfowl, birds of prey, shorebirds, songbirds, and so on. As with all animals, birds are not scattered randomly across the ...


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