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138 Fauna Confederate sympathizer Myra Inman at Cleveland, Tennessee, on July 18, 1863: “Johnnie has a sore on his neck caused by a chigger bite. We are very uneasy about it, it is spreading on his face.”21 D o l p h i n s , P o r p o i s e s , a n d W h a l e s Dolphins, porpoises, and whales are related groups of highly specialized, aquatic mammals found throughout the oceans of the world. Many species are found in the marine environments where most Civil War activities occurred, the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. In general, dolphins and porpoises are smaller than whales, and both are usually lumped under the term porpoise by laymen today as in the Civil War era. Scientists separate them based on anatomical differences—e.g., dolphins have cone-shaped teeth and short beaks, while porpoises have spade-shaped teeth and longer beaks. Whales are variable in size and include the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), thought to be the largest animal ever to have lived at more than one hundred feet long and weighing two hundred tons. Some whales, such as the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), have teeth like dolphins and porpoises. Others have baleen plates that filter plankton and other small organisms from the water. Humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae), fin (Balaenoptera physalus), blue, and northern right whales (Eubalaena spp.) are in this group. Technically, orcas or killer whales (Orcinus orca) are considered a type of dolphin. The American whaling industry was centered on the northeastern seaboard and employed thousands of seamen in the mid-nineteenth century. However, by the time of the Civil War the golden age of Yankee whaling had ended, in part as a result of the discovery of petroleum, which precluded the need for whale products such as lamp oil and lubricants. Also, populations of easily attainable whales in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans had been overharvested, leaving abundant populations only in distant Arctic and Antarctic waters. Like wars before it, the Civil War wreaked havoc on the whaling industry . Many northern whaling vessels were appropriated for some aspect of the war effort. Thirty-seven old whalers from the New Bedford area alone were sequestered to become part of the “Stone Fleet.” They were filled with rocks and sunk in southern harbors, mainly Charleston, to impede southern shipping.1 Most alarming for the industry was the fact that the Confederate navy and privateers considered their ships fair game in a war-   Dolphins, Porpoises, and Whales 139 time setting. Cruisers like the CSS Shenandoah, CSS Alabama, and the CSS Florida destroyed more than fifty Yankee whalers. That Union whalers were still impacting whales during the war is revealed in the cargos of captured ships. When the CSS Alabama captured the Ocean Rover in January 1862 off the Azores, it held 1,100 barrels of whale oil. The Golconda was laden with 1,800 barrels when torched by the CSS Florida off Bermuda in July 1864.2 References to whales in Civil War letters, diaries, and journals are uncommon . Whales tend to stay in deeper water away from coastlines where most shipping occurred. Many sources, however, mentioned “porpoises,” which are often found near shore. Northern soldiers from the Midwest in particular wrote of them as novelties. John Hay, assistant secretary to President Lincoln, near Fernandina, Florida, on Feb. 14, 1864: “We steamed out of the Harbor of Fernandina as the sun was rising. Struck about noon a school of whales—great shining black or dirty grey monsters with backs like hills & flukes like weavers’ beams. I fired at one and missed him & felt unhappy.”3 Private Theodore F. Upson, 100th Indiana Infantry Volunteers, off the coast of South Carolina in January 1865: “We are on a transport. The boys are amusing themselfs shooting at the porpoise—a big sea fish which are playing around our boat. The waves run pretty high and very few are able to hit them.”4 John M. Follett, 33rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry, at Matagorda Bay, Texas, in a letter to his wife on Dec. 13, 1863: “I was out yesterday along the beach to see the Porpuss (I don’t know how to spell it) and Dolphins play. The bay was full of them. They are a very large fish and floundered round in great style. I saw some as large as a horse and at least ten feet long.”5 Corporal Rufus Kinsley, 8th Vermont Regiment, aboard the ship Wallace...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780807137994
Print ISBN
9780807136881
MARC Record
OCLC
680039323
Pages
280
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
N
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