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  Rats 171 ern seaboard. Swamp rabbits (S. aquaticus) flourish in the forested wetlands of the lower Mississippi River Valley. The following account likely refers to the black-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus californicus), a western member of the rabbit family. Sergeant Taylor Peirce, 22nd Iowa Infantry, writing to his wife on Feb. 3, 1864, at Indianola, Texas: “There is also the Large Rabit or hare. We see them in the mornings playing around. They look almost as large as a fawn and are very good eating.”10 • Various kinds of meat from the spoils of foraging expeditions, sometimes unauthorized, were often referred to as “rabbit.” Private Wilbur Fisk, 2nd Vermont Volunteers, near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, in a letter to his hometown newspaper on Aug. 23, 1864: “Often [during foraging expeditions] we run across a good fat rabbit, and whether its dress is wool [as from sheep] or bristles [as from hogs] it is all the same to us.”11 R at s Rats and mice can be divided into two groups—those native to the New World and those found originally in the Old World. New World examples include the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) and wood rats (Neotoma spp.). Old World examples include the house mouse (Mus musculus), black rat (Rattus rattus), and Norway rat (R. norvegicus). Now found throughout the Americas, the Eastern Hemisphere rodents stole a ride with Europeans wherever they traveled. Black rats are thought to have reached North America in the sixteenth century, with Norway rats following in the mid-eighteenth century. Today, Norway rats have replaced black rats in most of the United States.1 During the Civil War the highest-profile rodents were Norway and black rats. Adapted to living in close proximity to humans, these species are infamous for their abilities to consume vast quantities of human foods such as grains, and for their propensity for carrying diseases communicable to man and his domestic animals. Diseases transmitted by these rats or 172 Fauna their parasites include bubonic plague, trichinosis, typhoid fever, diphtheria , tularemia, and rabies.2 Civil War literature often mentions one sensational aspect of the relationship between rats and humans—the desperate situations when humans were forced to seek rats as food. During extended sieges such as that at Vicksburg, starving soldiers ate rats to survive.3 Sometimes prisoners of war were likewise placed in such dire conditions. Captain John Dooley, 1st Virginia Infantry, as a prisoner of war on Johnson’s Island in Lake Erie, Ohio, in September 1864: “Rats are found to be very good for food, and every night many are captured and slain. So pressing is the want of food that nearly all who can have gone into the rat business, either selling these horrid animals or killing them and eating them. There are numbers in the drains and under the houses and they are so tame that they hardly think it worth while to get out of our way when we meet them.”4 Lieutenant Edmund D. Patterson, 9th Alabama Infantry, as a prisoner of war on Johnson’s Island in Lake Erie, Ohio, on Sept. 17, 1864: “For several days some of the boys have been killing and eating rats, of which there are thousands in the prison. I have often been hungry all day long, indeed so hungry that I felt sick, and still I could not screw my courage up to the point of eating rats. But today after getting a few mouthfuls of beef and bread, and having been hard at work most of the day on kitchen detail I was constrained to try a mess of rats. My friend, Jones, had been very lucky and had captured a sufficient number of rats to make a big stew and invited me to try them, and it would have done a hungry man’s soul good just to have seen me eat them. I cannot say that I am particularly fond of them, but rather than go hungry I will eat them when I can get them, though they have become the fashion to such an extent that from twenty five to a hundred are killed every night at each Block and they are already getting scarce. They taste very much like a young squirrel and would be good enough if called by any other name.”5 • At times soldiers in the field also considered rats table fare, and with noncombatants were often subjected to the general discomfort and anxiety caused by rats.   Rats...


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