restricted access Miscellaneous Mammals
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188 Fauna • Soldiers far from home often pondered the novelty of unusual invertebrates , from spiders to bizarre sea creatures. Sergeant George A. Remley, 22nd Iowa Volunteers, in a letter to his father from Matagorda Island, Texas, on March 24, 1864: “You have frequently heard of the tarantula I suppose. They are plenty down here and ugly looking customers. I saw one the other day and I assure you that I don’t desire a very intimate acquaintance with any thing of the kind. They look like a huge, fat spider from one to three or four inches across, covered with short, brownish hairs. They have teeth, shaped very much like a gopher ’s claws, and with these they bite savagely. Their bite is said to be very poisonous.”16 Private John Westervelt, 1st New York Volunteer Engineer Corps, at Folly Island, South Carolina, on June 12, 1863: “I must tell you of a creature I found this morning called by sailors a portuguese man of war. It is bright sky blue in colour. It was (probably) brought ashore during a squall last night. . . . It is a verry beautiful creature . . . part of his body is transparent and underneath he is a beautiful crimson and pink.”17 M i s c e l l a n e o u s M a m m a l s White-tailed Deer The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is the deer of the eastern United States. Once called the Virginia deer, the species is more common today than during the Civil War era. At that time, habitat modification and large-scale, unregulated commercial hunting had initiated a population plunge that ended in the early twentieth century, when the total number of white-tailed deer in the United States was estimated at 500,000. Intensive management, including restrictive harvest regulations and research into the life history of deer, has resulted in a dramatic recovery of the species to a current population of about thirty million.1 White-tailed deer were a vital part of many Native American cultures east of the Mississippi River. As providers of food, leather, and a host of other items used in daily life, they played much the same role as bison   Miscellaneous Mammals 189 (Bison bison) did for western tribes. To a lesser extent, deer were also important to many European pioneers in America. Deer or their products played no consequential role in the Civil War. Occasionally they were shot for home consumption or the market when available, and buckskin-clad soldiers were scattered through the ranks. Kate Stone, Brokenburn Plantation near Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, on Oct. 24, 1861: “Brother [Lt. William R. Stone, Jeff Davis Guards] and many others went hunting early this morning, the first frost of the season whitening the grass, but not enough even to kill the cotton. Jimmy killed the deer, his first victim after so many trials. Johnny and I followed the dogs for some distance. The chase is certainly exciting sport. No wonder men like it so.”2 Sergeant William D. Dixon, [Savannah] Republican Blues, St. Catherine ’s Island, Georgia, on Aug. 28, 1861: “All the Commissioned Officers except the Capt went out Deer Hunting this morning with the Overseer of the Plantation.”3 John B. Jones, clerk to the Confederate secretary of war, in Richmond, Virginia, on Jan. 25, 1864: “I noticed, to-day, eight slaughtered deer in one shop; and they are seen hanging at the doors in every street. The price is $3 per pound.”4 Private George A. Remley, 22nd Iowa Volunteers, in a letter to his father from Rolla, Missouri, on Dec. 3, 1862: “Company D returned last Monday evening bringing into camp three deer and twelve wild turkeys that they had killed on their way back. They report game very plenty.”5 • “Bucktails”—the nickname of a regiment recruited from the Bucktail region of Pennsylvania. Men in the outfit wore deer tails on their hats.6 Raccoons and Other Furbearers The familiar raccoon (Procyon lotor) is the only member of its taxonomic family found in the eastern United States. Raccoons eat a wide variety of plant and animal foods, including wild fruits, nuts, insects, reptiles, crustaceans , fish, and birds. During the Civil War era, they in turn were relished 190 Fauna as food by humans, especially in the South. Their omnivorous feeding habits, which included raiding cornfields and gardens as well as chicken houses, resulted in an antagonistic relationship with rural farmers; raccoons were shot or...


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