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• • • • A f t e rw o r d Impacts of the Civil War on Flora and Fauna The impacts of the Civil War on flora and fauna are difficult to determine, although from a population perspective nearly all were likely short term. As mentioned elsewhere in this book, the conflict occurred for the most part in a region already greatly altered by human activities. For example, the virgin forests in the area where the Battle of the Wilderness was fought had long since gone to fuel the fires of Catherine’s Furnace, an old pig iron smelter.1 Yet without a doubt, the Civil War caused major landscape alterations on a local scale. The increase in war-related industries and transportation created a demand for wood unequaled in the history of North America. Charcoal made from various hardwood species was critical to iron production. Estimates of the number of acres of woodlands required to make 1,000 tons of pig iron varies from 150 to 1,500, depending on the type of wood and the efficiency of the furnace.2 Wood was the most common fuel for steamboats during the war, and large ones consumed 50 to 75 cords a day.3 A round trip from Louisville to New Orleans required 529 cords, by one estimate.4 Most locomotives used wood instead of coal until after the war. In 1859 about 3,600 of the 4,000 locomotives in the United States were wood fired.5 Demand for wood for other uses such as cooking, heating, and construction was unparalleled and inestimable. The obvious results were altered forests. Sergeant Alexander Downing, 11th Iowa Infantry, near Vicksburg on Jan. 27, 1863: “Wood for fuel is becoming very scarce in camp, and also on 193 194 Flora and Fauna of the Civil War the transports. The 13th Iowa, with thirty of us from my regiment, were detailed to go with the transports up the river for wood. . . . There are six thousand cords of wood piled up here.”6 CaptainTheodoreA.Dodge,101stNewYorkVolunteers,nearStafford, Virginia, on March 18, 1863: “It is wonderful how the whole country round here is literally stripped of its timber. Woods which, when we came here, were so thick that we could not get through them any way are now entirely cleared—the pine being used for building and making roads, and the cedar and hard wood, of which there is a great quantity, for fire wood.”7 • Plants other than trees were also depleted in some areas, especially those used in the production of pharmaceuticals. Southern laboratories ran newspaper advertisements soliciting specific herbs needed for medical purposes. A surgeon at the Confederate depot in Macon, Georgia, reported in July 1863 that he possessed 16,034 pounds of indigenous remedies ready for service and 64,779 pounds of unprocessed plants.8 Ship manifests often revealed large cargoes of herbs such as arrowroot,9 and soldiers sometimes exploited plants directly for practical uses. Captain William J. Bolton, 51st Pennsylvania Volunteers, at Roanoke Island, North Carolina, on Feb. 26, 1863: “Strolled on further and found the soldiers were digging out in the swamps large quantities of brier roots [Smilax spp.] in which the island abounds, and in their leisure time convert them into smoking pipes and loads of them are sent home to their friends.”10 • The physical destruction of plants caused by hundreds of thousands of men trampling across the landscape for four years with their associated hordes of livestock and implements of war is easy to imagine but hard to quantify. Participants often wrote of botanical devastation associated with an actual battle. Assistant Surgeon Dr. Daniel M. Holt, 121st New York, at Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia, on May 16, 1864: “Trees are perfectly riddled with bullets. Perhaps you will think it extravagant when I tell you that I   Afterword 195 have seen trees at least sixteen inches in thickness, and oak ones at that, cut completely off by these leaden messengers. In the advanced rifle pits behind which we fight, every tree is like a brush broom!”11 • In an arena of war, the mobility of many animal species is a benefit. The ability of some animals to run, swim, or fly away from danger is a readily apparent advantage. Wild animals were not exposed to intense, largescale exploitation during the Civil War, as were plants in the demand for wood, wood products, and pharmaceuticals. Some animals, such as whales, furbearers, fish, and waterfowl, were pursued commercially but probably on a...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780807137994
Related ISBN
9780807136881
MARC Record
OCLC
680039323
Pages
280
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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