I sometimes wonder how many Confederate generals kept
livestock close by during the war. We know that there were horses and mules,
used by officers, artillery, and to pull wagons, but actual livestock?
|Robert E. Lee|
The most famous of
these stories would undoubtedly be Robert E. Lee and his chicken. This story
first appears in A, K, Long’s Memoirs of
Robert E. Lee
(1886). Long served on Lee’s staff. According to Long, the
headquarters staff (or maybe just Lee), had received a mess of chickens. Lee’s
cook, Bryan lynch, “Discovered that she daily contributed an egg, spared her
life.” The chicken :selected the general’s tent to make her daily deposit…
Every day she would walk to and fro in front of his tent, and when all was
quiet, find a place under his bed, and deposit her egg; then walk out with a
gratified cackle.” The hen went with Lee all the way to Gettysburg and back.
During the winter months of 1864, Lee “had a distinguished visitor to dine with
him” and Bryan, Lee’s cook, “finding it extremely difficult to procure material
for a dinner, very inhumanly killed the hen, unknown to any of the staff. At
the dinner the general was very much surprised to see so fine a fowl; all
enjoyed it, not dreaming of the great sacrifice made upon the altar of
hospitality. When she was missed and inquiry made, Bryan had to acknowledge
that he had killed her in order to provide something for the gentlemen’s
|William N. Pendleton|
But there other
stories as well of generals keeping livestock close at hand. Brig. Gen. William
N. Pendleton was sent to inspect the artillery of the Army of Tennessee, near
Dalton, Georgia, in the late winters months of 1864. He noted in a letter home
that he had stayed at Johnston’s headquarters cottage. One morning, “After
washing, etc., we shared breakfast with the general’s mess. Very good; real
coffee, and butter made from the general’s own cow, toast, corn-bread, etc.”
(315) Not only was there someone milking the cow, but for Johnston, churning
butter as well.
Probably the most
famous, or interesting accounts of Generals and livestock come from Maj. Gen.
William Mahone. According to Westwood A. Todd, of the 12th
Infantry, Mahone kept a flock of turkeys. “General Mahone, who throughout the
war was not unmindful of creature comforts, had about Christmas time provided
himself with several turkeys, which he was fattening in a pen just outside of
his tent. Rash man that he was to leave those turkeys so exposed. When he
stepped out of his tent Christmas morning with a view of selecting his roaster,
his turkeys were all gone. Who stole Mahone's turkeys? was a favorite
'conundrum' in the Division the balance of the war."
Moxley Sorrel, a
member of Longstreet’s staff until the last few months of the war, recalled the
Mahone “A cow was always by his quarters and laying hens cackled loud, besides
many luxuries.” (277)
So I wonder if
other Confederate generals kept livestock penned near their personal quarters,
and how that livestone was tended to while on campaign? Maybe time will tell.