Talking about mules and the Civil War

Old army mules!  That’s the topic of discussion today at Angelo State University, in San Angelo, Texas.  From the San Angelo Standard-Times:

Angelo State Civil War series will focus on mules’ work

SAN ANGELO, Texas — Emmett Essin, professor of history at Eastern Tennessee State University, first uncovered the unsung role of the Army mule while working on his dissertation on the Cavalry.

“I was at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and I kept running across these boxes of information on mules,” Essin said.

In 1997, Essin published “Shavetails and Bell Sharps: The History of the U.S. Army Mule.”

On Tuesday, Essin will bring his expertise to San Angelo, speaking on the indispensable role of Army mules for Angelo State University’s 2012-13 Civil War Lecture Series.

The terms “shavetails” and “bell sharps” originally referred to Army mules, which were trained to follow a mare with a bell around her neck, which meant no handler or halter was required.

The trained mules were Bell Sharps, and the untrained mules, to distinguish them from the trained mules, would have their tales shaved. Mules are a cross between a male donkey and a female horse and are sterile.

Essin said he has figuratively ridden the Army mule all over the nation.

“I’ve given talks at the Presidio in San Francisco, in Washington, D.C., and at various meetings all over the nation,” he said. “I’ve just had a good time with them.”

The talk Tuesday, which is free and open to the public, will be held, appropriately enough, at the Fort Concho National Historic Landmark’s Stables Hall.

One of several existing stables from the 1870s, the hall’s walls still have dozens of the iron rings for tethering cavalry mounts.

Converted into a wool warehouse by the early 1900s, the entire block of several stables and a modern addition were purchased by the city of San Angelo and Fort Concho in 1997. Bay 3 of these stables has been improved over the past 15 years and now serves as a large meeting hall for the fort…

(Read More)

The university website has more information about the event, and about what appears to be a well rounded lecture series.

I pass this along, not so much to pitch for some event, but as way of noting the wide path of sesquicentennial observances – in terms of breath and depth of subject materials… and geographically.