Thursday, January 03, 2008

[New York:] Ulysses Grant on Longears, Continued

Grant, attempting to move his troops through Mexico in 1848, is describing how the United States army first 'tamed' wild Mexican mules to pull carts.

The soldiers:
"... were principally foreigners who had enlisted in large cities, and, with the exception of a chance drayman among them, it is not probable that any of the men who reported themselves as competent teamsters had ever driven a mule-team in their lives, or indeed that many had had any previous experience in driving any animal whatever to harness."

The mules:
"It is a well known fact that where domestic animals are used for specific purposes from generation to generation, the descendants are easily, as a rule, subdued to the same uses. At that time in Northern Mexico the mule, or his ancestors, the horse and the ass, were seldom used except for the saddle or pack. At all events the Corpus Christi mule resisted the new use to which he was being put."

How events played out, once a bunch of these new soldiers finally managed to hook a full set of five mules to a wagon:
"All being ready, the hold would be slackened and the team started. The first motion was generally five mules in the air at one time, backs bowed, hind feet extended to the rear. After repeating this movement a few times the leaders would start to run. This would bring the breeching tight against the mules at the wheels, which these last seemed to regard as a most unwarrantable attempt at coercion and would resist by taking a seat, sometimes going so far as to lie down. In time all were broken in to do their duty submissively if not cheerfully, but there never was a time during the war when it was safe to let a Mexican mule get entirely loose."

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