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Confederate Memorial Day: These Animals Are Unsung Heroes of The Civil War

American Dogs
By Sam Lion

In honor of Confederate Memorial Day, we are paying tribute to the animals that played an integral role during the Civil War. This pivotal time in American history was not just a human endeavor, but a multifaceted saga where animals were indispensable – a fact that is sadly often overlooked. But not anymore! 

Here are ten animals that had a profound impact on the Civil War: 

1. Horses 

Civil War Horse
From: The photographic history of the Civil War – thousands of scenes photographed 1861-65, with text by many special authorities (1911).

Horses were the backbone of the cavalry and artillery units. Their bravery and endurance were vital to both the Union and Confederate armies, as they carried soldiers into battle, pulled cannons around, and were a crucial part of achieving swift communication across battlefields. 

2. Mules

Packing Mule
Packing Mule by Wery Shania via pexels.

Mules were the unsung heroes of logistics. These hardy creatures transported ammunition, supplies, and at times even wounded soldiers. This, along with their ability to manage the unruly terrains of the South made them invaluable during those turbulent times. 

3. War Dogs

War dog
A search dog trained to sniff out explosives and his handler patrol through muddy fields with 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan. By Sgt Rupert Frere RLC

War dogs had many purposes during the Civil War. Not only did they act as messengers, guards, and mascots boosting troop morale. They offered solace to soldiers longing for their homes by being themselves – loyal companions. 

4. Pigeons

Carrier Pigeons
From: Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, No. 275, April, 1873.

Carrier pigeons were used for communication in times when other means were impossible. These pigeons’ speed and reliability saved many lives through their ability to convey urgent messages across enemy lines. 

5. Camels

Camels carrying
Source: State Library of South Australia.

A lesser-known fact is that camels were used as an experimental means of transport in the Southwest. Their ability to carry heavy loads over far distances, without needing a lot of water, was seen as highly advantageous in dire conditions.

6. Cattle

Title: “The Leader of the Herd.” Drawing by: Edwin Forbes.

Nourishing large armies requires a substantial amount of food, and cattle played a significant role in meeting this demand. Herds were driven over long distances to provide soldiers with beef, sustaining them throughout the war. Additionally, the control of cattle herds emerged as a strategic consideration during the conflict

7. Chickens

Image by Alison Burrell via pexels.

As mentioned, the vast armies needed to be fed and small chicken flocks were often kept at the camps to do just so. Ensuring a reliable supply of meat and eggs in times when supply lines were uncertain. 

8. Canaries

Female of the Gran Canaria blue chaffinch by Miguel Angel Peña Estévez

Canaries were more used for soldier morale than war. Canaries, and other songbirds, were often kept by soldiers as companions acting as a reminder of home in the harsh battlefield environment. 

9. Cats

Hunting tabby cat
Source: Soulwrite Empire

Cats – the protectors of food. Cats were commonly kept around camps and on naval ships, as they hunted rodents that could damage food supplies. 

10. Pigs


Pigs, much like cattle and chickens, served as a vital food source for the troops. Their ability to forage around camps made them more convenient to keep and feed compared to cattle.

Final Reflection on Animals in the Civil War

On this Confederate Memorial Day, let’s not only honor the soldiers’ contributions but also acknowledge the silent companionship of animals who stood beside them during this pivotal moment in the nation’s history. Whether offering solace to homesick soldiers or courageously charging into battle, these animals underscore the profound bonds between humans and animals.

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