Nature of very little consequence today, but had a

Nature played a commanding role in all aspects of the Civil War. By ‘Nature’, I am referring to animals, climate, illness, and the physical landscape. All of these, and I am sure many more, factors played a role in the daily operations of the Civil War as well as the simple ability to carry out the war. There are many aspects of war that are of very little consequence today, but had a very direct effect on the Civil War. The weather and landscape was often the deciding factor in how the armies moved, at what pace, and if they moved at all. It also resulted in a loss of service animals. And because of strict rationing, local plants and animals often dictated what soldiers ate, if they ate at all. Disease also played a role in the war effort as it resulted in the loss of troops, troops being unfit for service, and some soldiers even having to be sent home.It is well known that many armies used to be comprised of cavalries and service animals were used to pull wagons of equipment. However, animals also played an important role as a food source for soldiers during the war. Wild hogs were one of those important food sources during the Civil War. Hogs have been around in America for several hundred years and it has been a very successful environment for them as we are still having hog-related problems to this day. According to Union Private Henry A. Strong of Co. K of the Twelfth Kansas Infantry, there was “an abundance of fat hogs running loose”(Wing, 22). And those soldiers had no qualms about taking advantage of them with Strong saying that they, “Made the hogs suffer that crossed our paths”(Wing, 22). Sometimes they even broke orders to get at the hogs, with Union soldier Jacob Haas of the Ninth Regiment of Wisconsin saying that, “It was forbidden to butcher swine, but we did”(Christ, 57). According to Haas, they also ate “Mutton, veal” and “ham”(Christ, 25). They could even get fried chicken, with the caveat being that they “first have to catch them”(Christ,25).  So, wild animals weren’t just a part of nature, they were a part of the war in what seems to be at least a somewhat significant way.The climate is a very important topic in today’s era, but it also played an important one during the Civil War. Today we have things like paved roads and other weather-resistant structures, but it was not this way back during the Civil War. And because of this, the weather became a more important factor in war than we would attribute it today. During the Civil War, at times poor weather not only made operation difficult, but it made it downright impossible. Since they had to keep lightweight, equipment was not always available when needed, so when the rain came, being dry was a luxury sometimes. Strong reaffirms this when he writes that they “got a good wetting under the Government wagons — was all the shelter we had” (Wing, 7). Afterwards, he also told that there weren’t enough ‘Government wagons’  to keep half the command out of the rain. It even impacted their ability to cook. According to Strong, it started raining “just before we got supper cooked” and as a result, they “were to go without”(Wing, 7). These situations were nothing compared to some. Sometimes we really were at the mercy of mother nature. Haas wrote that “two large Cannon boats lay…because the river was low and shallow” and they couldn’t move on until a “rise in the river” came(Christ, 75). At other times, the weather wasn’t just annoying or impeding, it was dangerous. Haas writes that they had begun trying to cross a river not suspecting it was deep, but “Soon they could not stand in the deeper water” and “the danger of drowning was on” (Christ, 59/60). Although they had started with four mules, only “One of them came out living”(Christ, 60). So, the weather played a great hand in the ability to carry out the war and sometimes it simply took that ability way permanently.Disease also became a strong factor in the war effort. Today we have what seems to be an unending amount of medical treatments for an equally unending amount of ailments. However, it took us a long time to develop those treatments and that lack of development meant that even the simplest of illnesses could be war ending for some or life ending for others at the time of the Civil War. Private Strong reported that he “was unwell for about three weeks” and was “Quite sick”(Wing, 61). He also reported that another soldier, Nixon Blair, was sick enough that they let him give up on the war effort altogether and go home on ‘sick furlough’. Nixon died just three weeks after Strong wrote that he got ‘sick furlough’. Three days after Nixon was dead, Strong wrote that another soldier, Charles Carpenter, also died(of an unknown illness). Just a few months later Private Strong reported being sick for “the three weeks past.”(Wing, 74) We don’t truly know what illnesses those soldiers incurred, but we do know some. Some of the Civil War time illnesses incurred were diseases that are impossibly rare now but still achieved a deadly streak back then. Soldier Haas came down with, what they called at the time, ‘scorbut’. He reported that his “gums are turning black and sponge-like”(Christ, 125). Today we’d know his illness as Scurvy; a disease that is immensely rare. He wrote that many soldiers were “unfit for service and must be sent home”(Christ, 125). A single base in DeValls Bluff reported well over 2,000 cases of scurvy in the span of several months and 14 were killed because of it. These are just a few soldiers stories and one base’s report of a single disease. Disease took many out of the fight for weeks on end, sending some to rest and others home, and also took many out of the fight forever. So, imagine how much more devastating the Civil War could have been if there weren’t so many soldiers unable to fight.The physical landscape of mother nature also proved to be challenging during the Civil War. Today we continually reshape nature to suit our needs(even when we shouldn’t), but back in the time of the Civil War, this wasn’t so easy. So, when nature got tough, they often had to rethink what they were doing or suffer because of it. Across the states were rivers, swamps, muddy trails, and much more that all required new ways to venture through. When Co. K of the Twelfth Kansas Regiment needed to cross the “Little Missouri River” they used “a pontoon bridge”(Wing, 38). Both sides of that river were swamps, so even after crossing the makeshift bridge they also had to make “corduroy bridges by hauling rails'(Wing, 38). According to Private Strong, even the roads were hard to pass. These feats took up a lot of precious time though too. Strong reports that even though a swamp was “one mile across”, it “Took til noon to get our train across”(Wing, 40). Later that same night they came across a stream that “Took nearly all night to get our train across”(Wing, 40). The roads at this time weren’t any better than the rest of the wild terrain. Haas wrote that the roads were so bad that “If one wagon pulled out of the mud, another got into it and sank…deeper than the first”(Christ, 54). They only achieved five miles that day. He also wrote that when they got to a flooded creek, their bridge-building effort failed, so their only choices were to wait it out or find another road. As we’ve seen, nature wasn’t something to play with during these times. Nature, at times, greatly slowed progress. So, The Civil War must’ve been heavily influenced by the terrain. In conclusion, nature, in terms of landscape, disease, weather, and local animals, all played a pivotal role in the Civil War. Animals were a source of nourishment when they were there and soldiers were happy to have them, especially when rationing. The weather was often the true decider when it came to what the troops were doing, how fast, and where to. Disease took a significant portion out of the force and killed many as well. And the landscape took many tricks and tools to conquer and many times it was unconquerable and had to be left alone. All these aspects had their own difficulty and challenges. Today, we have the machinery and technology to render most of these aspects unchallenging, but as we’ve seen, that was not the case at all during this time period. If any of these aspects had been changed, the effects and outcome of the Civil War may have been drastically different.