previous next

Mules and rats

The garrison at Port Hudson, it is said, had recourse to rats as a part of their diet in the last period of the siege. Rats and mules afforded the only variety in the closing entertainments. The mule meat is said to have been fine, and by a lively effort of the imagination has been likened to venison. The rats, also, were good, except that like the garrison, they had been put upon quarter rations. We thus see that all creatures, even rats, have their uses in the creation. The mule is valuable in its life, and, except its long ears and its intolerable obstinacy, would be a universal favorite. It has little chivalry, and, as a general thing is opposed to war; but it is highly practical in its character, and deserves the respect of all utilitarians. An animal which can do so much work in its life, and be good to eat besides, may be pardoned its long ears and inflexible opinions. But we cannot say as much for the rats.

Nevertheless the rats, like the mules, have their uses. They have often been the food of distressed heroes, they have protracted sieges, and thus decided the fate of battles and perhaps of empires. In this way, if in no other, they make some compensation for the wanton riotousness of their lives; for their reckless raids into our larders and pantries, and their noisy cavalry charges at midnight, when honest humanity is seeking repose. These reflections console us when we look upon the large number of well fed and frisky rats gamboling about in great sportiveness and content in the public treasury. It is there we may not divine the uses of these animals; we may not understand how it is that whole tribes of them are quartered upon the national exchequer like so many maggots in an old chess, but by and by this mystery will be explained. At present, whilst even mules are hard at work, and the war horses are shouting ha! ha! amid the thunders of the battle, and men are pouring out libations of heart's blood upon the altar of liberty, and the rank and file are sleeping on the ground and drawing no rations, these plump and well-conditioned gourmands are in the very heart of the old cheese, and bid fair to leave little of it but the shell. Whilst cavaliers, in ragged raiment, are dashing over bloody fields, whole droves of rats, pensioned on the Government, are making more fearful charges upon the public purse, and wallowing up to their eyes in the fat of the land. But let us be patient. These creatures have their uses. Those of them who are cleanly and not diseased from vices and too great obesity, are in death rescued from an end better than their beginning. If ever the Confederate capital is besieged like Vicksburg and Port Hudson, we shall not live on mules, but rats, and rats both quadruped and biped. Like famished mariners upon a wreck, we shall overcome all scruples against eating fat dogs, healthy mules, or fat rats, whether they go upon two legs or four. The public will insist in that day not only that the fat men physically, shall be served up in roasts and boils, but that the fat speculators and officials shall be made to disgorge and divide with the poor and wretched, thankful if their hides are not made into soap and shoes for their famishing and barefoot brethren.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Port Hudson (Louisiana, United States) (2)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: