Civil War Mythology [pigs eating battlefield dead]

I recall in college we were discussing Arkansas experiences in the Civil War. There was one rather disturbing story about a famous battle on the Missouri/Arkansas border.

Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke launched a preemptive strike into Missouri on April 26, 1863. Brig. Gen. John McNeil defeated the confederate troops at the battle of Cape Girardeau. Marmaduke retreated back into Arkansas and was pursued relentlessly until Little Rock ultimately fell and was occupied by the Union forces.

Sterling Price (an Ex Gov of Missouri) also led an invasion into Missouri. His story is too complicated to summarize.


That’s the short version of a semester long course. :smiley:

During one of those battles along the Arkansas/Missouri border an incident occurred after the battle. Men returned the next day to collect and bury the bodies. Instead, they encountered feral hogs feasting on the corpses. The men were so sickened that they shot all the hogs and buried them with the bodies.

I’ve never been a fan of ham ever since. Hogs really are some filthy scavengers.

Does anyone recall this story or other battlefield incidents with feral hogs? I’ve spent a lot of time on google trying to find the specific battlefield. I’ve always wondered if archeologists excavated the battlefield and found the hogs.

According to Wiley Sword’s Shiloh: Bloody April (1974), feral hogs fed on the dead at the battlefield of Shiloh during the stormy night of April 6/7, 1862.

I guess it’s not an isolated incident then. People first think of predators like wolves, bobcats etc. going after the battlefield dead or dying. But hogs? That’s more disturbing to me.

Arkansas’ generals did not fare well in the war. Two of them (brigadier general Marmaduke and Brigadier General Lucius M. Walker ) got into a duel the night before the union attack on Little Rock. Walker was killed and Marmaduke arrested. He was released to lead the defense of Little Rock. The state capital was captured and remained in enemy hands the rest of the war. Talk about a major clusterf*ck. It doesn’t get much worse.

Title edited to better indicate subject.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

And probably the wound too, no?

Probably so. An unconscious, wounded soldier could easily be assumed dead and left on the battlefield. Predators would prefer a warmer meal.

I noticed the mod changed the thread title. I guess we’re stuck with a rather macabre thread. There’s other civil war mythology that’s less gruesome. My memory is sketchy right now. It’s been years since I read extensively on the civil war.

Although he was ultimately killed, General Patrick R. Cleburne of Helena, Arkansas was one of the most able battlefield leaders of the Civil War.

I am sure that pigs eating corpses wasn’t restricted to the civil war. I’m certain I’ve read of similar incidents in WW1 trench and no man’s land fights, but I can’t provide sights. But anywhere you leave dead bodies in the vicinity of semi-wild hogs, the bodies will be eaten.

I’m not really sure why this would be any worse than vultures, crows, ravens, wild dogs, rats, jackals, wolves, foxes, or for that matter, insects.

Tangential, but the TV show, Deadwood, features human eating hogs rather prominently and is set just after the Civil War. Human eating hogs are also in the movie, Hannibal.

It’s probably creepier to us because most Americans don’t consider any of those animals food. Pigs/ hogs, however, are a regular feature on many folks dinner tables. I guess it’s a combination of the innate fear most humans have of things that can kill and eat us plus the more abstract idea of becoming food for something you think of as food. Imagine a man-eating cupcake, sitting there looking delicious, but it takes your hand off when you reach for it.

There’s also the fact that it touches on the taboo of cannibalism, or in this case the idea of unintentional cannibalism. What if the hogs were not seen eating the corpses and just wandered back to the farm? If a human eats a hog fattened on human flesh what is that person actually eating? Does it count if you didn’t know where the animal was getting its between meal snacks? We’re sure that eating other people is a no-no but we don’t have an established cultural response to accidentally eating something that ate other people. For the average person that is disturbing and (thankfully) unexplored territory.

I have a friend that witnessed this phenomenon, personally in Vietnam.

I had always thought of hogs as grain eaters. That’s what farmers feed them. But, once they go feral they become scavengers eating meat and just about anything else. I saw a documentary recently about hogs. Hogs can go feral within a few days, become aggressive, and extremely dangerous.

Sodalite is right, no one want to eat an animal that’s been snacking on your friends.

Do humans give off a chemical that’s toxic to humans or something? Once the flesh has been broken down in the pigs’ digestive system and absorbed into it’s body, the essence of human-y goodness is long gone. Pork is pork.

Physiologically, yes, at that point pork is pork. Psychologically, for quite a few of us, the waters would be murky at best. As I mentioned at the beginning of that paragraph it’s the “idea” that causes the distress.

I agree. Pet dogs and cats will eat anything, too, if they become hungry enough.

I guess there’s a slightly elevated risk of prion-caused diseases in these sorts of scenarios, not that this forms a significant component of people’s unease.

I have known two people who were eaten by pet dogs. Only one of them was dead at the time. The other lost a small portion of his body that had lost sensation. I don’t know all of the details nor do I want to.

Both of the Civil War hog incidents that were mentioned happened not to far from where I grew up – one in one direction and the other in another direction. I’m glad that I did not know about this as a child.

Even domestic hogs (think big) can be mean. But I adore piglets.

The hogs that ate the human beings were just following their animal natures just as we follow ours.

Fish and chips in Australia are shark meat. (well, the chips are actually potato). I have been told by a single Australian that they consider it just “getting back their own.”

Well, not as far as land animals go, at least, since we generally don’t eat mammals or birds that are predators or scavengers.

But lobsters, crabs, and eels, for example, will willingly scavenge corpses, and in turn are eaten by people. No, the direct connection isn’t common enough to produce an “established cultural response”, as you note, but the idea made it into the Ingoldsby Legends: