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Lecture on Mules Next ASU Civil War Topic

November 05, 2012

The third installment of Angelo State University’s 2012-13 Civil War Lecture Series will explore the role of mules in the great conflict at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, in, appropriately, the Fort Concho Stables Hall on Henry O. Flipper Street. 

Dr. Emmett M. Essin, professor of history at Eastern Tennessee State University, will speak on “Mules, the Civil War and the Texas Frontier” in a program that is open free to the public.  Light refreshments will be served.

Essin, a native of Sherman, authored Shavetails and Bell Sharps:  The History of the U. S. Army Mule, the seminal work on the 150-year heritage of mules in the Army.  The pack animals played an important military logistical role from the early 1800s through the middle of the 20th century.  In the 19th century, they were especially important in the Civil War and in the frontier army that settled the American West.

Bob Bluthardt, director of the Fort Concho National Historic Landmark, a co-sponsor of the Civil War Lecture Series, said, “Army mules began their service during the Second Seminole War in the 1830s.  Mules continued to play a key role in the Army through the war with Mexico, during the bitter campaigns of the Civil War, throughout the Indian Wars in the West, during the Spanish American War, and into the 20th century with the conflicts of the Philippine and Boxer rebellions, World War I and even World War II and Korea.”

“On the American frontier, the army mule led expeditions throughout the vast regions, and soldiers became associated with them,” Bluthardt said.  “In time, the troopers came to appreciate them.  It was the Civil War that saw mules become the dominant draft animal of the United States Army.”

Guest lecturer Essin earned his bachelor’s degree from Austin College in Sherman and went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in history from Texas Christian University.  He has taught at East Tennessee State University for more than 40 years, winning a wide variety of awards for teaching and research.

Bluthardt said the program is an especially fitting one for the Fort Concho Stables Hall.  One of several existing stables from the 1870s, the hall’s walls still have dozens of the iron rings for tethering cavalry mounts.  Converted into a wool warehouse by the early 1900s, the entire block of several stables and a modern addition were purchased by the City of San Angelo and Fort Concho in 1997.  Bay 3 of these stables has been improved over the past 15 years and now serves as a large meeting hall for the fort.

“The spirit of the fort’s historic past with horses and mules,” said Bluthardt, “lives on at the new living history stables just down the street.”

Dr. Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai, a Civil War scholar and coordinator for ASU’s 2012-13 Civil War Lecture Series, said the goal of the lecture series is to engage the community in reflection on the Civil War and its impact, even on contemporary society.  He said the lecture series would also be a learning experience for secondary school teachers and their students.

Other programs in ASU’s 2012-13 Civil War Lecture Series are:

  • Jan. 29, “Soldier Motivation and Life,” ASU history faculty, 7 p.m., ASU Davidson Center;
  • Feb. 8, “The Problem of Slavery in Early Texas,” Dr. Andrew Torget, assistant professor of history, University of North Texas, 7 p.m., Fort Concho;
  • March 26, “An Evening of Civil War Music,” ASU music faculty, 7 p.m., ASU Davidson Center; and
  • April 17, “Beloved Companion:  The Civil War Correspondence of James and Frances Catherine Wood,” 7 p.m., ASU Auditorium, Mayer Administration Building.

Persons interested in more information on the Civil War series can e-mail the ASU History Department at

The Civil War series is jointly sponsored by multiple ASU departments, including the History Department, Center for Security Studies, West Texas Collection, Multicultural Center and Air Force ROTC, as well as Fort Concho and the Concho Valley Civil War Roundtable, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of that watershed event in American history.