04 May 2007 by Published in: Union Cavalry 4 comments

With thanks to Jon Morrison (I’ve borrowed part of his description of this episode and the poem from Jon), here’s an extremely funny account of an episode from the siege of Chattanooga in the fall of 1863.  With Chattanooga cut off and in danger of having Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland starve, Geary’s division of the 12th Corps marched to Brown’s Ferry, which forced open a supply line for the beleaguered army.  Bragg and Longstreet watched this from atop Lookout Mountain, and decided to act.

On the night of October 29th, 1863, the division of Brig. Gen. Micah Jenkins undertook a rare night assault.  During the course of the battle, the Federals were able to hold their positions and drive off the Southerners.  “An amusing incident of this struggle occurred. When it began, about two hundred mules, frightened by the noise, broke from their tethers and dashed into the ranks of Wade Hampton’s legion, and produced a great panic. The Confederates supposed it to be a charge of Hooker’s cavalry, and fell back, at first, in great confusion.”  General Grant was so amused over this incident that the mules were supposedly given the rank of “brevet-horse”.

With apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, I present to you:

The charge of the mule brigade

Author Unknown

Half a mile, half a mile,
Half a mile onward,
Right through the Georgia troops
Broke the two hundred.
“Forward the Mule Brigade!
Charge for the Rebs,” they neighed.
Straight for the Georgia troops
Broke the two hundred.

“Forward the Mule Brigade!”
Was there a mule dismayed?
Not when their long ears felt
All their ropes sundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to make Rebs fly.
On! to the Georgia troops
Broke the two hundred.

Mules to the right of them,
Mules to the left of them,
Mules behind them
Pawed, neighed, and thundered.
Breaking their own confines
Breaking through Longstreet’s lines
Into the Georgia troops
Stormed the two hundred.

Wild all their eyes did glare,
Whisked all their tails in air
Scattering the chivalry there,
While all the world wondered.
Not a mule back bestraddled,
Yet how they all skedaddled —
Fled every Georgian,
Unsabred, unsaddled,
Scattered and sundered!
How they were routed there
By the two hundred!

Mules to the right of them,
Mules to the left of them,
Mules behind them
Pawed, neighed, and thundered;
Followed by hoof and head
Full many a hero fled,
Fain in the last ditch dead,
Back from an ass’s jaw
All that was left of them, —
Left by the two hundred.

When can their glory fade?
Oh, what a wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made!
Honor the Mule Brigade,
Long-eared two hundred!

Scridb filter


  1. Ian Duncanson
    Wed 09th May 2007 at 9:28 pm

    Priceless!! Thank Eric.

  2. Wed 09th May 2007 at 9:38 pm

    Glad you enjoyed it, Ian. I laughed like hell when I first read it.


  3. Lee
    Tue 07th Aug 2007 at 9:00 pm

    Amusing, but untrue. In fact, the Legion got among the wagon park, shot some of the mules, and stampeded others, causing a mini-panic among the teamsters, nto among the Legion, which held its position until ordered to withdraw. Historians who have taken a dispassionate look at this “Charge of the Mule Brigade” have uniformly branded it false. Cubbage is perhaps the best source for this.

  4. Tue 07th Aug 2007 at 10:53 pm


    I can certainly appreciate that it’s apocryphal. It was not offered for the truth of the matter, but rather as a funny. And it is definitely funny.


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