Soon after the Civil War erupted in April 1861, Perryville became an important Union staging area. Adjacent to Fort Dare here, a riverside plantation was confiscated from Confederate sympathizers and immediately transformed into a special camp and school. the "recruits" marched down Broad Street but were forbidden from mingling with the curious citizenry, excluded from mess tents, and issued no uniforms, weapons or tents. They were mules, and they outnumbered men at the camp.
About 11,000 mules, 3,500 horses, 3,000 wagons, and 3,200 teamsters converged on Perryville for military training. The mules arrived unbroken and tended to stampede. They presented great challenges to those hired to train them and protested getting the U.S. brands on their shoulders. But by the time they left for war, they were harnessed four to a wagon in teams, obeyed commands, and hauled highly valuable military supplies. The mules' service was critically important to the Federal logistics and supply system, and the training academy at Perry Point took credit for the good behavior of the beasts. During the war, about 1.5 million horses and mules were wounded or killed.
Once the government decided to close the training camp in 1862, a unique action ensued. Offered for sale were 23 mules, 12 horses,
15 mares with foals, 50 cooking stoves, 15,000 grain sacks, 60,000 tire irons, 8,000 lbs. of iron, 175,000 board feet of lumber, 15 barracks, 271 neck halters, 200 lbs. of horseshoe nails, 112 stable forks, and 832 lanterns. Paper money, coins, and U.S. Treasury notes were accepted.
(lower left photo) The U.S. Army confiscated the Stump family plantation at Perry Point to create a mule school. The Stumps, Confederate sympathizers, fled to Harford County. Photo ca. 1890s. - Courtesy of Historical Society of Cecil County
(upper right photo) U.S. Army officers and soldiers encamped in a Cecil County War camp.
(lower right photo) The mule, offspring of a female horse and male donkey, is renowned for having a mind of its own. Imagine the small citizenry of the Town of Perryville, when 11,000 converged on them and marched through the streets on their way to school.