The Last Regular Season College Football Game of 2010
This weekend (December 11), Philadelphia welcomes the cadets of the United States Military Academy at West Point and the midshipmen of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis for the 111th meeting between their football teams. (This year, both teams are already bowl eligible going into the game.) The carriage drivers in Philadelphia have a lot of fun this weekend - when we have Navy fans we point out that Commodore Barry (father of the navy) gets the front side of Independence Hall while George Washington (the army guy) gets the back; for the Army folks, we point out that our carriages are pulled by the horse half of a mule.
The mascot of Army's sports teams has been the Army mule since 1899, and the original "Army mule" mascot was pulled off the streets of Philadelphia and "drafted" into service for the fifth meeting between the two service branches' football teams. A officer at the Quartermaster Depot in Philadelphia decided that the Army team needed a mascot to rival Navy's goat, and a large white mule who normally pulled an ice wagon was requisitioned for service as a mascot. That mule was curried, groomed and festooned with ribbons in Army's colors. According to West Point lore, the first "meeting" between the Army and Navy mascots ended in a punt; the mule whirled and "hoisted that astonished goat toward the Navy stands to the delight of the yelling, laughing crowd." Twenty-five thousand people saw that game, a huge crowd for that time. It was the first Army-Navy game at Franklin Field on the University of Pennsylvania's campus, and Army won, 17-5.
Since then, the Army Mule has been represented by many mules. From 1899 - 1936, the Army Mule was whatever mule could be had, whether from West Point's stables or from local stables. Frequently, there have been multiple mules on hand, perhaps a nod to teamwork. The first "official" Army Mule was Mr. Jackson, a former mule from the Army Remount service. He served as head Army Mule until 1948, when he was retired. Mr. Jackson, who lived until 1961 and reigned for many years as the "Oldest Mule in the U.S. Army," objected strongly and vociferously in his stall to seeing other, younger mules being led out on game day to serve as mascot.
Today, mascot duties are shared between Raider, Ranger II, and General Scott. Raider is the head mule, in full-time service as mascot since 1995. Ranger and General Scott joined the mascot corps in 2002. General Scott is 1/4 Percheron, his mother having been a Percheron cross.
The Mule was selected as Army's mascot because of its long and storied history in the military. Mules were used for draft work, pulling artillery and wagons alongside horses, for remounts in the cavalry, and for pack work, especially in difficult, mountainous terrain. Mules were phased out of the army in 1956, when they were finally replaced by technology. The Army Mule was not replaced by trucks or tanks, but by... helicopters.
(Army Mules, at an "undisclosed location," summer 2009, from flickr4jazz on flickr.com. From left to right: Raider, Ranger II, and General Scott)