2018-05-31 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Around Memorial Day, we honor all who paid the ultimate price to protect our lives, country and freedom. Throughout history, dogs have accompanied soldiers into battle. Dogs played a bigger part during the Civil War than most of us realize.

There are accounts of Civil War soldiers’ dogs, following them into battle, on long marches and during lonely nights. Dogs and horses were often mascots for companies, regiments and battalions. Some Civil War mascots were an inspiration for the troops, while others were a reminder of beloved pets at home. Mascots brought loyalty and enthusiasm, and for soldiers, the act of nurturing animals also offset boredom in camp.

Not all mascots were dogs. When the 8th Wisconsin Infantry encamped, a Native American gave them an eagle as a gift for President Lincoln. “Old Abe” was carried on a staff as a symbol of courage when the men marched. Confederate soldiers tried to shoot the bird, but were only able to nick him.


Union soldier with his dog Union soldier with his dog Besides building morale, dogs were also adept at finding water sources for troops. Officers leading men into unknown territory had only primitive maps. Water, of course, was a vital commodity. Both the men and their horses needed regular water breaks. Even when a regiment was marching near a river, a dog could show safer routes down a steep embankment.

When provisions were slow to arrive, some dogs were good at finding food for more than just themselves. Chickens were relatively easy prey to kill and bring back. Other dogs were skilled at pulling food off loaded wagons. And if the men had time to hunt for their own dinners, their dogs became skilled partners.

Stories exist of dogs guarding their wounded masters, or remaining by their bodies. One widow located her husband’s remains because his dog stayed by the shallow grave where the man had been hastily buried. Below is an amazing memoir called “Reason and Instinct” written in 1871, author unknown:


Jack-Civil War dog Jack-Civil War dog “After the battle of Fredericksburg, it fell to my duty to search a given district for any dead or wounded soldiers there might be left, and to bring relief. Near an old brick dwelling I discovered a soldier in gray who seemed to be dead. Lying by his side was a noble dog, with his head flat upon his master’s neck.

As I approached, the dog raised his eyes to me good-naturedly, and began wagging his tail; but he did not change his position. The fact that the animal did not growl, that he did not move, but, more than all, the intelligent, joyful expression of his face, convinced me that the man was only wounded, which proved to be the case.

A bullet had pierced his throat, and faint from the loss of blood, he had fallen down where he lay. Whether this was casual or not, I cannot say. But the shaggy coat of the faithful creature was completely matted with his master’s blood. The dog had actually stopped the bleeding from the wound by laying his head across it.”

Here are profiles of two famous Civil War dogs and a symbolic mascot:

*SALLIE- a brindle Pit, served as mascot for the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. She was given to a lieutenant at four weeks of age. Sallie was raised by the men of the regiment. She knew the drum roll announcing reveille. Sallie followed the men on marches and to the battlefield, always on the front lines. In 1863 at a review of the Union army, Sallie marched with “her” soldiers. Abraham Lincoln spotted the dog from the stand. He raised his famous hat in salute. At Gettysburg, Sallie became separated from the 11th. Days later they found Sallie guarding the bodies of the dead and wounded soldiers. In 1865 at Hatcher’s Run Sallie was struck by a bullet and killed instantly. She was buried on the battlefield. In 1890 the surviving veterans of the 11th Pennsylvania dedicated a monument on the Gettysburg battleground which contains a likeness of Sallie sleeping.

*JACK- a stray Bulldog, wandered into a Pittsburgh firehouse. He went on to answer every fire call and was given an expensive ($75) silver collar. Jack “enlisted,” along with most of the firemen in the 102nd Pennsylvania Volunteers Regiment. He remained with them from 1861 through 1864, except for six months as a prisoner of war, which ended when he was exchanged for a Confederate soldier. While in a Virginia prison, he brought cheer to his fellow Union prisoners. Jack was in many battles, was captured again but escaped after six hours. At Malvern Hill he was severely wounded. Just before Christmas 1864 in Maryland, Jack disappeared forever. His comrades assumed he was stolen and probably killed for his silver collar.

*IRISH WOLFOUND- The 69th New York, made up mostly of Irish immigrants, used the Irish Wolfhound as the regimental mascot. A Wolfhound was depicted on the regiment’s coat of arms. Two Irish Wolfhounds adopted by the unit were clad in green coats, and marched with the color guard.

The “Fighting Irish” were known for their bravery. The soldiers went into battle at Fredericksburg with a sprig of boxwood in their caps. Robert E. Lee commented: “Never were men so brave” after inspecting the battlefield and seeing many of the dead had green sprigs in their caps. Hundreds more of the 69th sacrificed their lives at Gettysburg.

Not far from Sallie’s monument at Gettysburg is a bronze Irish Wolfhound, reclining on a pedestal in front of a Celtic cross. The Wolfhound- loyal, fast, strong- is a fitting symbol of the brave Irish Americans who fought to preserve their new country.

*Waiting for Homes: “Pluto” 18-215 is a female Lab/ Chesapeake Bay Retriever pup, under a year at Babylon Shelter (631-643-9270), while “Clooney” is a tuxedo kitten about 10 weeks old who left Babylon Shelter and is now at Last Hope in Wantagh (516-783-0030).

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