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Archive for August 21st, 2013

Civil War Dogs- Dog JackI’ve been cat-sitting in the studio for a few days, bringing the total of felines ( all strays or discards) around here to four.  While I love and appreciate these cats with their distinct personalities, having four around has made me yearn for a dog once more.  While zipping through images, anything resembling a dog makes me stop, including this old cabinet card for a mascot, Jack,  for the 102nd Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers from the Civil War.  The card lists the battles that jack took part in with the regiment as well as listing his capture by the Confederates and his subsequent exchange for opposing troops.  Quite a resume and the fact that the regiment made the effort to have the photo and card made speaks to Jack’s rank in the regiment.  

I knew that dogs have been used in combat for ages, in modern times serving as detectors of bombs and corpses.  But the mascots of the Civil War intrigued me.  Jack here, for instance, was a stray who wandered into a Pittsburgh firehouse and , through his tenacity, eventually worked his way into the firefighter’s hearts, joining them as they enlisted as a unit for the war.  He would march with the troops and would stand at the end of the firing line during combat, barking furiously at the opposing troops.  Jack served for over three years, including six months in a Confederate prison camp where it is said he gave great comfort to the Union prisoners there .  He was wounded a number of times and finally disappeared in December of 1864 near Frederick, MD.  Jack was never found but it is thought he was probably killed for the expensive silver collar his comrades had awarded him.

The only known photo of Sallie

The only known photo of Sallie

Jack was one of the more famous of the Civil War dogs, having portraits painted of him that still hang today as well as a recent movie giving a fictionalized account of his life.  But my favorite is undoubtedly the story of Sallie, the mascot of the 11th PA Volunteers from around West Chester, PA.  Given to the regiment’s captain as a four or five week old pup, Sallie (named after one of the local beauties) became the apple of the regiment’s collective eye.  She trained with the men, responding to reveille and roll calls with great discipline.  She was affectionate with her troops, who she knew even out of uniform, and proved to be fearless when they entered the fray.

Her combat record was remarkable.  She served for nearly the duration of the war, receiving wounds including a severe shoulder wound that did not deter her from her duty to her comrades.  It is said that after the surgeon was unsuccessful in removing the  gun’s ball from her shoulder (it later emerged after working itself to the surface), Sallie was back on duty , tearing the seat out of the pants of a soldier who was trying to flee the battle.  After the battles, including Gettysburg, , Sallie would lick the hands and faces of the wounded and would guard the dead until their comrades would come for them.  It is said that during a review of the troops in Fredericksburg, VA, Abraham Lincoln even doffed his stovepipe hat to Sallie as she passed, much to the delight of her fellow troops.

Sallie's Place at the Foot of the 11th PA's Monument

Sallie’s Place at the Foot of the 11th PA’s Monument

But, like most war stories, there was no happy ending.  In February of 1865, two months before the war’s end, Sallie was killed in combat at Petersburg.  While the battle raged around them, her regiment took on the task of burying her on the battlefield.  The affection that these troops had for this canine warrior was so strong that when they erected a regimental monument at the Gettysburg battlefield in 1890, they chose have a likeness of Sallie watchfully laying at the foot of the larger monument.  I think it’s telling that when the regiment had a reunion at the battlefield in 1910, the group photo was shot so that there was space so that the statue of Sallie was among them.

I can only imagine the value of the affection and warmth Sallie  and other less known canine mascots offered these men while they struggled to get through the war.  A dog’s unconditional love is a wonder.

11th PA Volunteers with Sallie among them 1910

11th PA Volunteers with Sallie among them 1910


Civil War Dogs- Sallie Monument detail 1 Civil War Dogs- Sallie Monument detail

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