Animal Mascots of the Civil War
George Custer, (on right, reclining) and fellow officers of the Federal Provost Marshal's staff at Cumberland Landing pose with mascot. Library of Congress photo.
When Johnny Reb and Billy Yank marched off to war, chances are that a four-footed or winged creature went with them. Wartime animal mascots demonstrated bravery and loyalty, and earned the affections of their human counterparts. Dogs and horses were most commonly mascots for regiments, but a dignified eagle, a lumbering bear, and a sheep also had their place in camp and on the battlefield. 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.
An Irish wolfhound is memorialized on the Irish Brigade monument at Gettysburg.
"Sallie," a brindle Staffordshire Bull Terrier, was the regimental mascot for the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Given to 1st Lt William R. Terry as a four-week old puppy, Sallie grew up among the men of the regiment. Sallie followed the men on marches and to the battlefield. At the Battle of Gettysburg, the dog got separated from the unit. Unable to find her way, Sallie returned to the Union battle line at Oak Ridge, where she stood guard over the dead and wounded. The dog continued her faithful service through February, 1865, when she was struck by a bullet to her head in the battle of Hatcher's Run, Virginia. She was buried on the field of battle. For her devotion to the men, Sallie is memorialized at the 11th Pennsylvania monument erected at Gettysburg.
One of the best-known dog mascots was "Jack," the brown and white bull terrier mascot of the 102nd Pennsylvania Infantry. This unit of volunteer firemen claimed that Jack understood bugle calls and obeyed only the men of "his" regiment. Jack's career spanned nearly all the regiment's battles in Virginia and Maryland. The dog was present at the Wilderness campaigns, Spotsylvania, and the siege of Petersburg. After a battle he would seek out the dead and wounded of his regiment. Jack himself was wounded severely at Malvern Hill and was captured twice. The second time, he was exchanged for a Confederate soldier at Belle Isle. Jack disappeared shortly after being presented a silver collar purchased by his human comrades, an apparent victim of theft.
Other dog mascots were:
"Old Harvey" a white bulldog, mascot of the 104th Ohio, who served with distinction at Franklin. This unit also adopted a Newfoundland dog, a cat and a tamed raccoon as mascots.
General Asboth and his dog York go off to battle at Pea Ridge. (Image: Frank Leslie's Illustrated)
"York" a setter, was the pet of Brig. Gen. Alexander S. Asboth and often accompanied his master into action.
"Major," a mutt for the 10th Maine, (later reorganized as the 29th Maine) had a habit of snapping at Confederate minie balls in flight. Unfortunately, he caught one and died. During engagements, "Major" would bark and growl ferociously until the battle was over.
The 69th New York used the Irish Wolfhound as the regimental mascot. The wolfhound is depicted on the regiment's coat of arms. Two Irish wolfhounds were adopted by the unit and were clad in green coats bearing the number "69" in gold letters. They would parade immediately to the rear of the Regimental Color Guard.
Company B, 28th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, had a dog "Calamity" that would assist the soldiers in foraging missions.
The roster of the 1st Maryland Artillery lists dog Grace as the Unit Mascot. Grace was killed in action.
Battlefield lore is filled with examples of loyal dogs guarding their dead or wounded masters. (Frank Leslie's Illustrated)
Although thought of more as utilitarian, horses more than any other animal formed a relationship with their owners. The best-known horse of the war was Traveller, Gen. Robert E. Lee's beloved mount. The two remained together until Lee's death, when Traveller walked behind the hearse during the funeral procession. The horse is buried at Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, VA.
Little Sorrel, also known as Old Sorrel, was Gen. Stonewall Jackson's horse. Little Sorrel was about 11 years old when the General acquired him at Harper's Ferry, and was so small that Jackson's feet almost dragged on the ground. The horse survived his master and lived to a ripe old age, touring county fairs and attending Confederate functions. Visitors often pulled the hair from his mane and tail for souvenirs, making the steed nervous. Little Sorrel's bones are buried near the Jackson statue at the Virginia MIlitary Institute in Lexington, Virginia, and his hide is on display in the VMI Museum.
Major Gen. Jeb Stuart credited his horse Virginia with having prevented his capture by jumping over a large ditch. On the Union side, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's favorite horse was Cincinnati, but he also rode Methuselah, Randy, Fox, Jeff Davis and Kangaroo in the early years of the war. Col. Philip Sheridan preferred a gelding named Rienzi. The horse was so revered that after his demise his stuffed body was presented to the Smithsonian Institution.
Venerable "Old Abe" would fly screeching into battle with his Wisconsin regiment.
Among the most notable Civil War mascots was "Old Abe" the war eagle. For 42 battles and skirmishes, he was the official mascot for Co. C, 8th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers (The Eagle Regiment.) "Old Abe" was found as a young bird by Chippewa Indians in northern Wisconsin and sold to the McCann family as a pet. The family subsequently offered Old Abe to the regiment, which adopted him and swore him in as their mascot. They selected his name in honor of Abraham Lincoln. "Old Abe" participated in recruitment events, in marches and on parade sitting on a shield perch attached to a wooden pole. When the 8th Wisconsin went into battle, the bird would fly over the fighting and screech at the enemy. Confederates tried in vain to capture or kill "the Yankee Buzzard," knowing the demoralizing impact it would have on the regiment. The eagle participated in many public appearances and was a champion fundraiser for relief causes, such as the U.S. Sanitary Commission. Thousands of photographs of the bird were sold to raise money for soldier relief. "Old Abe" "retired" from active duty on September 28, 1864 when he was presented to the state of Wisconsin and was put on display in a cage in the state capital. In March 1881, "Old Abe" succumbed to smoke inhalation when the state capital caught on fire weeks earlier. State officials immediately had him stuffed and preserved and he went back on public display. A second fire destroyed the bird. A replica stands on display in the state capital as a memorial to the brave eagle.
The eagle, symbol of the Union, is represented frequently in battlefield statuary.
Other Two and Four-footed Friends
Gen. Robert E. Lee kept a hen as a pet and was rewarded with a egg laid under his cot each morning for his breakfast. The hen was displaced during the Gettysburg battle, causing much consternation until she was found. She was placed on the headquarters wagon for the retreat.
The 3rd Louisiana CSA, had a donkey in its midst. The donkey would push into the commander's tent and try to sleep with him, mistaking the officer for his original owner.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis's dog was also named Traveler.
The 12th Wisconsin Volunteers had a tame bear that marched with them all the way to Missouri.
The 2nd Rhode Island kept a sheep named Dick, who was taught tricks by the men. Dick was eventually sold to a butcher for $5 to buy food for the men.
The 26th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry had a badger as a mascot (The Badger State)
Soldiers of the Richmond Howitzers kept a number of gamecocks as pets. The Battalion also kept a dog, "Stonewall, " who was much admired by the artillerymen. Stonewall was given rides in the safety of a limber chest during battle. He was taught to attend roll call, sitting on his haunches in line.
The 43rd Mississippi Infantry kept a camel named Douglas, which was killed by a minie ball during the seige of Vicksburg,
Both the 12th Wisconsin and the 104th Pennsylvania kept tame raccoons as unit mascots.
Louisiana Tigers, was eventually the name for all troops from Louisiana in General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. The Tigers had a reputation for fearlessness and hand fighting on the battlefield, but also for thievery, drunkeness and fighting in camp. At least 24 nationalities represented in the tiger ranks wore colorful Zoauve uniforms.
The Pennsylvania Bucktails (13th Pennsylvania Reserves) regiment was made up of lumbermen who had a distinctive "wildcat" yell. Their custom of a man wearing on his hat the tail of a deer he had shot, gave the Pennsylvania Bucktails their name.
Sources of Information
Encyclopedia of the Civil War, Historical Times Illustrated, Patricia L. Faust, editor, Harper and Row, NY, 1986.
Davis, Burke. The Civil War: Strange and Fascinating Facts. Wings Books, New York, 1960.
Frank Leslie's Illustrated
Kelly, C. Brian. Best Little Ironies, Oddities and Mysteries of the Civil War. Cumberland House Publishing, Inc. Nashville, 2000.
Klement, Frank L. Wisconsin and the Civil War, The Wisconsin State Historical Society, 1963.
Lang, J. Stephen. The Complete Book of Confederate Trivia, Combined Books, Inc. Conshoshocken, PA, 1994.
Library of Congress
Robertson, James I., Jr. Soldiers Blue and Gray, University of South Carolina Press, 1988.
Seguin, Marilyn W. Dogs of War and Stories of Other Beasts of Battle in the Civil War. Branden Publishing Company, Brookline Village, MA, 1998.
Smith, Helene. Sally Civil War Dog 1861-1865, MacDonald/Sward Publishing Company, Greensburg, PA, 1996.
Wiley, Bell Irvin. The Life of Johnny Reb - The Common Soldier; of the Confederacy, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1943.
A note of appreciation is extended to Fort Ward volunteer Bob Caulk for his research assistance.
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