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The farm boys and small-town residents who made up most of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry were among the first soldiers to enlist when Abraham Lincoln issued his call for 75,000 troops in April 1861. Motivated by patriotism and the prospect of adventure, they thought it would take just 90 days to put down the Rebellion. But as they and the nation soon learned, there would be no swift end to hostilities.
By the following April, the 11th had become a cohesive fighting force, experienced in combat, skilled in drills and tactics. Their mascot, Sallie, a handsome bull terrier, had grown from a four-week-old pup to a hardy and faithful companion who delighted in the fellowship of army life. And the soldiers, to whom she was fiercely loyal, delighted in her companionship.
Sallie especially enjoyed drills and dress parades. On parade, she would eagerly take her place at the front of the line to lead the commanding officer’s horse. During drills, she would lie quietly beside the color bearers, guarding her regiment’s flags. Whenever the regiment broke camp, her self-appointed role was to lead the colonel’s horse as the march began.
On April 15, 1862, the 11th was stationed in Washington, DC, when their commanding officer, Colonel Richard Coulter, received an invitation for the regiment to march in review at the White House. The regiment’s chaplain would later write in his memoirs of Lincoln’s “kindly smile” as he stood on the front steps watching.
Nearly a year later, the 11th would meet the commander in chief again, and Sallie would receive special notice. On April 8, 1863, while near Fredericksburg, Virginia, the 11th again marched in review before President Lincoln. The President saluted officers he knew, waved his hat to the enlisted men, and when he saw Sallie marching proudly by, tipped his hat to her in courtly acknowledgment. As the historians of the 11th would write, “Sallie had given pleasure to a man who was heavily burdened with the decisions of war.” Lincoln, who loved animals, no doubt recognized the bond of affection between the soldiers and their mascot and the good cheer that she brought to the men. And, for the moment, he shared in that good cheer and the camaraderie of a faithful dog.
Sources: “A Colonel, A Flag and A Dog” by Cindy Stouffer and Shirley Cubbison
“The Story of the Regiment” by Rev. William Henry Locke
“The War Dog” by John Lippy
Read more about Sallie and the other loyal dogs of the Civil War here: http://www.LoyaltyOfDogs.com/ReadPosterTribute.htm.