“Sport,” A Dog of Gettysburg

We often say that when a dog accepts you as a member of his pack, he will never give you up. And when children accept a dog as a member of their family, their loyalty is much the same. A Gettysburg woman’s memoir of her experience as a 13-year-old during the Battle of Gettysburg includes a brief mention of loyalty shown to a dog as her family fled their home to seek safety outside of town.

Lydia Catherine Ziegler lived with her family in the Lutheran Seminary, where her father, Emanuel, was the building’s steward and mother, Mary, was the matron. When the battle erupted on July 1, 1863, the family took cover in the Seminary’s cellar. But two hours later, during a lull in the shelling, Union officers advised them to leave Seminary Ridge and go into town. They walked several miles seeking a safe place. Finding none at Cemetery Hill or Spangler’s Spring, they continued along the Baltimore Pike to the home of a widowed aunt of Emanuel’s who lived near the village of Two Taverns. Emanuel, who was home on furlough from an army regiment, volunteered his services to assist a signal company at Little Round Top.

Lydia recalled that during their long walk to find refuge, the family’s aged dog finally could not keep up on his own.“Our poor, faithful old dog Sport could no longer walk, so we children took turns in carrying him, and the poor old fellow would lick our hands to show his gratitude.”On July 4 after the fighting had ended, the Zieglers attempted to return home in a wagon but were forced to turn back because of the danger posed by unexploded shells that could detonate if accidentally struck by a wagon wheel. On July 5, they left on foot, walking home through a wasteland of death and destruction.

Back at the Seminary, they found that their home was now a hospital. The children and their mother took up the work of helping to care for the wounded. Lydia makes no further mention of Sport after their flight from the Seminary. Perhaps he was allowed to stay behind at the aunt’s home, rather than make an arduous trek back through the battle-scarred town. Lydia and her brother Hugh, who was 10 at the time of the battle, dictated their memoirs many years afterward. You can read Lydia’s account here and Hugh’s here.

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