Fido, Drum Major of the 5th Massachusetts Volunteers

Fido, Joe Sinclair's dog

“Who does not recall Joe Sinclair’s dog that acted as drum major, and no human could have filled the position with greater dignity.”

Anecdotes about Civil War dogs appear in many accounts written by soldiers, but few of these writings are accompanied by portraits of the dogs. And many of the best known Civil War photos that include dogs do not identify the dogs by name, leaving their full identities lost to history. One example is General Rufus Ingalls’s coach dog, a handsome Dalmatian who was photographed several times at City Point. Though his image survives, it appears his name has not.


Here is a little dog who is notable for two reasons. First, we have both his picture and his story. Second, unlike the stories of many Civil War dogs who met sad fates, his is a happy one. Along with his master, Fido of the 5th Massachusetts Volunteers returned home after the war as a distinguished veteran. He was well-remembered by the regiment’s historian, Alfred S. Poe, for his service as drum major.

Fido’s story comes from Poe’s 1911 history, “The Fifth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.”

“Joe Sinclair callt’d his dog Fido, but the ‘boys’ all called him ‘Major’ because of the graceful manner in which he discharged the duties of Drum Major. Of imported Scotch-terrier stock, he came into Sinclair’s possession two weeks before the latter enlisted. Dog and master went to Prospect Hill and they were there two weeks; and on the march to Boston, on the way to Camp Wenham, Fido was lost, but he found his way back to his Cambridge home before midnight, the most tired canine in the city. When Sinclair went back to Wenham from a brief furlough home, Fido went with him and accompanied him and the regiment to North Carolina. He was a good forager, and many were the chickens that he caught and brought to his hungry master. He knew his place ahead of the band, countermarched, and always kept his distance. Fond of the water and a good swimmer, he gave the boys no end of fun. When the vessel bringing the regiment home reached the harbor, Mrs. Sinclair went out in a boat to greet her husband, and he unchaining the dog, till then attached to his friend, placed the animal at the rail, whence, seeing his mistress, he leaped into the water and swam to the side of the small boat, was taken in and no persuasion could coax him back. He survived his return from the front seventeen years.”

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A Forgiven Spaniel

It’s fortunate for this dog that he was so good-looking, and also that his new soldier friends had gone to so much effort to win him over from his dead master. Otherwise, how willing would the major have been to forgive him his costly error?

A forgiven spaniel

A handsome spaniel. The Louisianans’ dog may have looked something like this fellow.

His story is told by Napier Bartlett in “Military Record of Louisiana,” 1875:

“One of the men came across a beautiful spaniel at Malvern Hill, whom it was difficult to persuade to quit his dead master’s side. The offer of rations, however, finally triumphed over his virtue. The dog was alive at Richmond, and apparently infected with strong Confederate prejudices
when last seen; though he made a narrow escape for having indulged in a vitiated taste for gnawing off all the buttons off a $500 coat. This was the property of one of those fierce Majors, whose marches extended only through the streets of Richmond. The feelings of this gallant soldier soldier may be imagined, when upon awakening the morning after a debauch he discovered the extent of his misfortunes. His fury and agony of mind could only find relief by asking such questions, and failing to understand, ‘as what in the deuce anybody wanted to keep any such a d — d flop-eared hound around for anyhow.'”​

Were they bone buttons, perhaps? We hope, for the spaniel’s sake, the major replaced them with brass.
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The Vagaries of War Claim Two Dogs

History has preserved at least a few stories of animal mascots – mainly dogs – who bravely accompanied their soldiers into battle and were killed in action. But shot and shell were not the only threats that Civil War dogs faced. Besides the hazards of battle and rigors of campaigning, they also fell victim to other vagaries of war. Two regimental historians, one a Vermonter and the other a Louisianan, recalled dogs who lost their lives, one to a misunderstanding and the other to a malicious act of revenge.

Dead dog (End of the Poor)

Detail from “End of the Poor,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, July 1, 1865

Was the dog in the following anecdote guarding a dead master? Was he reacting in fear and confusion after the fighting? We will never know.

There was another homely looking yellow dog on the same battle field …who could not understand how the battle had gone, or who had had no offers of bacon to corrupt his principles. In an evil moment he attempted to bite a soldier, detailed to bury the dead, and the attempt cost him a bayonet thrust and his life. The soldier was too much exasperated, and out of humor at the heavy slaughter of our men, to waste any time “fooling around an old dawn.”

“Military Record of Louisiana,” by Napier Bartlett, 1875​

A colonel’s dog was killed to expose and shame a thief:

On one occasion, some men of the Second Vermont, having repeatedly lost some of their fresh meat, which they had reason to believe went into the camp of the Twenty-sixth New Jersey, killed and dressed Colonel Morrison’s fat New Foundland dog and hung his carcass in the quartermaster’s store tent. As they expected, it- was purloined that night by some of the New Jersey boys, who took it for fat mutton. The Vermonters were on the watch, tracked the dog-meat into the camp of the Twenty-sixth, and ascertained that it was served next day on the tables of several messes of the New Jersey officers. Of course the story soon ran through the brigade, and the New Jersey boys visiting the other camps for some time after were greeted by numerous bow wows by way of friendly salutation.

“Vermont in the Civil War: a history of the part taken by the Vermont soldiers and sailors in the war for the Union, 1861-5,” by G.G. Benedict, 1880​

(The colonel was apparently Andrew J. Morrison, whose own military career ended ignobly when, according to his Find-A-Grave biography, he was twice dismissed from the army for being drunk in combat.)​
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Loyal Frank of the 2nd Kentucky Regiment

In the opinion of Orphan Brigade veteran and historian Ed Porter Thompson, reflecting on the life of Frank, the dog of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry, the love of a dog for his master was second only to that of a mother for her child. A battle-scarred onetime prisoner of war, Frank, after living a soldier’s life, shared many a soldier’s fate. The following account is from Thompson’s book “History of the Orphan Brigade,” published in 1898.

Frank the Soldier Dog

“Among the singular circumstances attending the life of soldiers, few are more deserving of special mention than the facts in connection with this representative of the canine species in the army of the Confederacy. The peculiar ties existing between men and dogs the strong and constant attachment of the animal for his master have long been the subject of song and story. The noble Newfoundlander, in the snows of the Alps, seekibrief quote about Frankng the benighted and storm-caught traveler, presents to our minds the image of a benevolent intelligence; and the poet has made ‘Old Dog Tray’ the embodiment of unselfish love, and fidelity, for which man seeks in vain among his fellows, and not always finds, even in woman, after he leaves the sacred precincts of his childhood home, and the domain that is lighted by the eye of his mother.

“Frank was a sort of counterpart to Postlethwait, Capt. Richard A. Collins’s pet black bear, that shared the fortunes of his battery in Gen. Joe Shelby’s splendid command of Missouri Confederates; and to the Militia Pig that campaigned with the Kentucky volunteers during the War of 1812.

“He was brought into the Second Regiment by one of the members of Co. B, and long experienced with the men the privations of inclement season, scanty fare and hard marching, and the perils of the field. He went into the engagement at Donelson, was captured with the troops, and spent his six months in prison at Camp Morton: and

“When the regiment was marched out from the prison inclosure, on the 26th of August, 1862, Frank was observed to wag his tail joyfully, and he departed somewhat from his ordinarily dignified demeanor, and was gleeful at the prospect of going forth again to ‘the stern joys of the battle.’

“In more than one subsequent engagement he was wounded, but that did not deter him in the least from marching out promptly when the ‘long roll’ was sounded next time, and taking his chances. If a soldier fell, Frank looked at him with the eye of a philosopher; and the close observer might have discovered something of pity in his glance, and a half-consciousness that the poor man was dead, or in agony, and that he could not help him. On these, as indeed on almost all occasions, he seemed to partake largely of the spirit of the men. If the conflict was obstinate, Frank was silent and dogged. If the men shouted in the onset, or cheered when the ground was won, he barked in unison.

“He took part in the memorable ‘snow-ball battle’ at Dalton, March 22, 1864, and was wounded in the foot, having come in contact, during the melee, with one of his own species who was serving with an adverse party.

“On the march he frequently carried his own rations in a small haversack hung on his neck.

“He almost invariably went out, when not ‘excused by the surgeon,’ to company, regimental, and brigade drills, sometimes looking on like a reviewing officer, but oftener taking part in the maneuvers; but he had a sovereign contempt for ‘dress parade,’ and generally stayed at his quarters when he found that the men were to go no further than the color-line.

“He was rather choice, too, in his associates; and, though widely known and friendly to all, he would not allow of much familiarity outside of his own mess. When rations were short, he would visit other messes, and even other companies, and accept the little that his friends could spare; but he did not want them to presume upon his sense of obligation, and indulge in anything like caresses.

“In this way he lived the soldier s life. If Co. B had a shelter, Frank had his corner in it. When he was shot, his wounds were dressed, and he had no lack of attention. If the commissariat were well supplied, he fed bountifully, and put on his best looks. If life were eked out on ‘hard-tack’ and a slice of bacon, or of poor beef, Frank had but his share of that, and grew lean and hollow-eyed, like his soldier-friends.

“But, in the summer campaign of 1864, he disappeared; and we have to write of Frank, the soldier-dog, as we have done of many a noble soldier boy, ‘fate unknown.’ Perhaps some admirer of his species laid felonious hands upon him, and carried him captive away; or, perhaps, a ball from some ‘vile gun’ laid him low while he was taking a lonely stroll in the woods.”

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I was a dog of Gettysburg


JPG I was a dog of Gettysburg

Many of Abraham Lincoln’s writings, others’ memories of him, and accounts of the stories he told display his humility and identification with the common man. His common humanity with people of all stations in life contributed to a view of the 16th president so widely held that it continues to be reflected in much of the art and writing that is produced about Lincoln even today.

 One unique expression appears in the poem “Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg” by MacKinlay Kantor, whose Pulitzer-Prize-winning book “Andersonville” is probably his best-known work. Kantor’s poem, published in 1933, memorializes Lincoln’s November 1863 visit to the ceremonies dedicating the new Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg, where he gave “a few appropriate remarks” that live on in history as the Gettysburg Address. Kantor’s poem ends with a few lines that portray Lincoln’s humanity as perceived by a dog:
“I was a dog of Gettysburg.
I trotted near the train
And nosed among the officers, who kicked me to my pain.
A man came by. . . . I could not see. I howled.
The light was dim,
But when I brushed against his legs, I liked the smell of him.”

Was Kantor perhaps familiar with this photograph of the crowd watching the parade to the cemetery dedication on Nov. 19, 1863? In the scene, a small dog stands

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in the center, behind the crowd. Did he accompany his owner to Gettysburg for the solemn occasion? Or was he a local dog attracted by the activity? We’ll never know, just as he could never know that he was witness to an historic occasion. I would like to think that MacKinlay Kantor, gazing deeply into this picture, discovered the little dog standing there and was inspired by his presence with the people on Baltimore Street that day.


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Civil War Dogs Are Everywhere

Many Civil War dogs appear in photographic portraits with their soldiers or sailors, often in formal poses with individual soldiers and sometimes in regimental or company formation. But look closely at some well-known Civil War scenes and you will see dogs almost hidden in casual poses like this one. This little dog–whose name is now likely lost to history–was photographed with his officer aboard the Union gunboat USS Miami. Front and center in the scene are two handsome spaniels who appear to know that it’s a formal occasion.


Continue reading

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Two Lesser-known Dogs at Gettysburg

Sallie Ann Jarrett, the mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and the dog of the 1st (now 2nd) Maryland Battalion, known as “Grace,” who was a casualty of the fighting in Pardee Field, are the best-known dogs to have accompanied soldiers at Gettysburg. But other dogs, including some whose names are lost to history, also appear in soldiers’ accounts of the battle. Here are two of them. Continue reading

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A Chaplain Reflects on the Character of His Regiment’s Dogs

Daily they do honor to every faculty their Maker has given them, while it may be both you and those who proudly boast themselves as the owners of the dog, are daily and recklessly dishonoring, by misimprovement, each power of body and faculty of soul bestowed for high aims and holy purposes.”


Rev. Alexander M. Stewart, Chaplain, 102nd Pennsylvania Volunteers

Dog Jack, the celebrated mascot of the 102nd Pennsylvania Volunteers, is one of the best known dogs of the Civil War. But he was not the regiment’s only mascot. In a memoir, the regiment’s chaplain, Rev. Alexander M. Stewart, tells not only Jack’s story in detail, but he also introduces two other memorable dogs, York and Beauty. Rev. Stewart’s musings on theology and military life underscore the high esteem that soldiers held for their canine companions.

If anyone might wonder why soldiers erected bronze monuments to their dogs, buried them with military honors or toasted their memory at reunions, let them read Rev. Stewart’s account:

“Two Famous Characters.—As chroniclers of great battles are wont to say, ‘It would be impossible to mention by name all who have distinguished themselves,’ so neither, as you will bear me witness, has there been any attempt, in my numerous letters from camp, to mention individuals by name who have done honor to the service. In so doing a large list must be made, as almost every name would press for insertion. There are, however, two characters attached to our regiment, whose long, brave, constant, uninterrupted manly bearing, it might seem invidious longer to pass over in silence. Volunteering into the regiment at its first organization, now nineteen long months,—during all that time, they have shown no tendency to desert, nor even asked for a furlough or leave of absence. They have never been off duty; never missed a roll call; never offered a complaint; never have seemed to doubt of ultimate success; always cheery and ready to lend a helping hand at any difficult service. Far different, also, from many in their respective companies, they have never yet so far disgraced themselves, as to violate the law of God, wholesome army regulations, together with all rules of decency and gentlemanly bearing, by uttering a vulgarity, swearing a profane oath, playing cards or getting drunk. Their characters, it may be truly said, are now known and read of all. But who, who are they? Let us hear the names of such true gentlemen and model characters, such brave soldiers and unbending patriots: —Two Dogs.

“Smile, reader, if you will; but don’t snarl or turn up the nose. These two characters are far more worthy to have an honorable chronicle, than many a biped with whom they associate….. Yet are they none of your ordinary whelps or curs, though to the manor born, and without name or fame. By native strength of character, and living in revolutionary times, they have raised themselves above the common swarm of mongrels. As the biography of many a Brigadier should, in charitable silence, be brief, so of our two heroes nothing shall be written until fairly ushered upon the stage of active military life.”

Here, Rev. Stewart tells the well-known story of Jack’s early career as firedog of the Niagara Fire Company of Pittsburg (sic), Pennsylvania, then he follows with passages on the 102nd’s other mascots.

“The other dog is a curious looking specimen of the canine. One must be more skilled in doggery than the writer, to define his species. Spaniel, cur, terrier, and waterdog all seem blended in one. He is, however, ‘A rhyming, ranting, roving billie.’ His partial friends do, indeed, boast him of high degree; yet sure all who meet him must admit,

‘That though he be of high degree,
The feint a pride, no pride has he.’

“Volunteering in the regiment while encamped in the city of York, Pa., in May, 1861, he is, in accordance, surnamed York. He is enrolled in company B, which occupies the extreme left or rear of the regiment. Should Jack at any time approach the rear, every hair on York’s body is at once on end. Should York approach the right, Jack sends him back according to true military style and authority. York’s reasoning faculties seem to operate slowly. He is accustomed to bound away, and bring back in his mouth whatever missile any one of the boys may throw from them, whether falling upon land or water. With live game he has but little acquaintance. The other day a rabbit was started, and was seen by York at a certain point. Thither he bounded with wonderful agility; then he stopped and snuffed and snorted to find the rabbit as he would a block or stone—seeming wholly oblivious, that although the rabbit was actually in that spot when he started in pursuit, it might not perchance be in the same spot when he arrived. Marvellous stories are told by the boys concerning the experience and knowledge in military affairs acquired by these dogs; all of which, if written, would fill a volume, and put to shame many a Brigadier.

“Another dog we had whose name is still cherished, and whose memory should not be allowed to perish without a word. On account of many graces, both mental and bodily, it received the appellation of ‘Beauty.’” Along into the battle of Malvern, went Beauty, but came not out. Some would have it, that Beauty was taken prisoner, but as the name never appeared among the list of captured, this seems impossible. The majority have it, that Beauty was torn to pieces by a bursting shell. Poor Beauty bleaches not alone, unburied, from our regiment, upon those bloodstained hills of Malvern. Should these two veterans not meet the fate of Beauty, and be allowed to return with the living to Pittsburg, a bright brass collar, with appended silver medal, will, no doubt, be voted to each, and be worn by their dogships the remainder of life.

“Reader, these two dogs give evidence of thinking as quickly, and reasoning as accurately as yourself. What is it, then, which separates you from them so widely, marking a distinction lasting as eternity? They have no conscience, no moral sense, no remorse for the past, no hope or dread of the future. All these you possess, and in their daily exercise they argue you accountable—a being, the consequences of whose actions are not to cease, as will those of Jack and York. Yet, perchance, these dogs are acting in a manner much more rational than yourself. Daily they do honor to every faculty their Maker has given them, while it may be both you and those who proudly boast themselves as the owners of the dog, are daily and recklessly dishonoring, by misimprovement, each power of body and faculty of soul bestowed for high aims and holy purposes.

“Two years have now elapsed since the above chronicle was made of our two camp friends. These two eventful years have made rapid and fearful changes among the human members of our regiment, as well as of the whole army. Nor have our canine companions been exceptions to war’s rapid mutations. Eighteen months since, poor York sank under a complication of injuries, diseases and exposures—died in camp, was buried with appropriate military honors by the members of his company, while a board at the spot duly chronicles the event. Jack still survives, through multiplied dangers and vicissitudes, maintaining his honorable position in the field and active service….”

From “Camp, March and Battle-field; Or Three Years and a Half with the Amy of the Potomac,” 1865

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Gettysburg was all he needed to know of Army life

Maybe this Maryland dog’s family never wondered about his absence and, we presume, his return home. In any case, it’s very likely they never guessed that he “fought” at Gettysburg. His brief story is told by Michael Schroyer of the 147th Pennsylvania, who recounted the Union Army’s march into Pennsylvania in late June 1863:

After passing through Frederick, “[a]long the roadside we came across a goodly number of cherry trees which were loaded with the precious fruit and we ate many quarts in a very short time. While resting, some three or four ladies came along in a carriage, singing ‘Maryland, My Maryland.’ The boys cheered them all along the line as it certainly was inspiring to hear this song as we were nearing old Pennsylvania. A large, long-haired, yellow dog came to our company from one of the Maryland homes, became a pet and stayed with us on the march . . . .The long haired yellow dog that followed the company from Maryland was with us all thru the Gettysburg battle and when a shell dropped near us and exploded, the dog, who had found a cool place under the rocks, would come forth and bark at the bursting shells. The dog stayed with us until our return march thru Maryland when he left us and we never saw anything of him again.”

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Three Dogs Saved From Drowning

Bravo! to the Italian yacht crew members who saved a young Labrador retriever last month after the dog went overboard off another boat in the Bay of Naples. On social media this week, many people have viewed the videos of the dog, Noodle, and his rescue. If you missed that story, you can see it here, courtesy of CNN and the Savoia Yacht Club: Noodle’s dramatic rescue reminded us that two of the most famous figures of the American Civil War also saved dogs from drowning: Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee.

Noodle the Labrador retriever swims for his life in the Bay of Naples after falling overboard.

Noodle the Labrador retriever swims for his life in the Bay of Naples after falling overboard.

Years before the Civil War, Lee, the future Confederate general, was on a boat near Staten Island, New York, when he spotted, bobbing in the water, a dog who had apparently fallen overboard from a passing boat and drifted out of sight. Lee rescued her and took her home to his children. She became Dart, a beloved family member. Later, one of her pups, named Spec, was also a much-loved companion who was known for accompanying the family to church.

Abraham Lincoln’s lifelong love of dogs is also well known. In 1830 he saved one of his family’s dogs from drowning in an icy stream. Lincoln, then 21, was accompanying his father, stepmother and siblings as the family moved from Indiana to Illinois. Streams were overflowing their banks with the thawing and refreezing of early spring, and as the party crossed a flooded spot, a small dog jumped from the wagon and broke through the ice. Lincoln biographer David Herbert Donald quotes Lincoln’s own retelling of the episode, “‘I could not bear to lose my dog,’ Lincoln recalled many years later, ‘and I jumped out of the wagon and waded waist deep in the ice and water[.] got hold of him and helped out and saved him.’”

Noodle, Dart and Lincoln’s little friend whose name is lost to history are three dogs fortunate that kind-hearted people were nearby to help them in their distress.

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