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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A Shocking Encounter

Robert D. Funkhouser, Jr., who served with the 49th Virginia Infantry, shared some of his memories of the war with readers of the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 1906. Among his reminiscences was a brief account of a shocking encounter with a Newfoundland dog. This peculiar little story is possibly the only remembrance of this dog that has remained in all the years since the war. It’s one of those sobering reminders of the high price some dogs paid — then, as now — for their loyalty to their soldiers.

“The night after the battle at Williamsburg, the 6th of May, 1862, our regiment was standing in line of battle in front of the winter quarters of some of General Magruder’s troops, and it was pouring down rain. We were wet as water could make us, even with good overcoats on, and it was very dark, so Lieutenant J. B. Updyke and myself groped into one of the huts and found something soft to lay our heads on, and soon we were both fast asleep. A cannon-ball crashed through our shanty, and the rattle of shingles and shower of daubing and debris woke us up, and when we started to decamp in a great hurry, Lieutenant Updyke said, wofully: “I’ve lost my hat. Have you got a match?” When I struck one, lo and behold! there was a large Newfoundland dog, which had served as our pillow, lying there dead; but we did not hold a post-mortem to ascertain the cause of his death, because another cannon-ball came shrieking close over our heads.”​

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A Civil War Dog’s Tale Told Across Two Generations

Visitors to the Gettysburg Battlefield are often surprised to see the life-size statue of a dog lying at the base of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry monument on Doubleday Avenue. The statue, at the front of the monument, faces across the fields where the fighting took place on July 1, 1863, and away from the road, where visitors can easily pass by unaware of the dog’s presence.

Plaques on the monument recall the deeds of the men of the regiment in battles from 1861 to 1865, enumerating their losses, including 132 casualties at Gettysburg. But the dog is not mentioned. Who was she, and why was she given this costly tribute?

Two Civil War Dog BooksIf John D. Lippy, Jr., wondered as he grew up at Gettysburg, it was not for long. As a boy early in the 20th century, he heard the story of the dog, Sallie Ann Jarrett, first-hand from Civil War veterans returning to Gettysburg for reunions. He heard how Sallie accompanied the soldiers of the 11th from their earliest days, as new recruits at Camp Wayne in West Chester, Pennsylvania, through nearly the entire war, until a fateful fight at Hatcher’s Run in Virginia in February 1865. At Gettysburg she had earned the soldiers’ undying appreciation when she refused to leave the field as Union troops retreated on July 1. Instead, she remained behind, watching over her dead and wounded comrades. The soldiers of the 11th feared she had been killed, but she was found days later, after the battle had ended, and returned to her regiment.

John Lippy took the story to heart and, years later, wrote an account and published it himself in 1962 under the title “The War Dog.”

More than 30 years later, “The War Dog” was long out-of-print when authors Shirley Cubbison and Cindy Stouffer also became intrigued by Sallie’s story. Their collaboration in research and writing produced a more extensive history of the 11th and its mascot “A Colonel, A Flag, And A Dog” “A Colonel, A Flag, And A Dog,” published in 1998.

Though both books are now out-of-print and can be difficult to find, Sallie’s story remains popular with visitors to the Gettysburg Battlefield. Her statue is a favorite spot where many visitors leave small “gifts” – biscuits, flowers, and flags – and some have their pictures taken beside her.

You can read more about “The War Dog” by John Lippy and “A Colonel, A Flag, And A Dog” by Shirley Cubbison and Cindy Stouffer on our Web site, and even purchase a copy if you like. We are delighted to currently have both books available for sale.

To see photos from some of Sallie’s visitors, visit our gallery, and feel free to contact us if you have a photo with Sallie that you’d like to share. We’d love to hear from you.

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Grace, A Loyal Confederate Mascot at Gettysburg

Dogs have figured prominently in art of the Civil War, from illustrations in the popular press of the 1860s to the present day, when noted Civil War artists continue to include them in their paintings. Some of these dogs, like Grace, the mascot of the 2nd Maryland CSA (originally the 1st Maryland Infantry Battalion), would be all but forgotten except for a single instance of loyalty and bravery that captured the popular imagination.

Close-up of Grace, 2nd MD CSA When painter Peter Frederick Rothermel portrayed the July 2 fighting on Culp’s Hill as part of his series on the Battle of Gettysburg, he was inspired to include Grace among the charging Confederates based on a story told by Union General Thomas Kane. In a letter, Kane spoke of finding the wounded dog limping along among the dead and wounded as if looking for an explanation for the carnage. “He licked someone’s hand, they said, after he was perfectly riddled,” Kane wrote. He ordered Grace to be buried with honor, as “the only Christian minded being on either side.”

Rothermel’s painting, “Repulse of General Johnson’s Division by General Geary’s White Star Division,” hangs in the State Museum of Pennsylvania. It is also depicted prominently on a wayside marker on the Gettysburg Battlefield, where visitors can see Grace leading her soldiers’ charge at the site where the action took place.

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A Canine Hero at Gettysburg

Sallie Ann JarrettFor generations, Gettysburg visitors who have traced the first day’s fighting along Oak Ridge have been surprised to find the bronze figure of a dog lying at the base of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry monument.  Facing away from Doubleday Avenue and looking across the battlefield where the regiment fought on July 1, 1863, the dog is at rest but vigilant.  Who was this dog? And why would a dog be given this costly tribute?

For the soldiers of the Old 11th, the dog’s statue needed no inscription.  She was Sallie Ann Jarrett, affectionately known as Sallie.  For four years—nearly the duration of the war—she was their mascot and faithful companion.  She shared their hardships and helped raise their spirits at the bleakest of times.  To the regiment’s soldiers who lay wounded after the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg, Sallie was their faithful protector, refusing to leave them behind when Confederates routed the Union forces.  The soldiers never forgot her loyalty and bravery.  When the time came for a monument to remember their own struggles and recognize the sacrifices of their comrades at Gettysburg, they accorded Sallie, too, a place of honor.

For more about the enduring bonds of loyalty and trust shared by the soldiers and their faithful dogs, read “A Tribute to the Dogs of the American Civil War.”

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Mr. Lincoln Meets A War Dog


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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:

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For the Soldiers of the 11th PVI–and for Sallie

Yesterday was Remembrance Day in Gettysburg.

Sallie Ann Jarrett, mascot of the 11th PVI.

Remembering the soldiers of the 11th PVI and Sallie, their loyal canine mascot.


The 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry monument on Oak Ridge, Gettysburg, Remembrance Day 2011.
Visitors to the Gettysburg Battlefield remember the Old 11th and Sallie, their mascot, on Remembrance Day 2011.
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The Colonel’s Lament for His Dog

Sallie Ann Jarrett, loyal mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1865. The only known photo of Sallie. (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission)

In his insightful Wall Street Journal review of “Rin Tin Tin” by Susan Orlean, Scott Eyman mentions the “sense of loss that permeates” the book. The sense of loss that Mr. Eyman describes is, I believe, a hallmark of memoirs about beloved dogs.

A poignant example is a memoir of the American Civil War by Col. Richard Coulter, commanding officer of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. In 1867 Col. Coulter wrote about the loyalty of the regiment’s canine mascot, a bull terrier named Sallie Ann Jarrett. “Soldier Sallie,” as the men often called her, had faithfully followed the regiment from May 1861 until almost the end of the war. At Gettysburg she guarded her wounded and dead companions on the battlefield for five days, refusing to leave them.

Col. Coulter reminisced about Sallie sharing the soldiers’ hardships and earning their admiration and affection. But there too, along with the praise, is the inevitable loss–not only the loss of Sallie’s companionship but a deeper, existential loss, and it is with this loss that Col. Coulter ended his tribute. Sallie was killed in February 1865 in the fighting at Hatcher’s Run in Virginia. Col. Coulter’s memoir laments that “There is nothing now to mark the spot where she fell, no stone or tablet to her memory . . . ” That omission he and his men would later correct, though not at Hatcher’s Run but at Gettysburg. His final lines quote Byron’s epitaph for his dog Boatswain, which observes that history gloriously honors men not as they were “but [as] they should have been,” while “the poor dog, in life the firmest friend, whose honest heart is still his master’s own . . . unhonor’d falls, unnoticed all his worth, Denied in Heaven the soul he held on Earth . . . .”

We may never know, but perhaps it is that loss that Rin Tin Tin’s Sgt. Duncan, too, felt most of all.
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A Dog’s Devotion Resonates With A Heart Attuned to Hear It

A Father’s Day remembrance with dogs

My father had many wonderful qualities: patience, humility, courage, fortitude, and a strong sense of duty and loyalty to his country, community, family, and friends, to name a few. He also had the gift of empathy, which we children somehow knew but perhaps did not appreciate fully until we discovered his Class of 1937 high school yearbook after his death. Beneath his name the yearbook editors had printed this brief and telling description: “A heart big enough for everybody.” For all his virtues, though, Dad was not a dog person. He did not dislike dogs but claimed to be ambivalent about them. Yet, because he so keenly felt and understood his children’s love for dogs, we always had a dog while we were growing up. Of course, this was possible only because Dad willingly took on the multitude of responsibilities of dog ownership that young children (or forgetful and distracted teens) cannot quite handle. And in the years after we became adults with our own families–including dogs–Dad always welcomed a succession of dogs as holiday visitors to our family home. As a father who understood well the nature of devotion, he had no doubt come to admire the model of loyalty that is the essence of a dog’s life. Call it inspiration: he had become devoted to them because of his–and their–devotion to us.

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Old soldiers remember Sallie

The photo looks, in many respects, like any other picture of old soldiers reuniting on the fields where they fought so many years before.  There they stand or recline on the grass around their regiment’s monument at Gettysburg.  But an empty space interrupts their line, as if left for someone missing.  It’s easy to imagine the photographer calling, Gentlemen!  Close ranks, please! and gesturing for them to move in closer.  But no, they say, heads shaking, hands pointing just behind them at the small figure of a dog lying at the base of their monument.  They must leave room for Sallie!  The year is 1910, some 47 years after the Battle of Gettysburg, but the men still remember their gallant “Soldier Sallie.”

Veterans of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry at Gettysburg with Sallie, Sept. 28, 1910.

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