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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