The Egolf Brothers of the 14th Brooklyn and Their Dog, Leo

19th Century Dog

Illustration – a 19th Century dog, based on a photograph in the Library of Congress

When the Civil War began, the three Pennsylvania-born Egolf brothers, William, John, and Thomas, were living in Brooklyn, NY, with their family. All three would enlist in the 14th NY State Militia, also known as the 84th New York Infantry and the 14th Brooklyn. John, age 21, mustered in May 23, 1861, followed by William, age 23, in September. The following June, their younger brother Thomas, 20, would join the regiment. Going with them to war was their dog, Leo. Only one brother would survive. Their dog, too, would be a casualty.

In January 1863, Thomas died in a convalescent camp in Virginia. At Gettysburg, where the 14th fought at the railroad cut and later at Culp’s Hill, both John and William were wounded on July 1. William died at Gettysburg on July 18. John would survive until 1901.

The historians of “The Fighting 14th” recounted Leo’s service along with his owners’:

“A follower of the regiment who deserves mention, although only a dog, is ‘Leo.’ He was the property of the Egolf boys, three brothers, two of whom were killed and the third now limps with a rebel bullet in his knee. The dog followed the boys and the regiment to the camp and was soon regarded as a member, became a great favorite with the men and had the freedom of the camp, night and day. One dark night a sentinel saw a shadowy object approaching, and imagining it to be an enemy creeping on all fours, challenged and, receiving no reply, the object still advancing, he fired and shot poor Leo through the body. The poor dog lingered several days, submitting patiently to the surgeon’s care, but the doctor finding his death inevitable, he was shot to end his misery.”​

~From “The history of the fighting Fourteenth, published in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the muster of the regiment into the United States service, May 23, 1861,” by C.V. Tevis, D.R. Marquis, published 1911.

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