Obituary For A War Dog

Small black dog illustration

One indication of the high regard soldiers and veterans held for their dogs is the dogs’ frequent inclusion in memoirs and regimental histories. More rare is a dog’s obituary in a newspaper. A Pennsylvania newspaper’s 1863 obituary for General, a dog of the 51st Pennsylvania Volunteers, recalls the affection he earned from his soldiers and an apparent act of treachery that caused his death after his return to civilian life.

General’s story appears in the regiment’s 1869 history:

“While the regiment lay at Winchester, Ky., Capt. E. [Edward] Schall, of Co. D, resigned his commission and went home. He took with him a small black dog, named “General.” This dog had been in the regiment before its organization at Camp Curtin. When brought there, he was under four weeks of age; as he got older, he grew in size and in the affections of the men. He followed the fortunes of the 51st P.V. from that time up to the resignation of his master, in May 1863. ‘General’ was with the regiment at the taking of Roanoke Island, Newbern, Camden, second Bull Run, Chantilly, South Mountain, Antietam, Sulphur Springs, Fredericksburg, and in all the marches from Camp Curtin to Winchester, Ky. When he returned to Norristown, Pa., it was only to enjoy life a few short months. A notice of his death, which appeared in one of the papers of that town, of October 20th, 1863, says:

‘DEAD—The dog ‘General’ departed last night from this world. Quite a history is connected with his life. He joined the 51st regiment at Harrisburg, (or we might say was impressed into the service by ‘Buglum’ Taylor,) he followed the fortunes of the regiment through North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky; he passed safely through all the battles fought by that regiment; he was the pet of that regiment as well as of the 2d brigade. It is supposed that he was poisoned, inasmuch as no mark could be found on his body. It was evidently the spite work of some malicious person. His remains were placed in a neat little box, and buried in the corner of a yard. A small marble stone, with suitable inscriptions, marks his resting place.’”

~From History of the 51st regiment of P.V. and V.V., from its organization, at Camp Curtin, Harrisburg, Pa., in 1861, to its being mustered out of the United States service at Alexandria, Va., July 27th, 1865,” by (Capt.) Thomas H. Parker

Our cover illustration is not General but a small black dog who appears to have had a disturbing premonition. He is from the 1866 book “Researches into the history of the British dog, from ancient laws, charters, and historical records. With original anecdotes, and illustrations of the nature and attributes of the dog. From the poets and prose writers of ancient, medieval, and modern times,” by George R. Jesse. You can read it here:


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