Captain Madigan’s Bodyguard, or “Discipline versus Sagacity”

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During the summer of 1861, the Ninth Massachusetts Volunteers were stationed three miles from Washington, D.C., at Emmart’s Farm. In the 1867 history of “The Irish Ninth,” regimental historian M.H. MacNamara recalled “A number of comical incidents transpired here, one of which I cannot recall without a smile.”

“We have stated that Colonel [Thomas] Cass was a rigid disciplinarian. This, in truth, he was; so much so, that an officer could not sleep a moment after “reveille” without a visit from the colonel, and a gentle reminder that it was time to be up.

Colonel Thomas Cass, Library of Congress:

“One morning, about five o’clock, the writer, while in silent and close communication with Morpheus, was roughly shaken from his slumbers, and a sharp voice greeted him as he opened his eyes: “Come, you’re a pretty fellow; isn’t it time for you to be up?” I turned over, and beheld the grim colonel of the regiment and Lieutenant Colonel [C.G.] Rowell standing solemnly by the bed side, and looking grave as the tomb. “All right, colonel, said I; “I’ll get up in a few moments.” “See that you do so;” said he, and then he took his departure. Now I should have entered into another arrangement with the mythological god, but that I thought it my duty to warn my comrades of the colonel’s presence; therefore I sprang from my couch, consisting of blankets and rails, donned my clothes, and passed outside my tent. As I did so, I glanced up the street, and, to my astonishment, beheld the grave and dignified colonel hopping about in the strangest manner, and cutting up the queerest kind of antics, none of which I have ever seen set down in the military books. I went to the rear of one of the tents, to see more clearly what the colonel was doing, and found he was exercising himself in front of Captain [William] Madigan’s tent.

“It was a comical scene. The colonel would cautiously approach the door of the tent, and then spring hastily back, while the lieutenant-colonel stood by convulsed with laughter. This manoeuvre he executed several times with eminent success, until at last he cried out, “Captain Madigan, Captain Madigan!” He called several times, but the captain did not respond. “I think he’s up and out,” said Rowell. Cass paused for a moment, and then, muttering anathemas under his breath, strode hastily away. I then moved cautiously towards the tent, to ascertain the cause of the colonel’s excitement, and there I beheld Madigan’s great bull-dog, which he had brought from Boston, tied to the tent-pole, and growling savagely.

“The dog and I were old friends. I patted him on the head, and looked into the tent, and beheld the jolly captain “en dishabille,” sitting on a stool, shaking with impressible laughter. He had witnessed the colonel’s vain attempt to pass the savage sentinel, and it was as much as he could do to keep from betraying himself.

“A few minutes afterwards Captain Madigan met Colonel Cass, and courteously bade him good morning. The colonel looked at him for a moment, and then, with a grim smile, said, “Madigan, that infernal dog of your saved you this time; but again, I’ll rip open the back of your tent. So now, captain, take care.” Madigan was a diplomat, and his only reply was, introducing the colonel to a very nice article which had just come from home.”

~ From “The Irish Ninth In Bivouac and Battle; or, Virginia and Maryland Campaigns”

Bulldog illustration derived from a political cartoon, “The Old Bulldog on the Right Track,” 1864, by Currier & Ives,


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