Newfoundland dogs are strong swimmers who have long been known for their ability to rescue people from drowning. These two soldiers found a dog’s affinity for the water useful for another purpose, as shown in this anecdote recounted by Sergeant E. Tarrant of the First Kentucky Cavalry:
“In this connection, we will tell of a line of communication established on the picket-post by means of a large Newfoundland dog, which swam back and forth across the deep, wide river on friendly errands between the pickets on opposite shores. The Confederate would call, “Don’t shoot, and be sure to let the dog return, and I’ll send you some tobacco or whisky in exchange for coffee.” “All right; send us a bottle of your best ‘Old Mock,’” and so the express was started and kept up there till the picket-post there was very easily filled by a certain few. Our men were generally temperate, and yet the Chaplain would sometimes not drink out of a canteen for a whole day, lest some men might think he was drinking “apple-jack.”
~ From “The Wild Riders of the First Kentucky Cavalry, A History of the Regiment in the Great War of the Rebellion 1861-1865,”“The Wild Riders of the First Kentucky Cavalry, A History of the Regiment in the Great War of the Rebellion 1861-1865,” published 1894.
Our cover illustration: from “Newfoundland Dog,” a lithographic print by Childs & Inman, c. 1830-1835, (Library of Congress)