Is your dog a good judge of character? Have you ever heard people say that if their dogs don’t like someone, that’s good reason they shouldn’t like them either? From several accounts preserved in Civil War soldiers’ reminiscences, it would seem that dogs, and army dogs in particular, have a natural dislike for skulkers, deserters, and others up to no good. Maybe it was just the fraught circumstances of these encounters—and not a canine ability to detect character flaws—that earned each of these men a memorable physical rebuke from a nearby dog. But we’d bet the dogs knew exactly who they were dealing with.
“A man who had in charge a bounty-jumper, stopped at the Union House, Wheeling, with his prisoner. The man left his charge in the hall in order to look into an adjoining room for a person he wished to see, when the nimble jumper jumped out of the door, upon the sidewalk, ran up the street with great rapidity and darted down the alley m the rear of the Union House. A Newfoundland dog — honest patriot! — observing that the jumper was being followed, with loyal instinct joined in the pursuit. The dog soon overtook the fleeing rascal, seized him by the boot leg, and squatted down in the mud. The jumper kicked the dog off, but he had no sooner extricated himself than the faithful animal caught him again, and continued to hang on and delay the culprit until his pursuers came up and captured him.”
~From “The Pictorial Book of Anecdotes of the Rebellion,” by R.M. Devens, 1889.
A soldier of the 20th North Carolina shared this account of an incident during the Battle of South Mountain in September 1862:
“A pet dog belonging to Hays’ men was crazed with the noise and confusion of battle. A cannon ball cut the top out of a large oak, which in falling, imprisoned a skulker behind the tree. His cries for help were answered by the dog. I never saw a poor man’s pants torn so badly since. He suffered more than he would have had he gone into the fight.”
~From “Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions From North Carolina in the Great War 1861-’65,” (Vol. II) edited by Walter Clark
John D. Lippy, Jr., growing up in early 20th century Gettysburg, heard much about the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry’s canine mascot, Sallie Ann Jarrett, from visiting veterans. The following story is one of the episodes of Sallie’s life that he shared in his 1962 book The War Dog.
(Illustration from “The War Dog” by John D. Lippy, Jr., 1962)
Good dogs! Rascals and scoundrels beware!