Though the term “dogs of war” is often used figuratively, the figurative phrase calls to mind an actual figure of a dog that nearly became ammunition during the American Civil War. If you’ve visited Frederick, Maryland, maybe you’ve seen this dog and wondered about his origins.
For some years before the Civil War, “Guess,” a cast-iron greyhound, guarded the front door at the home of ophthalmologist Dr. John Tyler in Frederick, Maryland. Dr. Tyler, who died in 1841, was long gone by the time Confederate troops passed through the city, but Guess had remained there on his late master’s porch. The soldiers confiscated the statue, planning to melt it down to make bullets or cannonballs. But their heavy loot soon became burdensome, and they abandoned the statue at Antietam. It was eventually returned to Frederick, where you can still see Guess at the door of 108 W. Church Street today. You can make a virtual visit thanks to Google Street View here.
Another notable locale—this one in nearby Gettysburg—was for many years home to a dog statue that was nearly identical to Guess. That dog lay at the grave site of Gettysburg’s founder, James Gettys, in the town’s Evergreen Cemetery. Historical photographs of the cemetery show the white figure to have been the approximate size and lying in the same pose as Guess. Unfortunately, Gettys’s dog was stolen in 1974 and has never been recovered. We hope that perhaps the burden of conscience may one day lead to that dog’s return.