Fan, an Irish wolfhound belonging to an officer of the 88th New York Infantry, a regiment of the famed Irish Brigade, is nearly lost to history. But she survives in at least one historic reference, a touching incident recounted In the Irish Brigade’s 1866 history, “The Irish Brigade and Its Campaigns,” by Daniel Power Conyngham.
Some people are reminded of Fan by the Irish Brigade monument at Gettysburg, known not only for its spectacular artistry but especially for its depiction of a steadfast Irish wolfhound.
National Park Service rangers at Gettysburg National Military Park confirm that the figure does not represent a specific dog but instead symbolizes faithfulness. At the time of the monument’s dedication in 1888, Irish wolfhounds were believed to have gone extinct. An inscription attributed to the sculptor, William Rudolph O’Donovan, appears between the paws of the dog statue and states, “This, in the matter of size and structure, truthfully represents the Irish wolf-hound, a dog which has been extinct for more than a hundred years.” Happily, these gentle giants were not extinct, and their population has since rebounded.
Below is Conyngham’s brief account of Fan’s actions on the battlefield, and her tender regard for one particular soldier. I have occasionally heard people refer to the wolfhound on the Irish Brigade monument as Fan, and though the figure doesn’t actually represent her, it is wonderful to know that the majestic dog still calls to mind one who bravely accompanied her soldiers and deserves to be remembered even now, in the 21st Century.
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