RIP, dog (and musicians) of the Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery

rip dog of 3rd ri artillery

In most cases, the music of regimental bands—like the companionship of pet dogs and mascots—helped to raise soldiers’ morale during the Civil War. But that was not the experience of the Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery. With the band already a subject of criticism, the very public and untimely death of a soldier’s dog only served to tarnish the ensemble’s reputation further. Frederic Denison, writing the history of the regiment, relates the episode:

rip rhode island dog story1

The band’s woes were not over.

rip rhode island dog story2

~From “Shot and shell: the Third Rhode Island heavy artillery regiment in the rebellion, 1861-1865. Camps, forts, batteries, garrisons, marches, skirmishes, sieges, battles, and victories; also, the roll of honor and roll of the regiment,” published 1879.


Illustration adapted from a political cartoon, “Trouble in the Spartan ranks. Old Durham in the field,” published 1843. (Library of Congress:

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“That Dog Jack” of the 35th Ohio

A patriotic Kentuckian, brave in battle, devoid of vanity, never a gambler, and an accomplished forager, Jack of Company B, the Thirty-Fifth Ohio regiment, “damaged the confederacy as much as lay in his power by doing his best to eat the rebels out of house and home, which was an approved way to put down the rebellion.”

Jack’s contributions to the war effort earned him three pages in the regimental history. Here is his story, as told by the 35th Ohio’s historian, F.W. Keil:

That Dog Jack (Decatur W Times 1904)

Jack, from the Decatur Weekly Times, June 1904.

“The men of the Thirty-fifth, for some unexplained reason, took fancy to a dog, and, in a quiet way, made him regimental property, in which nearly every member considered himself a part owner.

“This animal came to us while in camp at Paris, Kentucky. Company B has the honor to recruit the brute. The dog was a native of the “dark and bloody ground,” and the only genuine Kentuckian in the regiment, which fact made him more valuable.

“He was not a pretty dog by any means, nor was he in any sense unusually smart, but he had good sense, for he stood by the old flag. In this he exhibited better judgment than was shown by Buckner, Breckinridge, Gov. McGoffin and other prominent Kentuckians, who went into the rebellion.

“Like Gerrit Smith, he started out boldly for the union, and unlike that individual, he stood firmly by the flag, not only until the last rebel was whipped, but until the confederacy was reconstructed and back in the union of states.

“It isn’t claimed that Jack had a fine voice, or that his nightly barks at the moon were more pleasant and endurable than those of dogs generally, but then they were all for the union—no secesh growl ever escaped from his throat.

“Then it can be said, with truth, the he had no respect for confederate hen-roosts or smoke houses. He was fond of nice chickens taken from the southern plantations, and was not averse to a good “hunk” of sesech ham, when fresh meat was scarce.

“His conscience never smote him, or prevented him from taking what he wanted in his foraging excursions, while traveling in the confederacy. He was never known, however, to pry inquiringly into the private affairs of any one belonging to the regiment, in order to find what the contents were of a comrade’s haversack—save possibly, when pressed by sore necessity, while the army was starving at Chattanooga, when Bragg held Missionary Ridge and Lookout mountain.

“It is not the part of well regulated dog nature to starve when something can be found to eat—even if it has to come out of a comrade’s haversack. But, in this he did no more than others who were not dogs!

“Jack knew every man and beast belonging to the regiment, and had a friendly recognition for them whenever and wherever found. He was no loafer, but was always found at his place, and slept within the camp, ready for duty at any moment—like a good soldier.

“It can be truthfully said that he never “shirked” duty, or played ”old soldier,” and reported at surgeon’s call for his quinine, so as to be excused from moving with the regiment on a scouting or foraging expedition. Soldiering agreed with him very well for he was not sick a day during his term of service, and always reported for his rations!

“Jack was never found among the “chuck-luck gang,” which assembled in concealed places to relieve each other of spare change. He was uniformly orderly, well behaved and would not indulge in anything of that kind. The guard house record of the regiment never had his name on its pages. His visits to that place were to comfort and to cheer the unlucky fellow who had to pass long hours within that cheerless concern.

“It is not known whether Jack had his picture taken by the army photographer. If he had his vanity was not of the kind that permitted him to peddle the same on sale through camp. The only photograph of him extant* was taken when lying in state prior to the funeral obsequies, which awaited his dog-ship.

“That photograph will assist the ‘future historian’ in giving a satisfactory account of Jack, the soldier dog of the Thirty-fifth, and the part he played in putting down the rebellion.

“It may be said right here, that there were two ways to put down the rebellion. The one was to fight and whip the rebel armies in the field; the other was to destroy or eat up the supplies on which armies subsist. In the latter method Jack made a full hand!

“It is not doing violence to truth to say that this dog did more valuable service for the country than a score of the stay-at-home patriots, or that other class who retired to Canada so as to have a quiet time watching the contest “over the border.” This dog shared the hardships of marches and battles. He did all he could to encourage the boys. He was friendly and had a smiling look for every one.

“He took part in the amusements of the camp, and helped to catch rabbits and the stray chickens that would not stay on the roosts until caught. He damaged the confederacy as much as lay in his power by doing his best to eat the rebels out of house and home, which was an approved way to put down the rebellion. Of what stay at home patriot can half be said that may be said to the credit of this dog Jack.

“He carried an ugly scar across the skull, which, some say, he received on the field of battle. For the correctness of this it is not vouched here, but it may be actually so, as he was no coward, and never drifted to the rear when bullets whizzed.

“Jack was present at Mill Spring and Shiloh, at Perryville and Chickamauga, at Missionary Ridge and the battles on the way to Atlanta, and in all the numerous skirmishes the regiment participated during its three years of service, he came home with the men, receiving transportation like any other soldier.

“At a reunion held at Hamilton soon after the war a silver collar was voted for Jack, but the committee having the matter in charge were slow in doing their duty in the matter, and he died before it was ready for presentation. On his return north with the men Jack took up his abode with his friend, Sergeant West, company B, who cared for him, and when he died had him buried with appropriate ceremonies.”


~From “Thirty-fifth Ohio. A narrative of service from August, 1861 to 1864. With an introductory by General H. V. Boynton. The original Persimmon regiment,” published 1894.​

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The Egolf Brothers of the 14th Brooklyn and Their Dog, Leo

19th Century Dog

Illustration – a 19th Century dog, based on a photograph in the Library of Congress

When the Civil War began, the three Pennsylvania-born Egolf brothers, William, John, and Thomas, were living in Brooklyn, NY, with their family. All three would enlist in the 14th NY State Militia, also known as the 84th New York Infantry and the 14th Brooklyn. John, age 21, mustered in May 23, 1861, followed by William, age 23, in September. The following June, their younger brother Thomas, 20, would join the regiment. Going with them to war was their dog, Leo. Only one brother would survive. Their dog, too, would be a casualty.

In January 1863, Thomas died in a convalescent camp in Virginia. At Gettysburg, where the 14th fought at the railroad cut and later at Culp’s Hill, both John and William were wounded on July 1. William died at Gettysburg on July 18. John would survive until 1901.

The historians of “The Fighting 14th” recounted Leo’s service along with his owners’:

“A follower of the regiment who deserves mention, although only a dog, is ‘Leo.’ He was the property of the Egolf boys, three brothers, two of whom were killed and the third now limps with a rebel bullet in his knee. The dog followed the boys and the regiment to the camp and was soon regarded as a member, became a great favorite with the men and had the freedom of the camp, night and day. One dark night a sentinel saw a shadowy object approaching, and imagining it to be an enemy creeping on all fours, challenged and, receiving no reply, the object still advancing, he fired and shot poor Leo through the body. The poor dog lingered several days, submitting patiently to the surgeon’s care, but the doctor finding his death inevitable, he was shot to end his misery.”​

~From “The history of the fighting Fourteenth, published in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the muster of the regiment into the United States service, May 23, 1861,” by C.V. Tevis, D.R. Marquis, published 1911.

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A mysterious Civil War dog story for Halloween

An often-told legend of the Battle of Gettysburg involves a Southern general, his grieving widow and his loyal dog.

Hummelbaugh House at night
Mississippi General William Barksdale was severely wounded during his brigade’s gallant charge at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. Near midnight, Union soldiers found him on the battlefield and carried him to the farm of Jacob Hummelbaugh along the Taneytown Road, where they cared for him overnight. But General Barksdale died the next day and was buried in the yard of the Hummelbaugh house.

Several years later, Narcissa Saunders Barksdale, the General’s widow, traveled to Gettysburg, accompanied by his favorite hunting dog, to take his remains home to Mississippi for burial. Mrs. Barksdale had her husband’s body exhumed. As she departed from the farm, she called to the dog, but he refused to leave the graveside, whimpering and howling. Mrs. Barksdale stayed the night in Gettysburg and returned to the farm the next day to try again to take the dog home with her. But nothing could coax him away, and she finally had no choice but to reluctantly leave him behind.

The dog remained at the gravesite, where, some people said, he viciously guarded it against anyone who came near. Some accounts say he died of a broken heart; others that he refused food and water, and soon wasted away. In some versions of the story, the dog was buried in the General’s temporary grave. Other storytellers question whether Mrs. Barksdale had found the right grave, and suggest that the loyal dog knew his master had been left behind. It was said that long afterward, the dog could still be heard at night howling in grief. And some storytellers say the General’s own cries for water continue to be heard.

What, if any, of the story is true? And what is its origin? Although we have searched, we have found no sources confirming Mrs. Barksdale’s trip to Gettysburg, and no accounts from Hummelbaugh family members or neighbors about the episode. So far, the origin of the story has proven to be even more mysterious than the tale of a dog and a general who speak from beyond the grave.

Do you know the original source of the story of General Barksdale’s dog? If so, please let us hear from you!
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The Faithful Hospital Dog

Among the many memorable figures that Civil War nurse Sophronia Bucklin recalled in her memoirs is a dog who belonged to one of the regiments at Point of Rocks Hospital. His name may be lost to history, but he was notable for his faithfulness, not An unrelated Newfoundland dogonly in accompanying soldiers into battle but also in serving as a kitchen assistant.

“A regimental dog in our hospital became an object of no little interest to all. He was a noble-looking fellow, of the Newfoundland species, and was possessed of a remarkable intelligence. His master had been detailed to work in the cook house, whence he would carry a basket of meat as faithfully as a man and with astonishing quickness and fidelity. He seemed to prefer the active service to a hospital life, and he again and again ran away to the front, and joined the regiment, in which he seemed to be as well drilled as any of the soldiers. He enjoyed the crack of the rifle, and the boom of the cannon, and had been thus far through the war without receiving injury.”His name may be lost to history, but he was notable for his faithfulness, not only in accompanying soldiers into battle but also in serving as a kitchen assistant.

~Sophronia Bucklin, “In Hospital and Camp: A Woman’s Record of Thrilling Incidents Among the Wounded in the Late War,” 1869

I believe it is no coincidence that Miss Bucklin immediately followed this passage with three anecdotes about humans’ perfidy. In one instance, a gold watch that a dying soldier entrusted to his nurse went missing after it was passed along to a chaplain with the rest of his effects. In another, a soldier who repeatedly begged for clean clothing was later found to have sold it to another soldier. And in the third episode, as a soldier prepared to depart the hospital for home, hospital staff discovered he had stolen supplies from a kitchen.

No doubt the dog of the regiment would have disapproved.

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Fido, Drum Major of the 5th Massachusetts Volunteers

Fido, Joe Sinclair's dog

“Who does not recall Joe Sinclair’s dog that acted as drum major, and no human could have filled the position with greater dignity.”

Anecdotes about Civil War dogs appear in many accounts written by soldiers, but few of these writings are accompanied by portraits of the dogs. And many of the best known Civil War photos that include dogs do not identify the dogs by name, leaving their full identities lost to history. One example is General Rufus Ingalls’s coach dog, a handsome Dalmatian who was photographed several times at City Point. Though his image survives, it appears his name has not.


Here is a little dog who is notable for two reasons. First, we have both his picture and his story. Second, unlike the stories of many Civil War dogs who met sad fates, his is a happy one. Along with his master, Fido of the 5th Massachusetts Volunteers returned home after the war as a distinguished veteran. He was well-remembered by the regiment’s historian, Alfred S. Poe, for his service as drum major.

Fido’s story comes from Poe’s 1911 history, “The Fifth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.”

“Joe Sinclair callt’d his dog Fido, but the ‘boys’ all called him ‘Major’ because of the graceful manner in which he discharged the duties of Drum Major. Of imported Scotch-terrier stock, he came into Sinclair’s possession two weeks before the latter enlisted. Dog and master went to Prospect Hill and they were there two weeks; and on the march to Boston, on the way to Camp Wenham, Fido was lost, but he found his way back to his Cambridge home before midnight, the most tired canine in the city. When Sinclair went back to Wenham from a brief furlough home, Fido went with him and accompanied him and the regiment to North Carolina. He was a good forager, and many were the chickens that he caught and brought to his hungry master. He knew his place ahead of the band, countermarched, and always kept his distance. Fond of the water and a good swimmer, he gave the boys no end of fun. When the vessel bringing the regiment home reached the harbor, Mrs. Sinclair went out in a boat to greet her husband, and he unchaining the dog, till then attached to his friend, placed the animal at the rail, whence, seeing his mistress, he leaped into the water and swam to the side of the small boat, was taken in and no persuasion could coax him back. He survived his return from the front seventeen years.”

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A Forgiven Spaniel

It’s fortunate for this dog that he was so good-looking, and also that his new soldier friends had gone to so much effort to win him over from his dead master. Otherwise, how willing would the major have been to forgive him his costly error?

A forgiven spaniel

A handsome spaniel. The Louisianans’ dog may have looked something like this fellow.

His story is told by Napier Bartlett in “Military Record of Louisiana,” 1875:

“One of the men came across a beautiful spaniel at Malvern Hill, whom it was difficult to persuade to quit his dead master’s side. The offer of rations, however, finally triumphed over his virtue. The dog was alive at Richmond, and apparently infected with strong Confederate prejudices
when last seen; though he made a narrow escape for having indulged in a vitiated taste for gnawing off all the buttons off a $500 coat. This was the property of one of those fierce Majors, whose marches extended only through the streets of Richmond. The feelings of this gallant soldier soldier may be imagined, when upon awakening the morning after a debauch he discovered the extent of his misfortunes. His fury and agony of mind could only find relief by asking such questions, and failing to understand, ‘as what in the deuce anybody wanted to keep any such a d — d flop-eared hound around for anyhow.'”​

Were they bone buttons, perhaps? We hope, for the spaniel’s sake, the major replaced them with brass.
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The Vagaries of War Claim Two Dogs

History has preserved at least a few stories of animal mascots – mainly dogs – who bravely accompanied their soldiers into battle and were killed in action. But shot and shell were not the only threats that Civil War dogs faced. Besides the hazards of battle and rigors of campaigning, they also fell victim to other vagaries of war. Two regimental historians, one a Vermonter and the other a Louisianan, recalled dogs who lost their lives, one to a misunderstanding and the other to a malicious act of revenge.

Dead dog (End of the Poor)

Detail from “End of the Poor,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, July 1, 1865

Was the dog in the following anecdote guarding a dead master? Was he reacting in fear and confusion after the fighting? We will never know.

There was another homely looking yellow dog on the same battle field …who could not understand how the battle had gone, or who had had no offers of bacon to corrupt his principles. In an evil moment he attempted to bite a soldier, detailed to bury the dead, and the attempt cost him a bayonet thrust and his life. The soldier was too much exasperated, and out of humor at the heavy slaughter of our men, to waste any time “fooling around an old dawn.”

“Military Record of Louisiana,” by Napier Bartlett, 1875​

A colonel’s dog was killed to expose and shame a thief:

On one occasion, some men of the Second Vermont, having repeatedly lost some of their fresh meat, which they had reason to believe went into the camp of the Twenty-sixth New Jersey, killed and dressed Colonel Morrison’s fat New Foundland dog and hung his carcass in the quartermaster’s store tent. As they expected, it- was purloined that night by some of the New Jersey boys, who took it for fat mutton. The Vermonters were on the watch, tracked the dog-meat into the camp of the Twenty-sixth, and ascertained that it was served next day on the tables of several messes of the New Jersey officers. Of course the story soon ran through the brigade, and the New Jersey boys visiting the other camps for some time after were greeted by numerous bow wows by way of friendly salutation.

“Vermont in the Civil War: a history of the part taken by the Vermont soldiers and sailors in the war for the Union, 1861-5,” by G.G. Benedict, 1880​

(The colonel was apparently Andrew J. Morrison, whose own military career ended ignobly when, according to his Find-A-Grave biography, he was twice dismissed from the army for being drunk in combat.)​
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Loyal Frank of the 2nd Kentucky Regiment

In the opinion of Orphan Brigade veteran and historian Ed Porter Thompson, reflecting on the life of Frank, the dog of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry, the love of a dog for his master was second only to that of a mother for her child. A battle-scarred onetime prisoner of war, Frank, after living a soldier’s life, shared many a soldier’s fate. The following account is from Thompson’s book “History of the Orphan Brigade,” published in 1898.

Frank the Soldier Dog

“Among the singular circumstances attending the life of soldiers, few are more deserving of special mention than the facts in connection with this representative of the canine species in the army of the Confederacy. The peculiar ties existing between men and dogs the strong and constant attachment of the animal for his master have long been the subject of song and story. The noble Newfoundlander, in the snows of the Alps, seekibrief quote about Frankng the benighted and storm-caught traveler, presents to our minds the image of a benevolent intelligence; and the poet has made ‘Old Dog Tray’ the embodiment of unselfish love, and fidelity, for which man seeks in vain among his fellows, and not always finds, even in woman, after he leaves the sacred precincts of his childhood home, and the domain that is lighted by the eye of his mother.

“Frank was a sort of counterpart to Postlethwait, Capt. Richard A. Collins’s pet black bear, that shared the fortunes of his battery in Gen. Joe Shelby’s splendid command of Missouri Confederates; and to the Militia Pig that campaigned with the Kentucky volunteers during the War of 1812.

“He was brought into the Second Regiment by one of the members of Co. B, and long experienced with the men the privations of inclement season, scanty fare and hard marching, and the perils of the field. He went into the engagement at Donelson, was captured with the troops, and spent his six months in prison at Camp Morton: and

“When the regiment was marched out from the prison inclosure, on the 26th of August, 1862, Frank was observed to wag his tail joyfully, and he departed somewhat from his ordinarily dignified demeanor, and was gleeful at the prospect of going forth again to ‘the stern joys of the battle.’

“In more than one subsequent engagement he was wounded, but that did not deter him in the least from marching out promptly when the ‘long roll’ was sounded next time, and taking his chances. If a soldier fell, Frank looked at him with the eye of a philosopher; and the close observer might have discovered something of pity in his glance, and a half-consciousness that the poor man was dead, or in agony, and that he could not help him. On these, as indeed on almost all occasions, he seemed to partake largely of the spirit of the men. If the conflict was obstinate, Frank was silent and dogged. If the men shouted in the onset, or cheered when the ground was won, he barked in unison.

“He took part in the memorable ‘snow-ball battle’ at Dalton, March 22, 1864, and was wounded in the foot, having come in contact, during the melee, with one of his own species who was serving with an adverse party.

“On the march he frequently carried his own rations in a small haversack hung on his neck.

“He almost invariably went out, when not ‘excused by the surgeon,’ to company, regimental, and brigade drills, sometimes looking on like a reviewing officer, but oftener taking part in the maneuvers; but he had a sovereign contempt for ‘dress parade,’ and generally stayed at his quarters when he found that the men were to go no further than the color-line.

“He was rather choice, too, in his associates; and, though widely known and friendly to all, he would not allow of much familiarity outside of his own mess. When rations were short, he would visit other messes, and even other companies, and accept the little that his friends could spare; but he did not want them to presume upon his sense of obligation, and indulge in anything like caresses.

“In this way he lived the soldier s life. If Co. B had a shelter, Frank had his corner in it. When he was shot, his wounds were dressed, and he had no lack of attention. If the commissariat were well supplied, he fed bountifully, and put on his best looks. If life were eked out on ‘hard-tack’ and a slice of bacon, or of poor beef, Frank had but his share of that, and grew lean and hollow-eyed, like his soldier-friends.

“But, in the summer campaign of 1864, he disappeared; and we have to write of Frank, the soldier-dog, as we have done of many a noble soldier boy, ‘fate unknown.’ Perhaps some admirer of his species laid felonious hands upon him, and carried him captive away; or, perhaps, a ball from some ‘vile gun’ laid him low while he was taking a lonely stroll in the woods.”

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I was a dog of Gettysburg


JPG I was a dog of Gettysburg

Many of Abraham Lincoln’s writings, others’ memories of him, and accounts of the stories he told display his humility and identification with the common man. His common humanity with people of all stations in life contributed to a view of the 16th president so widely held that it continues to be reflected in much of the art and writing that is produced about Lincoln even today.

 One unique expression appears in the poem “Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg” by MacKinlay Kantor, whose Pulitzer-Prize-winning book “Andersonville” is probably his best-known work. Kantor’s poem, published in 1933, memorializes Lincoln’s November 1863 visit to the ceremonies dedicating the new Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg, where he gave “a few appropriate remarks” that live on in history as the Gettysburg Address. Kantor’s poem ends with a few lines that portray Lincoln’s humanity as perceived by a dog:
“I was a dog of Gettysburg.
I trotted near the train
And nosed among the officers, who kicked me to my pain.
A man came by. . . . I could not see. I howled.
The light was dim,
But when I brushed against his legs, I liked the smell of him.”

Was Kantor perhaps familiar with this photograph of the crowd watching the parade to the cemetery dedication on Nov. 19, 1863? In the scene, a small dog stands

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in the center, behind the crowd. Did he accompany his owner to Gettysburg for the solemn occasion? Or was he a local dog attracted by the activity? We’ll never know, just as he could never know that he was witness to an historic occasion. I would like to think that MacKinlay Kantor, gazing deeply into this picture, discovered the little dog standing there and was inspired by his presence with the people on Baltimore Street that day.


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