A Canine Hero at Gettysburg

Sallie Ann JarrettFor generations, Gettysburg visitors who have traced the first day’s fighting along Oak Ridge have been surprised to find the bronze figure of a dog lying at the base of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry monument.  Facing away from Doubleday Avenue and looking across the battlefield where the regiment fought on July 1, 1863, the dog is at rest but vigilant.  Who was this dog? And why would a dog be given this costly tribute?

For the soldiers of the Old 11th, the dog’s statue needed no inscription.  She was Sallie Ann Jarrett, affectionately known as Sallie.  For four years—nearly the duration of the war—she was their mascot and faithful companion.  She shared their hardships and helped raise their spirits at the bleakest of times.  To the regiment’s soldiers who lay wounded after the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg, Sallie was their faithful protector, refusing to leave them behind when Confederates routed the Union forces.  The soldiers never forgot her loyalty and bravery.  When the time came for a monument to remember their own struggles and recognize the sacrifices of their comrades at Gettysburg, they accorded Sallie, too, a place of honor.

For more about the enduring bonds of loyalty and trust shared by the soldiers and their faithful dogs, read “A Tribute to the Dogs of the American Civil War.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mr. Lincoln Meets A War Dog


 To share this post on Facebook, click here: http://tinyurl.com/LincolnAndTheWarDog

The farm boys and small-town residents who made up most of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry were among the first soldiers to enlist when Abraham Lincoln issued his call for 75,000 troops in April 1861.  Motivated by patriotism and the prospect of adventure, they thought it would take just 90 days to put down the Rebellion.  But as they and the nation soon learned, there would be no swift end to hostilities.

By the following April, the 11th had become a cohesive fighting force, experienced in combat, skilled in drills and tactics.  Their mascot, Sallie, a handsome bull terrier, had grown from a four-week-old pup to a hardy and faithful companion who delighted in the fellowship of army life.  And the soldiers, to whom she was fiercely loyal, delighted in her companionship.

Sallie especially enjoyed drills and dress parades.  On parade, she would eagerly take her place at the front of the line to lead the commanding officer’s horse.  During drills, she would lie quietly beside the color bearers, guarding her regiment’s flags.  Whenever the regiment broke camp, her self-appointed role was to lead the colonel’s horse as the march began.

On April 15, 1862, the 11th was stationed in Washington, DC, when their commanding officer, Colonel Richard Coulter, received an invitation for the regiment to march in review at the White House. The regiment’s chaplain would later write in his memoirs of Lincoln’s “kindly smile” as he stood on the front steps watching.

Nearly a year later, the 11th would meet the commander in chief again, and Sallie would receive special notice.  On April 8, 1863, while near Fredericksburg, Virginia, the 11th again marched in review before President Lincoln.  The President saluted officers he knew, waved his hat to the enlisted men, and when he saw Sallie marching proudly by, tipped his hat to her in courtly acknowledgment.  As the historians of the 11th would write, “Sallie had given pleasure to a man who was heavily burdened with the decisions of war.”  Lincoln, who loved animals, no doubt recognized the bond of affection between the soldiers and their mascot and the good cheer that she brought to the men.  And, for the moment, he shared in that good cheer and the camaraderie of a faithful dog.

Sources: “A Colonel, A Flag and A Dog” by Cindy Stouffer and Shirley Cubbison
                “The Story of the Regiment” by Rev. William Henry Locke
                “The War Dog” by John Lippy

Read more about Sallie and the other loyal dogs of the Civil War here: http://www.LoyaltyOfDogs.com/ReadPosterTribute.htm.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

For the Soldiers of the 11th PVI–and for Sallie

Yesterday was Remembrance Day in Gettysburg.

Sallie Ann Jarrett, mascot of the 11th PVI.

Remembering the soldiers of the 11th PVI and Sallie, their loyal canine mascot.


The 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry monument on Oak Ridge, Gettysburg, Remembrance Day 2011.
Visitors to the Gettysburg Battlefield remember the Old 11th and Sallie, their mascot, on Remembrance Day 2011.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Colonel’s Lament for His Dog

Sallie Ann Jarrett, loyal mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1865. The only known photo of Sallie. (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission)

In his insightful Wall Street Journal review of “Rin Tin Tin” by Susan Orlean, Scott Eyman mentions the “sense of loss that permeates” the book. The sense of loss that Mr. Eyman describes is, I believe, a hallmark of memoirs about beloved dogs.

A poignant example is a memoir of the American Civil War by Col. Richard Coulter, commanding officer of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. In 1867 Col. Coulter wrote about the loyalty of the regiment’s canine mascot, a bull terrier named Sallie Ann Jarrett. “Soldier Sallie,” as the men often called her, had faithfully followed the regiment from May 1861 until almost the end of the war. At Gettysburg she guarded her wounded and dead companions on the battlefield for five days, refusing to leave them.

Col. Coulter reminisced about Sallie sharing the soldiers’ hardships and earning their admiration and affection. But there too, along with the praise, is the inevitable loss–not only the loss of Sallie’s companionship but a deeper, existential loss, and it is with this loss that Col. Coulter ended his tribute. Sallie was killed in February 1865 in the fighting at Hatcher’s Run in Virginia. Col. Coulter’s memoir laments that “There is nothing now to mark the spot where she fell, no stone or tablet to her memory . . . ” That omission he and his men would later correct, though not at Hatcher’s Run but at Gettysburg. His final lines quote Byron’s epitaph for his dog Boatswain, which observes that history gloriously honors men not as they were “but [as] they should have been,” while “the poor dog, in life the firmest friend, whose honest heart is still his master’s own . . . unhonor’d falls, unnoticed all his worth, Denied in Heaven the soul he held on Earth . . . .”

We may never know, but perhaps it is that loss that Rin Tin Tin’s Sgt. Duncan, too, felt most of all.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Dog’s Devotion Resonates With A Heart Attuned to Hear It

A Father’s Day remembrance with dogs

My father had many wonderful qualities: patience, humility, courage, fortitude, and a strong sense of duty and loyalty to his country, community, family, and friends, to name a few. He also had the gift of empathy, which we children somehow knew but perhaps did not appreciate fully until we discovered his Class of 1937 high school yearbook after his death. Beneath his name the yearbook editors had printed this brief and telling description: “A heart big enough for everybody.” For all his virtues, though, Dad was not a dog person. He did not dislike dogs but claimed to be ambivalent about them. Yet, because he so keenly felt and understood his children’s love for dogs, we always had a dog while we were growing up. Of course, this was possible only because Dad willingly took on the multitude of responsibilities of dog ownership that young children (or forgetful and distracted teens) cannot quite handle. And in the years after we became adults with our own families–including dogs–Dad always welcomed a succession of dogs as holiday visitors to our family home. As a father who understood well the nature of devotion, he had no doubt come to admire the model of loyalty that is the essence of a dog’s life. Call it inspiration: he had become devoted to them because of his–and their–devotion to us.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Old soldiers remember Sallie

The photo looks, in many respects, like any other picture of old soldiers reuniting on the fields where they fought so many years before.  There they stand or recline on the grass around their regiment’s monument at Gettysburg.  But an empty space interrupts their line, as if left for someone missing.  It’s easy to imagine the photographer calling, Gentlemen!  Close ranks, please! and gesturing for them to move in closer.  But no, they say, heads shaking, hands pointing just behind them at the small figure of a dog lying at the base of their monument.  They must leave room for Sallie!  The year is 1910, some 47 years after the Battle of Gettysburg, but the men still remember their gallant “Soldier Sallie.”

Veterans of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry at Gettysburg with Sallie, Sept. 28, 1910.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Remembering the dogs of the Civil War


Atop the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry monument on the Gettysburg Battlefield stands a soldier, rifle at the ready, prepared to defend against a Rebel assault.  He’s one of many bronze figures reenacting across the centuries the small victories and tragedies played out on those three days at Gettysburg.  This seemingly solitary figure is not alone.  On the front of the  monument, facing away from the road, lies the small bronze figure of a dog.  Vigilant in repose, she looks over the fields, an enduring symbol of the loyalty between soldiers and their dogs.  Today’s soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq also know the companionship and affection of dogs, as our soldiers have known in all our wars.  But when America’s own Civil War wrenched apart families and communities, devastated cities, towns and countryside, and nearly destroyed the nation, the dogs helped to support the soldiers’ morale in the bleakest of times, strengthening their resolve and inspiring the soldiers by their own courage and faithfulness.  In this 150th anniversary year of the war, as we remember the soldiers’ sacrifices, let us also remember these loyal dogs of war.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment