Military mascots are nothing new and the Civil war certainly had its share of them.
Dick the sheep was adopted by the 2nd Rhode Island. The men were quite fond of Dick and taught him all manner of tricks, but upon reaching Washington they had to make a painful decision. “We took our pet sheep with us, but on reaching Washington, the field and staff officers found themselves without money, so we sacrificed our sentiment and sold poor Dick to a butcher for $5.00 and invested the proceeds of the sale in bread and Bologna sausage.”– Captain Elisha Hunt Rhodes of the 2nd Rhode Island recording his thoughts about his pet sheep.
Ole Abe the War Eagle was one of the best known mascots. The bald eagle belonged to Company C, 8th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers. He was found as a young bird by Chippewa Indians in northern Wisconsin and sold to the McCann family as a pet. The family later gave the bird to the regiment. Confederates often tried to capture him, so much so General Sterling Price said, “I’d rather have the bird than the whole brigade!” Known as the “Yankee Buzzard” to the Confederate soldiers, Old Abe survived 42 battles and skirmishes. He’d often fly above a battle screeching and invariably found his men. Remarkably, he survived the war unscathed and was retired in 1864. He lived in Wisconsin in the state capitol building until his death in 1881.
JEB Stuart carried his two setters Nip and Tuck with him and they also had a pet bobcat for a while they kept tied to cannon when in camp.
Lee was fond of chickens. He carried some hens with him when he was campaigning in Texas as he liked an egg for breakfast and fixed some willow cages for his little hens to keep them safe from the coyotes. Imagine his delight when in early 1862 a shipment of chickens came in for food. He was fond of fried chicken as the next man, but he liked them live better.
One little black hen escaped and found sanctuary under his cot, laid an egg, and settled in. Lee found the hen and the egg and named her Nellie. He took the egg to William Mack Lee, his body servant to make breakfast. From then on, Nellie had a home in the baggage wagons or under Lee’s cot and everyone knew who Nellie was and who she belonged to. The retreat from Gettysburg had to be halted while they searched for the missing chicken who was found in an ambulance.
On may 4, 1864, Lee invited some of his generals to eat with him on the eve of the Battle of the Wilderness. William was going to cook flannel cakes, but he decided that wasn’t nearly good enough for such a distinguished group of gentlemen. The generals, including a very suspicious General Lee, had stuffed hen for dinner.
“William, now that you have killed Nellie, what are we going to do for eggs?”
“I jes’ had ter do it, Marse Robert,” William replied.
Lee didn’t relent. “No, you didn’t, William. I’m going to write Miss Mary about you. I’m going to tell her you have killed Nellie.”
Marse Robert kep’ on scoldin’ me mout dat hen. He never scolded ‘bout naything else. He tol’ me I was a fool to kill her whut lay de golden egg. Hit made Marse Robert awful sad ter think of anything being killed, whedder der ‘twas one of his soljers, or his little black hen.
(From History of the Life of Rev. Wm. Mack Lee: With Anecdotes about General Robert E. Lee by Rev. William Mack Lee)
The 3rd Louisiana had a donkey named Jason. The donkey would push into the commander’s tent and try to sleep with him, mistaking the officer for his original owner.
The 12th Wisconsin Volunteers had a pet bear that marched with them all the way to Missouri.
The 26th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry had a badger. What else would the Badger State have, pray tell?
Soldiers of the Richmond Howitzers kept roosters. The Battalion also kept a dog named Stonewall who traveled in the safety of a limber chest during battle. He attended roll call, sitting on his haunches in line.
The 43rd Mississippi Infantry had a camel. Douglas was killed by a minie ball during the siege of Vicksburg and, like Dick, went to a higher cause when he fed hungry soldiers.
Sallie Ann Jarrett was one of the better known dogs. She’s immortalized in the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Monument, Gettysburg National Military Park. Sallie was an English Bull Terrier with a brindle coat born in the spring of 1861. Someone gave her to Captain William Terry of Company I and the men named her Sallie Ann after a lady they admired and Pharon Jarrett, their colonel.
She adopted Colonel Coulter and always trotted beside his horse at the head of parades or marches, earning her the nickname “Dick Coulter’s” dog. She saw action at eight major battles and always stayed right at the front with her men, barking at the enemy. At Gettysburg, they feared she’d been killed, when they retreated to Cemetery Hill but found her later guarding the dead and wounded on Oak Ridge.
On February 6, 1865, she was killed at Hatcher’s Run. Despite being under heavy fire, the men stopped to bury her.
Sallie Ann and her soldier at Gettysburg
The stories of these famous and beloved pets could fill a book, and do, but I wanted to offer a look at a few of them today. Soldiers on both sides craved the companionship and love these animals provided. So it has always been. The more war changes, the more it stays the same.
Davis, Burke. The Civil War: Strange and Fascinating Facts. Wings Books, New York, 1960.
Encyclopedia of the Civil War, Historical Times Illustrated, Patricia L. Faust, editor, Harper and Row, NY, 1986.
Lang, J. Stephen. The Complete Book of Confederate Trivia, Combined Books, Inc. Conshohocken, PA, 1994.
Library of Congress
Seguin, Marilyn W. Dogs of War and Stories of Other Beasts of Battle in the Civil War. Branden Publishing Company, Brookline Village, MA, 1998.
Smith, Helene. Sally Civil War Dog 1861-1865, MacDonald/Sward Publishing Company, Greensburg, PA, 1996.
“The Civil War Reader” by E.J. Patrick
History of the Life of Rev. Wm. Mack Lee: With Anecdotes about General Robert E. Lee by Rev. William Mack Lee