Civil War research is my bread and butter, but every now and then I run across something that throws me for a loop.
Not long ago I ran across some research regarding regiments who carried furry (and sometimes feathery) companions into battle. Many troops claimed mascots, usually horses and dogs. Dogs like Sally, the mascot for the 10th Massachusetts Infantry. Sally would run the picket lines and would snarl and bark every time she spotted a gray coat. One of the best-known dog mascots was “Jack,” the brown and white bull terrier mascot of the 102nd Pennsylvania Infantry. This unit of volunteer firemen claimed that Jack understood bugle calls and obeyed only the men of his regiment.
Another “Sallie” was a terrier belonging to the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Sallie grew up among the men and followed them on marches and to the battlefield, including the Battle of Gettysburg. During the fight, she stood guard over the dead and wounded near the battle line at Oak Ridge. In February, 1865, she was struck down by a bullet and was buried on the battlefield. Sallie’s service is memorialized at Gettysburg.
Not all mascots were canines however. The 26th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry had a badger as a mascot. (Appropriate since Wisconsin is called “The Badger State”.) The 12th Wisconsin Volunteers had a tame bear that marched with them all the way to Missouri, and most famous of all was “Old Abe”, the war eagle. For 42 battles and skirmishes, he was the official mascot for Co. C, 8th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers and was carried into combat by a sergeant on a special perch alongside their regimental colors.
Seeing “Old Abe” atop his perch during the battle of Corinth, Mississippi, Confederate General Sterling Price remarked, “that bird must be captured or killed at all hazards, I would rather get that eagle than capture a whole brigade or a dozen battle flags.”
Lest you think unusual mascots is a Wisconsin thing, other states claimed some wild animal companions. The 3rd Louisiana CSA had a donkey. Robert E. Lee carried a pet hen with him (who laid an egg under his cot every day), and the 2nd Rhode Island kept a sheep who was taught tricks by the men. Alas, the sheep was eventually sold to a butcher for $5 to buy food for the men.
Life was meant to be shared in community. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, a smiling neighbor or a cuddly companion, God has blessed us with a variety of ways to connect. Life gets heavy sometimes. The load is easier to carry when we all share the lifting.
On a related note, I’m happy to announce I have my own mascot. Meet Major Jack, the mascot for all my historical writing and reading adventures! Major Jack loves to travel, meet new people, and even has his own Instagram account. https://www.instagram.com/majorjackshistory/
Everybody needs a furry friend…Major Jack and I can’t wait for you to join us on our journey!