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Pets in the Civil War

January 12, 2014
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

Despite orders forbidding it, many soldiers of the Civil War kept pets with them, including dogs, cats, squirrels, raccoons and other wildlife. One regiment from Wisconsin even had a pet eagle that was carried on its own perch right next to the regimental flags. The eagle was known as Old Abe. During battle he would fly over the fighting and screech. The Confederates made numerous unsuccessful attempts to kill him in order to demoralize the troops. After the war he was put on display in a cage in the Wisconsin state capitol. A fire destroyed the bird (smoke inhalation). His body was stuffed and displayed until another fire destroyed the bird. A replica was then made and is still on display.

General Lee was purported to have had a pet chicken that faithfully delivered a fresh egg for the General every day. General Grant had a favorite horse named Cincinnati. Colonel Philip Sheridan's horse Rienzi, was so loved that his stuffed body was presented to the Smithsonian Institution after his death. Stonewall Jackson's horse was named Little Sorrel. She outlived Jackson and spent her postwar years touring county fairs and Confederate functions.

By far the most popular pets were dogs. Their presence in camp, or on the march, was often overlooked by high commanders. General George Armstrong Custer kept a number of dogs around headquarters, favoring the hardiness of the companions and believing their companionship was a soothing connection with home.

Sallier, a Staffordshire bull terrier. Was regimental mascot for the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Sallie is remembered in a bronze likeness on the regiment monument at Gettysburg.

A terrier named Jack was mascot for the 102nd Pennsylvania Infantry. He was captured twice, and the second time was exchanged for a Confederate soldier.

There were also some exotic pets that joined the war. 3rd Louisiana had a donkey. 12th Wisconsin volunteers had a tame bear. 26th Wisconsin kept a badger. 2nd Rhode Island had a sheep named Dick, which they eventually sold for food. 43rd Mississippi Infantry had a camel named Douglas. The camel was killed by a minie ball during the siege of Vicksburg.

 
 

 

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