"A breed of satin and steel. Pit bulls are a mixture of softness and strength, an uncanny canine combination of fun, foolishness, and serious business, all wrapped up in love."

-D. Caroline Coile

Saturday, May 29, 2010

In Honor of Memorial Day

"Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars"-- Kahlil Gibran

In the early twentieth century Pit Bulls were America's dog, prized for devotion, loyalty, determination and bravery. They were used to represent America in WWI propaganda. America's symbol of bravery and honor, they graced posters, war bonds and recruitment paraphanalia.

Only image of Sallie on record

“Sallie” a brindle Staffordshire Bull Terrier, was regimental mascot for the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. Sallie, came to 1st Lt. William R. Terry when she was but four weeks old. Always by the side of Lt. Terry, Sallie grew up among the men of the regiment. She followed them on marches and into battle. At the battle of Gettysburg, July 1st – July 3rd 1863, Sallie was separated from her unit. Unable to find her way, she returned to the Union battle line at Oak Ridge, where Sallie stood guard over the dead and wounded. Sallie continued her faithful service until February of 1865 when during the battle of Hatcher’s Run, Virginia, Sallie was struck in the head by a bullet and killed instantly. Sallie was buried on the battlefield while surrounded by enemy fire. In appreciation of her loyal devotion, a monument of Sallie now stands in Gettysburg, directly in front of the monument that commemorates the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry.
Jack understood bugle calls, and was the mascot for the 102nd Pennsylvania Infantry. This fine soldier was a dependable member in his unit, His career spanned through nearly all the regiment’s battles in Virginia and Maryland. He was present at the Wilderness campaigns, Spotsylvania, and the siege of Petersburg. Jack’s duty, was to seek out the dead and wounded of his regiment once the gunfire silenced. He, himself was wounded severely at the battle of Malvern Hill. Although he was able to escape a capture by the confederate soldiers and survive the battle of Antietam in 1862, (in which 23,000 soldiers were killed or wounded,) Jack was however, captured twice and became the only dog to be traded as a prisoner of war, when during his second capture he was exchanged, according to war time protocol, for a Confederate soldier at Belle Isle. Jack disappeared shortly after being presented a silver collar purchased by his human comrades and was believed to be a victim of theft.

“Old Harvey” was the mascot for the 104th Ohio Infantry. he was beloved for the companionship and humor he provided the troops. It is said, Harvey would show his great love for music by swaying from side to side while the soldiers sang campfire songs in the evening. He was wounded in two different battles but, survived each time. Harvey’s tag read “I am Lieutenant D.N. Stearns’ Dog. Who’s Dog Are You?”

The 104th had a portrait of Harvey commissioned so that he could still be part of their reunions after his death. Today, Harvey is remembered by the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, where a portrait of the troop features a proud Harvey posing with his fellow soldiers.

“Jack Brutus” another fine soldier,(shown here in uniform) serving during the Spanish - American war became the official mascot for Company K, First Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. “Old Jack” as he was known, and his unit, spent most of the war encamped at various places here in the states providing coastal defense from Maine to Virginia. Old Jack died in 1898.

Lastly, the most recognized war dog of all time was the first decorated canine war hero and the only dog to be promoted to sergeant was an American Pit Bull Terrier “Stubby”. Born in 1917, he wandered into a Connecticut National Guard encampment on the Yale University campus. He was a scrawny little pup of about four weeks old, found there by John Robert Conroy who smuggled his beloved companion aboard the troop ship, the SS Minnesota. Stubby learned to salute and his military career began. He served beside Conroy in the 102nd Infantry 26th Yankee division, during WWI, in the trenches in France. There Stubby would seek out wounded soldiers, which were significantly less, because Stubby could hear the whine of incoming artillery shells before the humans, and became quite adept at letting his unit know when to duck for cover.

After being gassed, Stubby began warning his unit of poison gas attacks. There is no way to know how many American soldiers this Pit Bull saved but, the respect he was given by the U.S. after the war is a clear indicator of how valuable Stubby was to the men of his unit. During his Military career, Stubby aided in the capture of a German spy, was severely injured by shrapnel, sent to the Red Cross hospital for surgery, awarded the Purple Heart and sent back to his regimen. After the battle for the French village of Domremy, the grateful women of the township fashioned a hand sewn chamois coat, to display Stubby’s service chevrons, metals, pins and buttons, this became his recognized trademark, and is now on display at the Smithsonian Museum.

In his lifetime Stubby was invited to the White house by three Presidents, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, and Calvin Coolidge. In 1921 John Conroy and Stubby headed to Georgetown to enroll in law school where Stubby became a practicing Hoya, he served several terms as mascot to the football team. Between halves, Stubby would nudge a football around the field with his nose, to the delight of the crowd. His performance is deemed the inspiration, that started elaborate half time shows, at football games across the country. Until his death, in John Conroy’s arms, of old age, April 4, 1926, Stubby was a “True” American Pit Bull Terrier.

1 comment:

  1. It's always wonderful to see these faithful war dogs remembered, especially the dogs of the Civil War. They did so much to help raise soldiers' spirits at one of the bleakest times in our country's history. No wonder the soldiers loved them!