Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Civil War Oddities #118

When Ohio volunteers skirmished with seven hundred secessionists at West Liberty, Kentucky, on October 23, 1861, a triumphant account published in Cincinnati reported that twenty-one enemies were killed and victors returned with an entourage.

Captured, according to the news account, were 34 prisoners, 52 horses, 10 or 12 mules, 2 jacks and one large bear. Like the cub kept as a mascot by another outfit, this animal was probably half tame, but was estimated to weight about three hundred pounds.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Civil War Oddities #117

Diaries and letters reveal that men in blue as well as men in gray spent time with pets to break the monotony of camp life. Many mongrel dogs were fed scraps, and several units adopted squirrels. One of them, owned by a drummer, is said to have learned to dance to the beat of its master’s instrument. Officers of a Minnesota outfit bragged to comrades that their mascot was a bear cub that “smelt powder in a dozen engagements before being sent home in good condition.”

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Civil War Oddities #116

In January 1864, Lt. A. L. Cady of the Twenty-fourth New York Battery was praised in newspaper throughout the north. In the Tyrrel Country, North Carolina, he led a raid that resulted in the capture of five guerrillas and two Confederate officers. More important, in the opinion of the newspaper editors, “he returned to camp with one thousand sheep.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Civil War Oddities #115

Sue Chancellor, for whose family a plantation home and a major battle were named, was a girl of fourteen at the time of what some term “Lee’s greatest triumph.” Before she became accustomed to seeing Confederate pickets near her home, Sue later said, a large drove of sheep came running down the road one day without a shepherd.

As she recalled the incident, that to her always remained vivid, a soldier asked her if she’d like to have a pet. When she nodded, Tomas Lamar Stark of Columbia, South Carolina, picked out for her “a beautiful white lamb.” Named Lamar in honor of its donor, the lamb remained with its new mistress until the Chancellor mansion was burned.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Civil War Oddities #114

Before donning a gray uniform, Robert E. Lee once described himself as being “very solitary.” His only companions, he said in a letter to his wife, were “my dog and cats.” According to the lonely cavalry officer, his dog went with him to his office every morning and lay down “from eight to four without moving.”

During his U.S. Army days, Lieutenant Colonel Lee once crossed the “Narrows” between Fort Hamilton and Staten Island, New York. Halfway over the body of water, he spied a female dog with its head barely above the waves. He rescued the animal, named her Dart, and took her home with him.

One of her pups, Spec, was an alert and especially affectionate black and tan terrier who once jumped out of a high window to join the family at church. Lee was so impressed by the valor of the animal that he permitted Spec to “go into the church afterwards, whenever he wished.”

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Civil War Oddities #113

Lt. A. O. Abbott of the First New York Dragoons was among numerous Union prisoners held at Columbia, South Carolina, during the fall of 1864. Abbott whiled away part of the time be keeping a detailed diary. According to it, an October sunrise revealed “two strangers going through the camp.”

The prisoners decided that they must be killed at once, so they found an axe “and the deed was done.” The bodies of the victims were shoved into an abandoned well just before guards began searching. As Abbott described the eventful morning, Confederates eventually brought to light the missing dogs, dead bloodhounds that were two of a pack around camp every morning to discover if any “Yankees had made fresh tracks for liberty during the night”.