Sallie the War Dog | Boulder Veterinary Clinic

Dec 23, 2022

Sallie the War Dog | Boulder Veterinary Clinic |

I was recently in my hometown of Lemoyne, PA and took my kids to the National Civil War Museum.  I’m a big Civil War geek so my family has come to expect this sort of thing anytime I’m east of the Mississippi.  On this particular outing I came across a painting of an American Staffordshire Terrier standing in front of a regiment of Union soldiers.  The dog’s name was Sally, and she has a great story.

In 1861 at the onset of the war, Sallie was given to the captain of the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment.  From the sound if it she was immediately adopted as a mascot of the entire unit and fell right into regular army life, learning to march alongside the colonel in front of their formations.  She was very well behaved, affectionate, intelligent, and never stole the men’s rations from their haversacks.  There’s no way my dogs would have been able to deal with an entire army encampment full of food in bags on the ground.  So, props to Sallie on that one.

When the regiment first saw action at Cedar Mountain, Sallie followed right alongside them into battle.  Apparently, she stood at the front line and barked her head off at the enemy for the duration.  This continued through numerous battles, including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg (the largest battle ever fought on American soil), the Wilderness, and Petersburg among others.  Sallie would tend to the wounded and closely guard her fallen comrades.  She herself was wounded twice and nursed back to health, but sadly in 1865 just two months before the end of the war Sallie was killed in action at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run.  Several of the unit’s men stopped fighting under heavy fire to bury her on the spot.   Sallie was immortalized in a life-sized bronze statue placed at the front of the 11th PVI’s monument in Gettysburg and visitors still leave her dog biscuit offerings today.

I like this story a lot.  It must have been a great comfort to have had Sallie in the regiment making her rounds through camp.  In addition, it’s an incredible demonstration of the canine heart and soul.  In battle, Sallie could have taken off at a moment’s notice and high-tailed it to the rear.  No one would have blamed her.  But she didn’t.  All accounts report her standing fast, fighting in her own way alongside her brothers, and keeping watch over her dead and wounded time and time again.  And for those of you that haven’t spent much time on American Civil War history, the battles she witnessed were enormous.  Thousands were killed and wounded in each engagement.  At Gettysburg alone, her unit lost 138 of its 212 men.  Total casualties in this three-day battle exceeded 50,000.

Sallie’s story is truly an amazing demonstration of courage, loyalty, and friendship.  It’s perhaps a much-needed reminder of how we should strive to meet adversity face on, despite the inherent fear and anxiety, while supporting those that continue to struggle around us.  Dogs are pretty awesome in that way. 

Thanks for reading,

-Andrew Boal, DVM

Sallie the War Dog – Boulder Veterinary Clinic | Rise Vet is Boulder’s new breed of veterinary care located in downtown Boulder.  Call us today to make an appointment for your pet.  We are located in the Ideal Market Plaza, right next to Sweet Cow Ice cream and are excited to open our doors to you and your pets.  We serve pet lovers in Boulder, Longmont, Louisville, Superior and surrounding Boulder County.