Sallie Ann: Civil War Dog Hero

Sallie Ann Jarrett became a famous dog hero in the deadliest war in American history. The brave and loyal canine stood by her fellow soldiers for almost three years in some of the bloodiest battles during the Civil War.

In May 1861, a civilian presented a four week old bull terrier to the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry at a training camp in West Chester. The men named the little brindle puppy Sallie Ann Jarrett - after Sallie Ann, a pretty young lady of a nearby town who would drop by to visit, and after their commander, Colonel P. Jarrett. Sallie, who could barely get around on her short wobbly legs, became the official regimental mascot. She was well taken care of and soon became very fond of her new friends. Sallie Ann adapted quickly to army life, learning the various drum rolls and bugle calls. She joined the soldiers at their drills, and eventually learned to take her place at the head of the regiment with the colonel's horse.

The regiment and Sallie proceeded south to engage the rebels in April 1862. She saw her first combat at Cedar Mountain. Sallie went with the men to the front lines and would bark furiously at the enemy. She was brave when under enemy fire, and even a bit humorous when she would chase after the bullets that struck the ground around them.

On September 17, 1862, the soldiers were fighting in the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, the Battle of Antietam. The men attempted to send Sallie to the rear to protect her from the vicious fighting, but the dedicated dog refused to go. Thousands of lives were taken that day. Sallie survived, and gave birth to 10 puppies one month later. When weaned, the little dogs were sent north to good families while Sallie remained with the soldiers.

In the spring of 1863, Sallie as usual at the head of her regiment stood before Abraham Lincoln during the Army of the Potomac's review. Legend says the president doffed his tall stovepipe hat to acknowledge the dog.

In July 1863, Sallie became separated from her regiment during the retreat through Gettysburg, and the men feared she had been killed. She was unable to pass through the Confederate army to reach her unit so she went back to their previous location on Oak Ridge. Three days later, after the battle, a member of the brigade found the tired and hungry dog guarding her wounded and deceased comrades.

On May 8, 1864, Sallie was shot in the neck, was treated and returned to active duty a few days later. The bullet, a minie ball, remained lodged in her neck for several months before it worked its way out, leaving a noticeable and honorable battle scar.

On the night of February 5, 1865, Sallie kept waking the men with her mournful cries as though she knew something bad was about to happen. The following morning, Sallie Ann was struck by a bullet and killed during the Battle of Hatcher's Run - three months before the end of the war.

“Poor Sallie fell in the front line in the fight at the Run - a bullet pierced her brain,” mourned a fellow soldier in a letter after the battle. “She was buried where she fell, by some of the boys, even whilst under a murderous fire, so much had they become attached to the poor brute, who so long had shared with them the toilsome march and the perils of battle. It would, indeed, be a pleasant reverie if one could reconcile himself the poor Indian’s theory of the happy hunting-grounds, where his faithful dog would bear him company.”

Close up of Sallie Ann Jarrett at the base of the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry monument

In 1890, the veterans of the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry erected their monument at Gettysburg. One veteran described the monument as “A bronze soldier on top, looking over the field, while the dog, Sallie, is lying at the base keeping guard.”