Jack: Civil War Dog Hero and POW

Jack became famous in history as the mascot for the 102nd Pennsylvania Infantry. When captured, the regiment exchanged a Confederate prisoner for the dog who stood by them.

Before the outbreak of the Civil War, a stray bull terrier wandered into the firehouse of the Niagara Volunteer Company on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh. At first, the men basically ignored the dog and some were even unkindly to him. After one man kicked the dog, fracturing his leg, some took pity on him and helped nurse him back to health. After fighting a much larger dog to the finish, the bull terrier won the respect from all the tough men in the firehouse. The dog, given the name Jack, became a part of the team and went on to answer every fire call the company ran.

When volunteers were needed for the war, most of the firemen enlisted in the 102nd Pennsylvania Volunteers Regiment and took Jack with them. Jack was a smart dog and quickly learned what the different bugle calls meant. The regiment's first duty was to defend Washington, DC, which they did during August 1861 until March 1862. After that, they fought in many bloody and deadly battles. Jack would run to the front lines during battle and after each battle he would comfort the wounded and dying soldiers and later search for the dead. If the men were in need of water or food while marching, Jack would lead them to a water source and catch small animals for them to eat.

Jack was wounded twice during his time of service. At Malvern Hill he was severely wounded when he was shot through the shoulder and neck. The medics of the regiment were able to save him and soon Jack was back on the field. He suffered lesser wounds while at Fredericksburg. Jack was also captured twice by the Confederate soldiers. Once he was able to escape six hours after being captured, and the other time he was held as a prisoner of war (POW) for six months before he was exchanged for a Confederate prisoner. While in prison, Jack's presence cheered up and gave hope to other Union prisoners.

In August 1864, the men of the regiment raised $75 and bought a silver collar and medal for Jack while in Pittsburgh on veteran furlough. On December 23, 1864, Jack disappeared and was never seen again. Some believe he was killed by somebody who wanted his silver collar.