The Faithful Companions of Civil War Soldiers

When Union and Confederate soldiers went off to war, they left their homes, belongings, and loved ones behind in order to defend their beliefs and homelands. In some cases though, they were able to bring some friends along. There are many historical instances where animals joined troops as mascots in order to inspire the troops or to stand as reminders of their homeland. [1]

Dogs were commonly used as mascots during the Civil War. Truly “Man’s Best Friend”, dogs lifted the general mood of the soldiers who were far from home. One famous example is Sallie, the mascot of the 11th PA Volunteer Infantry Regiment, trained in West Chester, Pennsylvania. The men all grew to love her and it was said that “there were only three things she had a distaste for, Rebels, Democrats, and women.” [2] She followed the men into battles and would stay with the bodies of men who had fallen in battle. Sallie herself was shot and killed during the battle of Hatcher’s Run. She held such a special place in her infantry’s heart, that on the monument memorializing the men who died in from that infantry there is a small bronze statue of a dog – Sallie. This gives an insight into value of companionship in the war, and also shows human nature – even after a war where we fought and killed other humans, kindness and innocence was memorialized in this monument of a beloved animal.

[3]

[3]

Having dogs had its advantages, but they were not the most useful animal during the Civil War. Horses were an advantage on the battlefield, giving soldiers speed and height. They also had a bond with their owners. Robert E. Lee and his horse, Traveller, were a team on the battlefield. His troops often remarked at how close Lee was to his horse. Traveller’s colors were shades of grey, making him “a true Confederate.” He blended in with the grey in Lee’s uniform and connected them. [4] This relationship between horse and rider not only gave soldiers’ battlefield companionship, but also an emotional connection with their creatures when riding onto the battlefield.

Apparently, not all animals were welcome during the Civil War. In a more amusing account, President Lincoln wrote a letter to the King of Siam, politely rejecting his offer to send a supply of elephants to help with war efforts. He wrote:

     I appreciate most highly Your Majesty’s tender of good offices in forwarding to this Government a stock from which a supply of elephants might be raised on our own soil. This Government would not hesitate to avail itself of so generous an offer if the object were one which could be made practically useful in the present condition of the United States. . . Our political jurisdiction, however, does not reach a latitude so low as to favor the multiplication of the elephant, and steam on land, as well as on water, has been our best and most efficient agent of transportation in internal commerce. [5]

The letter is amusing and fun to historians now, but also gives an interesting “what if” scenario to think about.

Seeing something as simple as having pets around during war time really puts things into perspective when it comes to the needs and wants of Civil War soldiers. The fact that a dog or a horse could be a major factor in uplifting a large group of men is a reminder that yes, these were soldiers fighting in a war, but they were also humans, missing their homes and their loved ones. The value that the men put on these pets gives insight into human nature and could also reflect toward feelings and emotions that link animals like dogs and horses to broader ideas like patriotism and America.

Works Cited

[1] “Animal Mascots of the Civil War” Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site. http://alexandriava.gov/historic/fortward/default.aspx?id=40198

[2] “Sallie, Mascot of the 11th PA Volunteer Infantry Regiment.” http://www.nycivilwar.us/sallie.html

[3] Ibid

[4] “Robert E. Lee and his Horse Traveller”

http://www.historynet.com/robert-e-lees-horse-traveller.htm

[5] “Lincoln Rejects the King of Siam’s Offer of Elephants.” Civil War Trust. http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/primarysources/lincoln-rejects-the-king-of.html

The Battle Cry of Freedom: Perspectives through Music

Being a musician, I often look at how history affects and shapes music. Music is not only an art form. It is a language and a tool that can be used to rally groups of people to feel emotion and unite under a common cause. For example, after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, many patriotic songs rose to Number 1 on radio and media stations, from several different versions of The Star Spangled Banner to classic hits like God Bless the USA by Lee Greenwood. [1] Why? To remind Americans that the country was united under these ideas of patriotism and national pride.

During the Civil War, both the Union and the Confederacy used music as a way to unite people under an idea. For the Confederacy, that idea was that the South was strong, independent, and ready to come together to defend states’ rights. For the Union, the music reminded people that the country was founded with the idea that it would be ONE nation, unified by common ideas and goals. [2] Both the North and the South could use the same tune two present two completely different ideas. Such is the case with the popular civil war song, The Battle Cry of Freedom. While both songs have the same upbeat, instrumental background that grabs a listener’s attention, they were altered to fit both a Pro-Confederacy and Pro-Union platform. These lyrics can be found here.

The Union’s The Battle Cry of Freedom Verse 3 and Chorus:
We will welcome to our numbers the loyal, true and brave,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!
And although he may be poor, he shall never be a slave,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

The Union forever! Hurrah, boys, hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the star;
While we rally round the flag, boys, rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of freedom!

The song gives the idea of the union’s opinion of succession, (down with the traitor, and up with the star) as well as throwing in a hint of abolitionist ideology and their willingness to allow slaves to join their ranks, (We welcome the loyal, true and brave. . . Although he may be poor, he shall never be a slave.)

The Confederacy’s The Battle Cry of Freedom Verse 3 and Chorus:

They have laid down their lives on the bloody battle field.
Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom!
Their motto is resistance –“To tyrants we’ll not yield!”
Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom!–

Our Dixie forever! She’s never at a loss!
Down with the eagle and up with the cross!
We’ll rally ‘round the bonny flag, we’ll rally once again,
Shout, shout the battle cry of Freedom!

The South used the same melody but changed the lyrics to give their opinion of succession, (down with the eagle and up with the cross) as well as their views of states’ rights (to tyrants we’ll not yield.)

This is of course just one of the dozens of song examples to choose from, but it does give interesting insight into some of the motivational music of the time period, as well as being a interesting primary source for history enthusiasts today.

Works Cited

Videos and song lyrics can be found through the in-text links above.

[1] https://www.leegreenwood.com/biography

[2] http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/on-the-homefront/culture/music/music.html