From contemporary descriptions and the only photograph that’s known to exist of her, Sallie was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, brindle in color. She was four weeks old in 1861, given as a gift to 1st Lieutenant William Terry of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, who made her the regimental mascot. The men of the regiment were enormously fond of Sallie, as she tagged along on long marches and kept them company in their camps. She learned the drum roll announcing reveille, and loved to help wake sleeping soldiers in the morning.
If you’ve ever had a dog in your life, you know how that goes.
Sallie’s first battle came at Cedar Mountain, in 1862. No one thought of sending her to the rear before things got hot, so she took up her position with the colors, barking ferociously at the adversary. There she remained throughout the entire engagement, as she did at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Spotsylvania. They said she only hated three things: Rebels, Democrats, and Women.
Sallie marched with “her” soldiers in a review in the spring of 1863. Abraham Lincoln was reviewing the army, when he spotted the dog from the center of the reviewing stand, and raised his famous top hat in salute.
At Gettysburg, Sallie was separated from her unit in the chaos of the first day’s fighting. They found her five days later, on July 6, parched with thirst and weakened by hunger. She was standing guard over her dead and dying comrades from July 1.
It’s been said that only a dog is capable of that kind of loyalty, yet virtue in one is capable of inspiring virtue in another. So it was in February, 1865. Sallie was struck in the head by a bullet at Hatcher’s Run. She was killed instantly, when several men of the 11th PA laid down their arms and buried her right then and there, even though they were still under fire from the Confederate side.
There is a story. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s nice to think that it might be. Soldiers were moving out after the battle, when they heard whining from a hollowed out tree. There they found several of Sallie’s puppies. They’d had no idea she was pregnant, or how puppies came to be in that hollowed out tree, but they gave them to local civilians so that Sallie’s bloodline could live on.
Surviving veterans of the regiment returned to Gettysburg in 1890, to dedicate a memorial to those members of the 11th Pennsylvania who lost their lives on that field of battle. The monument shows an upright Union soldier, rifle at the ready.
By unanimous consent of the veterans themselves, Sallie’s likeness looks out from the base of the statue, looking after the spirits of “her boys”, for all eternity.
There are only two dogs so honored on the battlefield at Gettysburg, the other is part of the Irish Brigade monument. Of the two, Sallie is the only one to have actually participated in the battle.
“Sallie was a lady,
she was a soldier too.
She marched beside the colors,
our own red white and blue.
It was in the days of our civil war,
that she lived her life so true”.