The Mighty Newfoundland Dog

LoyaltyOfDogs

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 8, 2011
Location
Gettysburg area
Bulldogs, terriers, spaniels and mixed-breed dogs of all kinds accompanied soldiers during the Civil War. One of the breeds most frequently mentioned in regimental histories and soldiers’ memoirs is the Newfoundland dog, who appears time and again as a mascot or an individual soldier’s pet.

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Captain Frederick Barton and the NCOs of Co. E, 10th Massachusetts Infantry, with their Newfoundland dog. Taken at Camp Brightwood, Washington, DC, in August 1861 (Massachusetts MOLLUS Collection at the Army Military History Institute)

Among the best-known Civil War Newfoundlanders is the dog of Captain Werner von Bachelle of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry, who died with his master at Antietam, and, legend has it, may even be buried with him in the national cemetery there. Lesser-known Newfoundland dogs are remembered in many anecdotes like this one, where the dog’s talent for swimming made him a helpful go-between for pickets trading their goods.

Native to the Canadian maritime province that gave them their name, Newfoundland dogs were valuable for their strength as draft animals and as indefatigable swimmers. European explorers became familiar with the dogs in the late 17th century, and some 100 years later, large numbers of the dogs were being exported to England and other European countries. English breeders developed the dog that eventually became the modern Newfoundland. By the time of the American Civil War, the dogs were prized by fishermen and sailors for their exceptional skill at rescuing drowning people.

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A popular print

At least once, the Newfoundland’s work as a seaside lifesaver has been celebrated in song. Following are the lyrics to “The Newfoundland Dog,” by F.W.N. Bailey, Esq., with music by Henry Russell, published in 1875.

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The sheet music is available here at the Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/resource/sm1875.13050.0/?sp=1


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We haven’t seen an account yet of a Newfoundland saving his Civil War soldier from drowning, but if such an event actually was recorded we look forward to its discovery. For now, we share this heroic effort by a Newfoundland dog at Fredericksburg:

"After the battle of Fredericksburg, it fell to my duty to search a given district for any dead or wounded soldiers there might be left, and to bring relief. Near an old brick dwelling I discovered a soldier in gray who seemed to be dead. Lying by his side was a noble dog, with his head flat upon his master's neck. As I approached, the dog raised his eyes to me good-naturedly, and began wagging his tail; but he did not change his position. The fact that the animal did not growl, that he did not move, but, more than all, the intelligent, joyful expression of his face, convinced me that the man was only wounded, which proved to be the case. A bullet had pierced his throat, and faint from the loss of blood, he had fallen down where he lay. His dog had actually stopped the bleeding from the wound by laying his head across it! Whether this was casual or not, I cannot say. But the shaggy coat of the faithful creature was completely matted with his master's blood." ~By an anonymous author, this account appeared in the March 1871 edition of "Merry's Museum," a magazine for children.

With the balladeer, we say “Good dog then!”
 
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mofederal

Major
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
Location
Southeast Missouri
A very big dog. I have seen some info on Newfoundland before, but it was mostly on the breed itself. I like the image above, but it looks like they are wearing campaign hats from the Span Am war, except for the 4 button sack coats. I wonder, is the man in the frock coat an officer or a newly appointed one. He appears to be wearing shoulder straps. Still a great image, and of course the real star is the Newfoundland. I haven't lived anywhere in a long time where I could own a bigger dog. I do like the look of them.
 

LoyaltyOfDogs

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 8, 2011
Location
Gettysburg area
A very big dog. I have seen some info on Newfoundland before, but it was mostly on the breed itself. I like the image above, but it looks like they are wearing campaign hats from the Span Am war, except for the 4 button sack coats. I wonder, is the man in the frock coat an officer or a newly appointed one. He appears to be wearing shoulder straps. Still a great image, and of course the real star is the Newfoundland. I haven't lived anywhere in a long time where I could own a bigger dog. I do like the look of them.

Thanks for your question, @mofederal. I was relying on the Newfoundland Club of America's identification for the photo and will see if I can find a more definitive reference.
 

Burning Billy

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 6, 2016
Although it predates the Civil War, Lord Byron's famous Epitaph to Dog was penned in memory of a Newfie. No doubt it could have also served as a fitting tribute to Captain von Bachelle's poor dog.

Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.

This praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery
if inscribed over human Ashes,
is but a just tribute to the Memory of
Boatswain, a Dog
who was born in Newfoundland May 1803
and died at Newstead Nov. 18th, 1808


When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown to Glory, but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below.
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the Soul he held on earth –
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,
Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power –
Who knows thee well, must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,
Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit!
By nature vile, ennobled but by name,
Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame.
Ye, who behold perchance this simple urn,
Pass on – it honours none you wish to mourn.
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one -- and here he lies.
 

LoyaltyOfDogs

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 8, 2011
Location
Gettysburg area
When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth,
Unknown to Glory, but upheld by Birth,
The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,
And storied urns record who rests below.
When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen,
Not what he was, but what he should have been.
But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend,
The first to welcome, foremost to defend,
Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own,
Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,
Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth,
Denied in heaven the Soul he held on earth –
While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,
And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.


A most eloquent poem! I'm not sure if it's mentioned elsewhere in CWT's threads about Sallie Ann Jarrett of the 11th Pennsylvania, but her commanding officer, Col. Richard Coulter, quoted that stanza in his memoir. Even if dogs were to be denied heaven, and even though Sallie's grave site was unknown, Col. Coulter imagined a different kind of immortality for her. He wrote, "...in the long after years when the grey-haired Veteran of the war for the Union, repeats the legend of his earlier days, he will tell his listening grandchildren the story of 'Sallie.'" He was right, the veterans did tell her story, and as we're finding still today, many other veterans of the war continued telling the stories of their dogs long after the war. I think the old soldiers would be pleased to know that we still read their words and remember their dogs.
 

RochesterBill

Corporal
Joined
Oct 11, 2016
My bride and I share our home with a Newfie, and they are remarkable dogs.

Maybe the most interesting trait is the extent to which the instinct to save people who are swimming is embedded in their psyche. If they see anyone - at all - in water, be it the ocean or just a swiming poo, you simply cannot stop them from leaping in, swimmimg out to them, gently grabbing an arm and dragging you back to shore.

Its not something you have to train. They do it on their own . You actually haveto teach them NOT to do it. And thats just one of the many things they are born knowing they should do.

Truly remarkable.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Even if dogs were to be denied heaven, and even though Sallie's grave site was unknown, Col. Coulter imagined a different kind of immortality for her


You know, we still hear this ' no animals in Heaven thing ', like anyone down here gets to invent the rules. Little convinced dogs were sprinkled around this place as a fuzzy blueprint on how it's done. Talk about sinless- well, except for the whole blackmail thing. Who hasn't fallen for the paw on the knee, I'll simply expire without that bone, Mom, shameless ploy. Which works.

Grgrandmother's Newfoundland walked her to school, came back in time to walk her home. She still talked about him when she was 90. The breed's protective instinct must extend beyond swimming.

Thanks for the thread, @LoyaltyOfDogs. I won't tell my husband it's your fault when a Newfie comes to live with us.
 

Burning Billy

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 6, 2016
You know, we still hear this ' no animals in Heaven thing ', like anyone down here gets to invent the rules. Little convinced dogs were sprinkled around this place as a fuzzy blueprint on how it's done. Talk about sinless- well, except for the whole blackmail thing. Who hasn't fallen for the paw on the knee, I'll simply expire without that bone, Mom, shameless ploy. Which works.

Grgrandmother's Newfoundland walked her to school, came back in time to walk her home. She still talked about him when she was 90. The breed's protective instinct must extend beyond swimming.

Thanks for the thread, @LoyaltyOfDogs. I won't tell my husband it's your fault when a Newfie comes to live with us.


“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”

---Will Rogers
 

Claude Bauer

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jan 8, 2012
When I participated in the Shiloh 150th reenactment, the bugler in the unit got permission from the organizers to bring his Newfoundland to the event--normally pets are forbidden, but he was able to provide proof that the musician he was portraying actually had such a dog with him back in the day. Here's a picture of the reenacting group I was with for the event, with the dog in the center between the seated lady and the musician.

1st US at Shiloh_v2.jpg
 

LoyaltyOfDogs

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 8, 2011
Location
Gettysburg area
When I participated in the Shiloh 150th reenactment, the bugler in the unit got permission from the organizers to bring his Newfoundland to the event--normally pets are forbidden, but he was able to provide proof that the musician he was portraying actually had such a dog with him back in the day. Here's a picture of the reenacting group I was with for the event, with the dog in the center between the seated lady and the musician.

View attachment 216012

That's a wonderful picture, @Claude Bauer. What regiment is it, and do you know the name of the bugler your colleague was portraying? I'd love to read about the original bugler's Newfie if any historical information remains.
 
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