Friday, November 11, 2011


Veterans Day wasn't even invented until after World War I, but I don't care, because today I want to tell you about a doggy veteran of the Civil War.  A few months ago, Mom bought a book called Civil War Dogs and the Men Who Loved Them, by Anne Palagruto.  This is a very interesting book, so I will be sure to tell you a bunch of the stories that are in it.

Anyway, there were lots of dogs in the Civil War because the soldiers liked having pets, even though they weren't supposed to have them.  This is kind of the same situation as in Iraq and Afghanistan today, where soldiers sneak puppies or kitties into their barracks.  A lot of times, the officers pretend not to notice because it makes the soldiers happier to have an animal around to play with and love on.  During the Civil War, the fighting men didn't just have dogs, but they also made pets out of cats, squirrels, raccoons, possums, and other wildlife.

Some of the Civil War dogs were strays that came into the camps, but other times, a soldier would bring his dog to war with him.  Sometimes these dogs did helpful things such as carrying messages or guarding the camp, but other times they were just companions to the troops.  And when there was a battle, they might go out and bark fiercely at the enemy.

But now I will tell you about one particular dog, and his name was York.  He belonged to Brigadier General Alexander Asboth, of the Union Army.  General Asboth was born in Hungary in 1810, and he grew up wanting to be a soldier.  But his father made him study engineering.  Then after he learned to be an engineer, Mr. Asboth finally got to go to military school, and he joined the Hungarian Army in 1836.  He fought in several battles, and then he joined a revolution in 1848, but it failed.

In 1851, Mr. Asboth came to the U.S.  When the war started, he joined the Union Army.  He became a brigadier general in 1862, after he was nominated by President Lincoln and approved by the Senate.  Gen. Asboth led troops into battle in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, and Florida.

People described the general as brave, kind, noble, and courteous.  Also he liked all kinds of animals.  A historian named William Watson Davis said, "When not engaged in the barbarous practice of pillaging, Asboth was a refined yet amusing fellow with a great love for flowers and a keen interest in dogs and fine horses."  He was easy to recognize because he had a really humongous, long mustache.  And he liked to wear a blanket made out of camel hair instead of an overcoat.

General Asboth's dog, York, went with him everywhere.  The general would let York sit at his feet during meals, and he would feed York from his dinner plate.  The book by Ms. Palagruto says that York was a St. Bernard, but one site I found on the internet said that York was a setter.  There aren't many pictures of York, but he doesn't exactly look like a St. Bernard to me.  Anyway, the point is that General Asboth and York were devoted to each other.  When the general was fighting in the Battle of Pea Ridge, in Arkansas, on March 6-8, 1862, York ran alongside his master's horse the whole time and never left him.

Later in the war, General Asboth got some bad wounds in the Battle of Marianna, in Florida.  This happened on September 27, 1864.  The general got hit in the left cheek-bone and in his left arm.  He was able to get well enough so that he could command his troops again, but the wounds never healed up completely.

After the war, in 1866, General Asboth became the U.S. Minister to Argentina and Uruguay.  He died in Argentina in 1868 because of an infection in the war wounds that never healed up.  I don't know what happened to York.  He wasn't mentioned after the Battle of Pea Ridge.  I hope he didn't get shot or anything like that.  I like to think of him lying in the sun in South America beside General Asboth's chair, getting fed yummy food from the table.


  1. It's always wonderful to see these faithful dogs of the Civil War remembered! They did so much to help raise soldiers' morale at one of the bleakest times in our history. You can read more about them here: