Saturday, January 14, 2012

CAPTAIN WERNER VON BACHELLE'S DOG

Captain von Bachelle joined the 6th Wisconsin Infantry in April 1861, which was almost as soon as the Civil War started.  He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in Company F, then was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in December, and to Captain in May, 1862.  It is likely that Captain von Bachelle was born in Germany and grew up there.  He served as an officer in the French army for a while before he immigrated to America.














The regiment that Captain von Bachelle was in was called the "Black Hat" Brigade.  This was because they liked to wear black hats, as you can see in the painting.  At first they mostly guarded stuff around Washington, D.C., but after about a year, they got into their first battle at Second Bull Run.   They fought so bravely that soon they were known as "The Iron Brigade of the West."















One day a Newfoundland dog wandered into the soldiers' camp.  Everyone knew that Captain von Bachelle liked animals, so the dog was given to him.  We don't have any pictures of this dog, and we don't even know his name, but we do know that the captain loved him very much and taught him to do military salutes and other tricks.  The two of them were the very best of buddies, and they stayed together all the time.








On September 17, 1862, Company F of the 6th Wisconsin fought at the Battle of Antietam.  This turned out to be the bloodiest single-day battle in all of U.S. history, with 3,600 people killed and 17,000 wounded.  Captain von Bachelle led his men bravely forward into a cornfield, where lots of people were getting shot.  Later a Union soldier described it like this:  "Every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they stood in their ranks a few minutes before."




The captain and his men kept on fighting, and then Captain von Bachelle got hit by several bullets and died right there where he fell.  His men soon began to retreat, and they called the newfoundland to come with them, but he would not leave his master's side.  Major Rufus Dawes later wrote that the dog "was found upon the morning of the 19th of September lying dead upon [von Bachelle's] body.  We buried him with his master.  So far as we know, no family or friends mourned poor Bachelle, and it is probable that he was joined in death by his most devoted friend on earth."



You can see the gravestone for Captain von Bachelle in the officers' section of Antietam National Cemetery.  The stone doesn't say anything about the captain's brave and faithful dog, but we know that they are very happy together, wherever they are now.

3 comments:

  1. Great blog - I had not read of this history before!! :)

    I'm having a hard time commenting on your blog...on a daily basis, for some reason I keep getting frozen out of it....can't make comments, can't bring it up! Grrr!! I also know it's on my part, just wanted you to know why I tend to post late comments. I also just noticed, my profile picture when back to a default pic. Hmmmm
    Love, AP

    ReplyDelete
  2. Testing my profile again...AP

    ReplyDelete