Monday, May 28, 2012


We don't know what breed Mike was, but there is one picture of him, and we can see that he was a fairly small dog, and he was either black or brown.  Mike belonged to a Vermont blacksmith named Patrick Colligan, who was born in Ireland in about 1840.  There are lots of other ways to spell Colligan, and here are some of them:  Calaghan, Callighan,  Calighan, Callogdhen, Callaghan, Callaghen, Colloghden, Calleghen, Colloghen.  Which just goes to show you that the Irish can be kind of crazy sometimes.  But the descendants of Patrick Colligan decided to spell the name "Colligan," and that's the way I'm spelling it, too.

Anyway, Mr. Colligan came to the U.S. when he was a teenager.  He lived with a blacksmith and his family in Rutland, VT, and that's how he learned to be a blacksmith himself.  In 1861, Mr. Colligan joined the Vermont Infantry for three months.  After his three months were up, he re-enlisted in the First Regiment of Vermont Cavalry.  He held the rank of blacksmith, and he kept that rank through the rest of his military service.

The Army Forge, by Edwin Forbes

Mr. Colligan's dog, Mike, liked to think of himself as a scout, and he used to go out ahead of the cavalry to look for the enemy.  He seemed to actually like the noise of the cannons and muskets firing.  One time, Mike was sitting on the seat of an ammunition wagon when Confederate soldiers shot the horses that were hitched to the wagon.  One of Mike's front legs was shattered, but he survived the wound.  Another time, at the battle of Kelly's Ford, he lost the tip of his tail.  But besides that, Mike got through the war in good shape and was welcomed as a hero when he came home.

The one picture we have of Mike was made by an artist named Edwin Forbes, who worked for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.  Mr. Forbes followed the Army of the Potomac around, making sketches of anything that he thought would be interesting for the paper's readers to see.  One day he made a sketch of a cavalry blacksmith shop, and he saw a bossy little dog there, which of course was Mike.  So Mr. Forbes put Mike right in the middle of his picture, and this just goes to show exactly how important Mike was to the whole operation.

Edwin Forbes ended up being one of the most important artists of the American Civil War.  He was very good at painting, etching, and illustrating.  Before the war, he made a lot of pictures of animal life, but during the war, he drew pictures of many important battles and other wartime events.

The Sanctuary, by Edwin Forbes

Here is an etching by Mr. Forbes that shows a family of African-Americans when they first see the Union troops coming, and they know they are safe.  I like this picture a lot because it also has a dog in it, which in my opinion, makes any piece of artwork better.

But getting back to Mike the dog and his human, Patrick Colligan, I am sorry to say that I don't have any information about what happened to Mike after he came home from the war.  Mr. Colligan decided to move out West, and I like to think that he took Mike along to Rolla, Missouri, which is where he settled.  In that town, he met and married Mary Ann Saltsman on September 10, 1869.

After about a year of marriage, the Colligans moved back to Vermont.  They raised a family of seven children in West Rutland.  Mr. Colligan kept on being a blacksmith until 1908, when the asthma and malaria he suffered from during the war made it too hard for him to work.  He died on January 31, 1917.  Mrs. Colligan died a few years later, in 1924.

The Colligans are both buried in West Rutland, in unmarked graves, in St. Bridget's Cemetery.  We don't know where Mike was buried, but it was probably also in an unmarked grave somewhere in West Rutland.


  1. I am using Mike in a Social Studies assignment I have! Thanks for the information!

  2. Nice story, thanks for seeing the little dog in that illustration. I missed it and you made an entire and intriguing story out of it!

    1. I'm glad you liked the story about Mike!