Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Stonewall was a black-and-white puppy who wandered out of the woods during a battle near Richmond in 1862.  He seemed to know where he was going, because he ran right up to Sergeant John Van Lew McCreery.  The Sergeant named the puppy Stonewall, after the Confederate General, "Stonewall" Jackson.

Sergeant McCreery taught Stonewall to carry a little pipe around in his teeth.  Then when they went to roll call, he took the pipe out of Stonewall's mouth and stuck it between the toes of his paw.  The dog had been trained to know this meant he should stand at attention, with eyes facing forward, until the company was dismissed.

The group that Stonewall had joined was the 1st Company Richmond Howitzer Battalion.  The unit was formed soon after John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry in late 1859.  By 1861, the battalion had grown into three companies.  It was an elite unit that served in most of the campaigns of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, starting with 1st Manassas and ending with Appomattox.

The soldiers in the three companies were mostly young businessmen and clerks from Richmond.  Many of them had been to college.  There were also some young men from the country, and they were from very good families.  The more educated men seemed to prefer serving in artillery units rather than being ordinary foot soldiers.

Stonewall Jackson

General Thomas Jonathan Jackson, whose nickname was "Stonewall," was maybe the best-known Confederate commander after Robert E. Lee.  Some military historians think General Jackson was one of the best tactical commanders ever, at least in the early battles he fought.  Unfortunately, at the Battle of Chancellorsville, on May 2, 1863, some pickets accidentally shot General Jackson.  He had to have his arm amputated, which he survived, but then he died of pneumonia eight days later.

Anyway, the puppy Stonewall, like the general, was very brave and intelligent.  Whenever there was a lull in the battle, he ran around barking at the enemy.  The men in the regiment worried about Stonewall's safety, so if he started getting too close to the cannons, they would put him in an ammunition box until the battle was over.

Confederate Howitzers

Soon other regiments in the Army of Northern Virginia heard about Stonewall, and they began playing pranks on the Richmond Howitzers.  For instance, they would kidnap the puppy during a battle and hide him, so that his own unit had to go looking for him later.

The Louisiana troops that were commanded by Brigadier Gen. Harry Hays were especially fond of Stonewall.  When this group got sent off to fight in a different part of the war, Stonewall disappeared, and the Richmond Howitzers never saw him again.  It's possible he got hidden so well that they couldn't find him, but it's more likely he ended up "joining up with" the Louisiana regiment.

I couldn't find any pictures of Stonewall or of his favorite soldier, Sergeant McCreery.  Of course, no one knows what became of Stonewall, but I hope he survived the war and went on to live a long, happy life.  What I did learn, though, was that Mr. McCreery was 23 when he enlisted as a Private on April 21, 1861.  He got to the rank of Sergeant in 1862.  At the end of the war, he was paroled at Richmond on April 18, 1865.  After that, he went into the hardware business.  He wrote some newspaper articles and pamphlets about his experiences during the war, which is how we know about Stonewall, the puppy.

There's no information about whether Mr. McCreery got married or had children, but most people did in those days, so he probably did, too.  I hope he also had a bunch of dogs.  On January 31, 1904 at the age of 66, Mr. McCreery died, and he was buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.

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