Wednesday, November 11, 2015

SALEM: A CIVIL WAR DOG

Salem was a puppy who was adopted by the 13 Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry.  The nickname of this regiment was "Fremont's Grey Hounds," which is a good reason for them to have a dog in their ranks.  They were mustered into state service at Camp Dement, Dixon, Illinois, on April 21, 1861.  About a month later, they were signed into Federal service for a 3-year term.

The regiment was first ordered to Caseyville, IL, which is 10 miles east of St. Louis.  Then they went on to Missouri and stayed at Rolla until the spring of 1862.  Their job at Rolla was to keep guerrilla bands from raiding General Lyon's supply trains.

The 13th Regiment Illinois Infantry at Helena, Arkansas
posed for a photo taken during the summer of 1862,
several months before participating in the Union victory at the Battle of Arkansas Post.

In 1862, the regiment joined General Curtis' army at Pea Ridge, MO and marched from there to Helena, Arkansas, which is on the Mississippi River.  On the way south, the soldiers camped for one day in the town of Salem, AR.  When they began their march again, it turned out that an Irishman named Peter Dougdale had hidden a puppy under his shirt.  

They named the little dog "Salem" for the town where he was born.  The other members of the regiment were happy to have a mascot, and they all promised to help take care of him.  Soon Salem had a place to ride in the feed box of one of the wagons.  Everyone loved his puppy antics and enjoyed watching him grow.  One of the men described him in this way:  He was shaggy about the head and shoulders But his color, aye, there's the rub, he was not a yaller dog, neither was he a red dog, one need not be offended if he was called a reddish brown, but he certainly did not have a terra cotta color.  In fact one would not be far out of the way to say that his color was something like the worst painted house in town.

Salem grew to be medium in size, and he was tough and smart.  He was very loyal and soon learned who belonged in the camp and who didn't.  If you told him there was a stranger in camp, he would go drive the person away.  He thought battles were exciting events, and he liked to snap at the bullets as they zipped by.  

There is no record of what became of Salem.  It's possible that he failed to board the boat with the men during one of their many steamboat expeditions.  The 13th Illinois mustered out on June 18, 1864.  Six of their officers and 61 enlisted men were killed in action or died of their wounds.  Five officers and 123 enlisted men died of disease, for a total of 192 fatalities.  

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