People Are Leaving Bones For This Heroic Dog Who Fought At Gettysburg
"There’s something sublimely kind and compassionate about Sallie’s story."
Pit bulls haven’t always had a bad reputation. The dogs were once popular for being loyal companions and loving protectors of their families. And one American Staffordshire terrier named Sallie Ann Jarrett spent her life showing just how faithful a dog can be.
A bronze statue of Sallie guards the base of the monument to the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment at Gettysburg National Military Park. The dog lays peacefully on the stone, head on her paws, her watchful eyes looking out over the battlefield where she once fought over 150 years ago.
And, to this day, visitors still pay her homage, leaving dog treats and toys at her feet.
Sallie Ann Jarrett joined the 11th Pennsylvania as a puppy and quickly became the regimental mascot. “The regiment was on active campaign during the fall of 1862, and that’s where they encountered the dog,” Christopher Gwinn, chief of interpretation and education at Gettysburg National Military Park, told The Dodo. “It was a case where the dog kind of followed along with the regiment as they marched.”
Sallie reminded the men of their lives before the war and offered them comfort and companionship as they endured difficult conditions. “The dog would follow them everywhere they would go, and it was alleged the dog would only bark at three things — women, rebels and Democrats,” Gwinn said. “Of course, in the 1860s, Lincoln was a Republican, so Democrats were on the opposite side of the ideological and political spectrum.”
Sallie was so devoted to her regiment that she followed them onto the battlefield, taking her position at the end of the firing line and barking at the enemy.
On the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Sallie joined the 11th Pennsylvania as she always did. However, when things took a turn for the worse and the men were forced into a chaotic retreat, Sallie was lost and feared dead.
At the end of the epic three-day battle, the men of the 11th Pennsylvania were finally able to return to the ridge where they initially fought to bury their dead. There, they found Sallie, patiently waiting, guarding over the slain bodies of their comrades.
"She didn’t leave the battlefield — she stayed with those men,” Gwinn said. “And the men who fought at Gettysburg in the 11th Pennsylvania remembered that moment — it never left them.”
Though she was weak, the dog refused to abandon her vigil and continued to fight with her regiment, until she was killed at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run in February of 1865. Soldiers who loved her and whom she loved stopped to bury Sallie, despite the heavy Confederate fire.
When it came time to design the monument, the veterans pushed to have a likeness of Sallie at the base of the statue, with her name inscribed under it. The park wouldn’t approve the inscription, so to this day, the identity of the dog on the statue remains something of an insider secret.
“Sallie loomed so large in their memory, and I think her sacrifice in a lot of ways is emblematic of the larger sacrifice of the regiment, and her dedication and devotion to the human companions that she had was something that the men wanted to remember and wanted to honor,” Gwinn said.
On any given day, the monument is covered in dog treats, toys, sticks and coins — a touching tribute to the pup’s loyalty.
“I think it's a way to honor dogs like Sallie," Gwinn said. "I think it’s a token of respect, a memento.”
"I also think there’s something sublimely kind and compassionate about Sallie’s story," he added. "She’s not famous for mauling a Confederate soldier, she’s not famous for some act of violence — she’s famous for being a loyal companion who, even in the midst of tragedy and death, never abandoned those who cared for her and those she cared for. And I think that resonates with people.”