Saturday, June 27, 2009

George Custer. Dogs of War. The American Civil War.

George Armstrong Custer. Who does not recognize the name? His grave is a must-see for me at West Point. That was pre-9/11 when people could freely tour the academy in their own car. The cemetery is some ways up from the main grounds, and there you can visit the graves of many heroes. Custer, himself, was a graduate of the academy (1861) just in time for the war between the states. And, as always cited in many treatises upon his life, Custer graduated number thirty-four in a class of thirty-four.

Here are three photographs of Custer, two during the war and one taken during a hunting trip after the war. It seems that the gentleman was a dog-lover, but not a complete animal-lover according to our modern terms. I found a photograph of him with a bear he shot dead. I despise hunting and hunters, but I realize that Custer was a product of his times. The ASPCA wasn't in existence yet and the concept of organized efforts directed at animal welfare would be analogous in impertinence to our concept of martians in flying saucers. Imagine, women didn't have voting rights yet at that time.

I like the army staff group photo the most, notice the dog. The men consists of the staff of Gen. Fitz-John during the Peninsula Campaign in 1862. Obviously, Custer had not yet attained his brevet rank of General at that time. The dog seemed very familiar and trusting of Custer, and Custer had his reassuring hand on the dog. These photographs tell us that almost definitely dogs traveled with the U.S. army during the civil war, at least with high ranking staff. And perhaps the same can be said about the confederate army. The Dogs of War? Well, yes. But not in the same sense as Frederick Forsyth meant. They were the dogs of war, literally.

1 comment:

LoyaltyOfDogs said...

Great pics, interesting commentary. Yes, dogs not only traveled with high ranking Civil War officers but they were also favorites of the enlisted men, and were sometimes the men's own dogs from civilian life. See more at