Monday, May 28, 2012

Looking for Jack's Collar

This post recycled from Veteran's Day 2007.

The area in which I live, hunt, and go to work is steeped in history. I live about a mile from the Pentagon, on part of what used to be the old Lord Fairfax estate (Fairfax started the first fox hunt in the U.S.), and just a 15-minute drive down the river from Mr. Vernon, George Washington's old home.

Arlington Cemetery, the former estate of Civil War General Robert E. Lee, is a congenial walk down the bike path, while at lunch I can walk to the White House or the Vietnam Veteran's memorial.

The sign, pictured above, is near Frederick, Maryland on the edge of one of the locations I hunt -- an 1,800 acre tract bound by farm fields. The sign notes that this immediate area was part of the Antietam Campaign of the Civil War -- the most vicious campaign of a very violent and bloody period in American history.

The sign does not mention Jack at all.

Jack was a brown and white Pit Bull terrier that learned to understand the bugle calls of his regiment, the 102nd Pennsylvania Infantry, which was largely composed of volunteer firemen from Pittsburgh.

After every Civil War battle of his regiment, Jack would search out the dead and wounded -- a trick he repeated across Virginia and Maryland.

Jack was wounded at the battle of Malvern Hill, but recovered and was captured by Confederates at Savage's Station.

The dog managed to escape and he survived the battle of Antietam on Sept 17, 1862, in which over 23,000 were killed, missing or wounded.

Jack's was severely wounded at Fredericksburg three months later, but was nursed him back to health. Then, at Salem Church, he was again taken prisoner by the Confederates. The value of the dog was such, however, that he was exchanged for a prisoner at Belle Isle six months later.

Jack stayed with his regiment through the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Campaigns and the Siege of Petersburg.

On the evening of Dec. 23, 1864, Jack disappeared from his regiment, which was on furlough at Frederick, Maryland just four miles from where this sign (top picture) is located.

Though an entire regiment looked for the dog, and even offered a substantial award, he simply vanished, and was never seen or heard from again.

It could be that Jack was stolen or murdered for his new collar, which was emblazed with silver and which cost (at the time) the astounding price of $75.

Or perhaps Jack succumbed to a bullet, poison, trap, or some other wayward thing, and simply expired ignominiously on hallowed ground -- his silver collar waiting to be dug up by a lucky groundhog hunter.

The original "Jack" circa 1863 or 1864. This dog looks very much like today's Pit Bull Terrier..


Katie said...

I had never heard of Jack. Sally, yes, but not Jack. Fascinating!

I wish, when I lived in Fredericksburg, I had taken more interest in all of the history around me. I did all the usual tourist attractions, but that was about it.

smartdogs said...

Hey - speaking of Jack - have you seen this?

I just sent your link to the woman who trained Piglet. I hope she pops in and offers a comment.

PBurns said...

The movie looks very cool. I will post later on Sallie -- I wrote it up and never put it up (I keep some some stuff in the shed for a rainy day).


Tracy Doyle, Dog Trainer said...

Thanks for remembering Dog Jack!

I'm the trainer/handler of the dog that played the title role in the upcoming film about him. We shot it in the summer of 2005 and it is still in post production. I believe the film will be released some time this year.

Here is a link to the film trailer:

And here is a piece that ran on KDKA when we were filming in the Pittsburgh area:

And here is a story that ran in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

I have three photo albums posted of our filming experience here:
(Click on the "Dog Jack" links in the left column.)

I believe that Jack was an American Bulldog type - he was a bruiser of a dog. His painted portrait, which was commissioned by the men of his regiment, is on display at the Soldiers and Sailors Military Museum and Memorial in Pittsburgh.

During the filming, I found a photograph of the dog which showed his collar, and I had a replica made of it which I still have. Ironically, it cost much less to make today than the original! The collar can be seen clearly in the photographs in the Post-Gazette story.

The film "Dog Jack" is based upon a novel by Florence Biros. The author was inspired to write the story after learning about the dog from the display in the Pittsburgh museum. Other than the exploits of the dog, the story is fictional.

Piglet herself became somewhat of a hero, being the first deaf dog in film history to play such a prominent role. In this day and age when pit bull types are subject to increasingly strict legislation and even slaughter, such as is ongoing in Denver, a film like "Dog Jack" which honors a real pit bull hero for the breed type's characteristic bravery and loyalty is much needed positive press.

Thanks, Terrierman, for your blog entry on this wonderful dog!

Sean said...

It is interesting that a pit bull then looks so much like a pit bull now. My guess is this shows that while pit bull work may be antisocial, at least the dogs have been selected for behavioral traits rather than exaggerated physical traits. I guess the problem is that too often they are selected for exaggerated antisocial behavior.

PBurns said...

Most Pit Bull, like most dogs, are fine animals if raised right and given love and discipline and limits and proper socialization. But ALL dogs come with certain codes built in (which differ by both dog and breed), and NO dog is right for all people. Across the board, dogs are OVERSOLD and we need to come to terms with that and start "unselling" all dogs. This is particularly true for Pits which are often dog aggressive and which, depending on the dog and/or how it was raised, may be human aggressive too. A Pit Bull is not a Standard Poodle or a Pug.

The main problem with Pit Bulls is that there are WAY too many of them and there are too few limits to ownship. The result is that ONE-THIRD of all Pit Bulls in this country are KILLED EVERY YEAR, often because there "owners" brought them in to be euthanized. As I have said before, this is a massive FAIL on the part of the Pit Bull community, and it is breed specific fail that may need a breed-specific solution. Lord knows the Pit Bull community has waited long enough for "nice people" to talk their way to a cure while the dogs are lead away to be killed. No other dog is failed by people (breeder, owners, the community in general) as often as Pit Bulls are. Loving this dog means we need to start fencing in breeders and requiring more responsibility from them. Yes, that means LAWS. It's time to speak up for the dogs which cannot speak for themselves.


Jonathan Setter said...

This and the posts that follow are wonderful reminders of the powerful devotion and courage that our dogs are blessed with. All of this is hard to read without a lump in the throat, though reinforces my love for my own dogs immensely. Thank you for these lovely histories, tributes to heroes that they are. God rest them and keep them.

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