America’s Independence Day is upon us once again. It’s the time of year we set aside for (among other activities) remembering the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War and the actions of our country’s legends and leaders. But as a nation of dog lovers, it should come as no surprise to us that the Founding Fathers were quite fond of dogs as well. Here are stories of dogs’ involvement in America’s War of Independence, and how they enriched the lives of our greatest leaders.
GEORGE WASHINGTON’S MANY DOGS
Our first president and commander-in-chief of the Continental Army was a lifelong dog lover, owning dozens of dogs of many different breeds. These included Captain, Duchess, Drunkard, Juno, Jupiter, Pilot, Rover, Searcher, Sweet Lips, Truelove, Taster, Tipler and Vulcan, to name just a few. Sweet Lips was a particular favorite of Washington’s, and he took the American Staghound with him on trips to Philadelphia, and even into battle. (Dogster)
BRITISH BULLDOG AT THE SIEGE OF YORKTOWN
The brave men of the Continental Army weren’t the only ones with man’s best friend by their side. The redcoats had canines of their own. At the Siege of Yorktown, there was a particularly large British Bulldog that chased British cannonballs fired over American trenches. Wrote rebel solider Joseph Plumb Martin, “Our officers wished to catch him and oblige him to carry a message from them into the town to his masters, but he looked too formidable for any of us to encounter.” The dog might have intimidated the Continental Army soliders, but it couldn’t win the battle for its masters. The Americans’ decisive victory at Yorktown ended the war. (History Matters)
GENERAL HOWE’S LOST DOG
An incident that is often cited as evidence of George Washington's great sense of honor followed the Battle of Germantown in Pennsylvania. A thick fog provided excellent cover for the Continental Army during their pre-dawn attack, but it also caused great confusion, leading rebel forces to fire on each other. The soldiers weren't the only ones who were confused. A dog that belonged to the British army’s commander-in-chief, General William Howe, got lost in chaos. By coincidence, the dog wound up in the hands of General Washington, who identified its owner from its tags. While his troops wanted to keep the dog as a trophy, Washington the dog lover returned the pet to General Howe under a flag of truce. Some historians view this act as a display of Washington’s honor, but others contend it was a shrewd tactic. After all, the messenger who delivered the dog to Howe would have had a unique opportunity to spy a bit on British headquarters. (American Heritage)
THOMAS JEFFERSON’S BRIARDS
If you are a fan of Briards, the shaggy herding dogs from France, you have none other to thank for their introduction to American soil than the same man who drafted the nation’s Declaration of Independence: Thomas Jefferson. In 1789, France's Marquis de Lafayette introduced the breed to Jefferson. Our third president had never been as keen on hunting or hunting dogs as George Washington was, but he fell in love with Briards. He imported the breed to the U.S. and was one of the country’s first Briard breeders. The dogs were a perfect match for Jefferson’s domestic temperament, and he called them “the finest house and farm dogs I have ever seen.” (Briard.com.au)
GENERAL CHARLES LEE, DOG LOVER
Charles Lee was a general in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Lee had ambitions to lead the army as its commander-in-chief, but lost that appointment to George Washington. This may have been due in part to Lee’s various eccentricities. He was foul-mouthed, slovenly in appearance and, as a “great admirer of dogs,” he was trailed by several of his beloved pets at all times. Lee not only took his dogs with him on the battlefield in packs, but to dinners as well. At one party, Lee ordered one of his dogs, Spada, to sit in a chair and shake hands with Abigail Adams. (All Things Liberty)
LAFAYETTE IMPORTS BASSET HOUNDS
Briards aren’t the only dog breed that the Marquis de Lafayette had a hand in introducing to the New World. It seems that the man had quite a lot of influence on America’s canine history. Lafayette brought Basset Hounds to America when he presented a pair of them as a gift to George Washington, who was known for his love of dogs and hunting. Basset Hounds were bred to be outstanding hunting companions, with their short stature and keen sense of smell. (American Kennel Club)
JOHN ADAMS’ DOG, SATAN
Founding Father John Adams and his wife Abigail had a couple of dogs. One of them, Juno, was Abigail’s favorite. She wrote of Juno in a letter to her granddaughter, “as if you love me proverbially, you must love my dog.” Although there is less on record about John Adams’ other dog, it tends to get a bit more attention in presidential-pet retrospectives because of its awesome name: Satan. No evidence exists to suggest how Satan achieved his moniker, but whether it was because he was a particularly rambunctious dog, or because John Adams was just completely heavy metal way before such a thing existed, it’s certainly the coolest name among presidents’ pets, and that’s including George Washington’s dog named Drunkard. (AKC)
WASHINGTON CREATES A BREED
We’re still not done with the great George Washington. Not only did he own many dogs of several different breeds, he even developed an original breed that still exists today: the American Foxhound. Washington received a gift of several French Foxhounds and Grand Bleu de Gascogne from – who else? – the Marquis de Lafayette. Washington, with his passion for canine hunting companions, took to crossbreeding his English Foxhounds, French Foxhounds and Grand Bleu de Gascogne in order to create the ultimate hunting breed. The result of his efforts was the American Foxhound. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1886, and is the official state dog of Virginia. (PuppyFind.com)
Next: 50 Patriotic State Animal Mascots
PAUL REVERE’S SPURS
Although legendary patriot Paul Revere truly did ride on horseback to warn the Colonial militia of the British army’s approach, much of what is today understood about Revere’s “midnight ride” consists of legend and apocrypha. One such detail tells that in his hurry, Revere forgot to bring his spurs with him. Rather than turn back, he sent his faithful dog home with a note pinned to its collar. Some time later, the dog caught up with Revere again, and the silversmith’s spurs were attached to its collar. No evidence exists to suggest that this actually happened, but we like to believe in the legend. (“Paul Revere's Ride”)
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