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..