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Man’s Best Friend

Dog Jack.jpg
Jack was the official mascot of the 102nd Pennsylvania, a volunteer infantry regiment that is now associated with the local York Civil War Round Table.
Soldiers away from home during the Civil War often adopted pets and mascots, including bears, eagles, cats, goats, chickens, and other domesticated animals. The most common pets were, of course, dogs. I cover several of these dog mascots and their combat prowess in my three human interest stories books, and I have been asked to write a book specifically covering animal mascots during the war. Perhaps someday…
The 102nd Pennsylvania is one of two Civil War infantry regiments whose monuments have been “adopted” by the York Civil War Round Table (the other being the 62nd New York). The 102nd had a dog named “Jack” for a regimental mascot. Let’s learn a little more about this famed little mascot, whose ultimate fate was an unsolved mystery.

When the regiment was first organized in August 1861, a group of Pittsburghers from the Niagara Fire Company enlisted, bringing along their fire dog, a black-and-white bull terrier named Jack. As the new soldiers drilled and trained, they likewise accustomed Jack to military life. He came to understand at some cursory basis what the various bugle calls meant and the way the men were supposed to react to them.
Jack was on the field during several fierce battles, and the noise and excitement of battle seemed to energize him. He would run among the troops, wagging his tail and loudly barking. Following the battle, he would wander among the wounded and dead. The fiesty Jack suffered wounds at Malvern Hill and Fredericksburg, but was nursed back to health. According to the regimental historian, he was seized by the Rebels a couple of times.
Jack was back with the unit during the 1864 Overland Campaign. Later that year in August, his comrades were on furlough in Pittsburgh. They held a special ball in Lafayette Hall and raised $75 to purchase a very expensive beautiful silver-studded collar for Jack. However, a few days later, on December 23, he disappeared at Frederick, Maryland, and was never seen again by the men of the 102nd Pennsylvania. He may have been “dog-napped,” but his whereabouts thereafter are unknown. Some have suggested he was killed by a robber wanting the lavish collar. Grieving soldiers searched in vain for their beloved Jack, but neither he nor his collar ever surfaced again.
A faded photograph of Jack hangs in the Allegheny County Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh, a tribute to one of Pennsylvania’s bravest and most renown “soldiers.”
There is even a fictional movie about Jack — one that I have not seen, but from the write-up may torture the truth.
And, if you ever spot a silver-studded dog collar for sale at a flea market, take a hard look, Perhaps Jack’s collar still exists???