The battle of Gettysburg continues to be one of the most studied battles in American history. In my leadership tours of the battlefield, I have strived to inject humanity and personal stories into my lectures to allow my audience to place themselves in the time and space I am describing. That’s why I have included stories of valor not only of combatants, but civilians and others who performed heroically and selflessly to impact the battle.
On every tour of the battlefield, I pause to stop and pay tribute to one such participant. The majority of visitors to the Gettysburg battlefield will never know to stop by the monument of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer regiment on Oak Ridge and walk to the back of the monument facing away from the road. If they did, they could follow a short trail of dog biscuits to the base of the monument where a statue of a small dog lays proudly.
It is a memorial to one of the most beloved members of the regiment, its mascot Sallie. Sallie was a pug-nosed Staffordshire terrier and one of the regiment’s most loyal and disciplined members.
It was said that Sallie got to know the call of reveille and was always the first out of quarters for roll call. During dress parade, she would stand proudly alongside the regimental flag. In battle she would race around the front line and bark menacingly at the rebels. She became the regiment's spirit and its inspiration.
My favorite story of Sallie involves the regiment’s participation in an 1863 review of the Union army before President Lincoln. When the President saw Sallie marching with the rest of the regiment, it is said that with a twinkle in his eye, he raised his stovepipe hat in salute.
On the first day's fighting at Gettysburg, the 11th Pennsylvania was driven back from Oak Ridge and into town with the rest of the retreating army. During the chaos, Sallie became lost. The men were sure she had run away or feared she was killed during the fighting. Three days later she was found by a member of the 12th Massachusetts regiment at the original position of her regiment on Oak Ridge. Sallie had found her way back and was standing guard over the regiment’s dead – still lying where they had fallen. Hungry and nearly dying of thirst, Sallie refused to abandon her fallen comrades – protecting them from looters and scavengers.
In 1890, the surviving members of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry dedicated their regiment’s monument on Oak Ridge. Looking out over the battlefield on a marble pedestal stands a bronze soldier. At the base of the statue is Sallie.
A newspaper reporter said the following about the monument: “At the base of the statue is a bronze likeness of a little dog. It is Sallie…keeping watch through all of eternity over the spirits of her boys, just as she did so many years ago during all of the battles they shared.”
The regiment known as ‘the bloody 11th’ had suffered greatly during the war, yet they insisted that it was Sallie to be remembered on their monument for all time.
Leadership decisions during war involve life and death. We can often forget that people fight wars. In them, we can often see ourselves. Telling stories like Sallie’s helps me instill this in my descriptions of Gettysburg. The next time you visit the battlefield, be sure to visit the monument of the 11th Pennsylvania and its most beloved member.
To comment on this or learn more about inspiring examples of leadership at Gettysburg, contact the author, Jack Carroll: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack Carroll is Founder and lead presenter at Battle Ready Leadership – a firm dedicated to leadership training, strategic planning and brand development for organizations of all sizes with a focus on inspirational storytelling on the Gettysburg battlefield.