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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Dog Follows Master to the Grave

When the Civil War erupted, Wisconsin's immigrants quickly joined up to fight for their adopted homeland. Company F of the Sixth Infantry, for example, was composed entirely of Germans from Milwaukee.

One of its officers, Capt. Werner von Bachelle (shown here), had been trained as a soldier in the French army before coming to America. Col. Rufus Dawes recalled that he had been "brought up as a soldier in the Napoleonic school, [and] was imbued with the doctrine of fatalism. His soldierly qualities commanded the respect of all."

Brought His Dog

When Von Bachelle enlisted, he brought with him "a fine Newfoundland dog which had been trained to perform military salutes and many other remarkable things. In camp, on the march, and in the line of battle, this dog was his constant companion."

Both dog and master were on the front line at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862, the bloodiest day in American military history. On that day the Union and Confederate armies fought for 12 hours near Sharpsburg, Maryland, about 40 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. More than 125,000 troops faced off and over 24,000 were killed, wounded or missing. When the fighting was over, Union forces had stopped the Confederate invasion of the North, but at great cost.

Dawes recalled that the bullets flew thick as hail, and his unit was forced to pull back after 150 of the 280 men he brought to the field were killed or wounded. "At the very farthest point of advance," he wrote, "Captain Werner Von Bachelle, commanding Company F, was shot dead.

Dog Refused to Leave

"The dog was by his side when he fell. Our line of men left the body when they retreated, but the dog stayed with his dead master and was found on the morning of the 19th of September lying dead upon his body. We buried him with his master."

A member of the burial detail elaborated: "The faithful dog had refused to leave the body of his master, and, although in pain and mortally wounded, had crawled to his side, placed one paw over this officer's breast and died."

"So far as we knew," Dawes concluded, "no family or friends mourned for poor Bachelle, and it is probable that he was joined in death by his most devoted friend on earth."

Dawes wrote in a letter home, ""I have for a day or two been suffering from a severe attack of bilious sick-headache, a result of the late terrible excitement and trying times. We are encamped amid a dreadful stench of the half-buried thousands of men and horses on the battle field. Captain Edwin A. Brown, of company E, my best friend in the regiment, was shot dead at Sharpsburg. That gallant soldier. Captain Von Bachelle, was shot dead and his Newfoundland dog lay dead upon his body."

:: Posted in Animals on May 24, 2012
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