George Washington and The Dogs of War


George Washington’s love for dogs was legendary. His journals list more than 30 dogs that could claim the Father of Our Country as master. Included among them were Greyhounds, Briards, Newfoundlands, Poodles, and various Spaniels. He delighted in giving his dogs names that reflected their personalities, such as Tipsy, Mopsey, Truelove, Drunkard, Ragman, and Vulcan.

The future President’s fondness for man’s best friend and empathy for fellow dog lovers was never more evident than after the Battle of Germantown in October, 1777. American soldiers found a small dog on the battlefield and saw from his collar that he belonged to General William Howe, the commander of the British forces.

Washington’s men saw this as an opportunity to get some revenge for the defeat they had just suffered. They proposed keeping the dog or killing it and sending back its corpse.

Washington saw things differently. He immediately dictated a brief note to his opponent: “General Washington’s compliments to General Howe, does himself the pleasure to return [to] him a Dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and by the inscription on the Collar appears to belong to General Howe.”

The note and the dog were delivered to General Howe under a flag of truce. Howe was overcome with gratitude and sent a heartfelt note of appreciation to his rival before the two sides again picked up arms and resumed the war.

washington note
A draft of the note from Gen. Washington to Gen. Howe, (written out by Washington’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton) compliments of the Library of Congress

source: General Howe’s Dog: George Washington, the Battle for Germantown and the Dog Who Crossed Enemy Lines, by Caroline Tiger

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