Sunday, May 18, 2008

Blood-Hounds of the Civil War.

The hunting dog ( Blood Hounds. ) was primary used in the hunting of wild animals to put food on the table. But soon after the war started they were retrained in a different kind of hunting that of the hunt of the human prey. Long before the war the Blood Hound was used in the hunt of run away slaves and escaped prisoners from jail or prisons. By the time of the Civil War the blood hound became a very efficient hunting and killing machine. Andersonville was one place the blood hound was used not only in hunting down the escaped prisoners but were ordered to attack a prisoner just for the sport of it.

Note. This information comes from a report to the House of the 40th.Congress 1867-1869, The House report was No. 45. And called: “Treatment of prisoners of war by the rebel authorities.” and the official records of the great Rebellion, which is housed at the Ohio State University.

The hounds of Andersonville.

The first time the hounds were used at Andersonville the handlers name was Harris who lived five or six miles from the prison. He had a pack of eight hounds, besides a dog which they called a “catch-dog.” That dog always went with the pack. Harris did the hunting there for a long while before they got the regular prison hounds. He used to be there every day, and always in the morning he would make a circuit around the stockade to see if any had escaped, and if any had he would of course follow them; and then he would always scour the country all around. Then later they had some more dogs which a man by the name of Wesley W. Turner tended. Turner tended about fifteen dogs, which were kept exclusively for hunting down prisoners, these dogs were kept at the post. Turner’s dogs were fed by rations drawn from the bakery, the same as the prisoners were fed on. He had a young man about eighteen or twenty years old who assisted him. A Captain Wirz’s give the orders to the bakery which would read, “Give this man all the bread and meat he wants for the dogs.”

One young man who had made his escape, had made no great distance, before Harris dogs caught up to him. The young man was very badly torn up, His legs were all bitten up and he was bitten a great deal around the neck and shoulders. The young man belonged to what is believed to a Ohio regiment. The young man may have gotten farther had he had not been so weak from hunger. As the dogs of Harris got closer the young man took to a tree the dogs held the boy at bay till Captain Wirz and Harris reached him, upon reaching the tree. Up on reaching the tree they took to shaking it till the young man fell out to the ground where on the dog torn into him. The young man was brought back and as the passed the bakery, James P. Stone, of the second Vermont Volunteers and who tells his story and other men from the bakery came out to talk to him. Which the young could do little of, for being so weak form the loss of blood. James and the others never saw the young man again as they were told he had died that night.

It was said that Mr. Turner was making more money then any man in the county, and had no need to work his land for a living as long as he had his hounds. He was asked once if his pay came from Richmond, his answer was that he had no need to bother Richmond, as Captain Wriz was his paymaster.

Dr. A. V. Barrows of the twenty-seventh Massachusetts, had this to say about Turner hounds “ They were a species of hound—not the hill-blooded hound—-a mixture. They were of different colors; white, and yellow, and spotted. They had also one large dog, which, I think, they called “catch-dog;” I think he was a bull-dog, or a bull terrier of some kind.”

Joseph D. Keyser, of the one hundred and twentieth New York, had this to say about the Hounds, “ I saw the dogs there were from six to eight dogs, they were spotted hounds, and one of them was a bull terrier. I know what is generally called a fox dog. I do not think they were fox dogs. They had yellow and brown spots, long ears, middling broad and flapping, and a pointed head, rather of the hound style. I never saw a blood-hound. I do not know what a blood-hound is. I cannot say that these were blood-hounds they were not the common hound. I have seen what is called a fox hound. I do not think they were fox hounds. They might possibly have been, but I do not think they were.”

Dr. F. G. Castlen, surgeon of the third Georgia Reserves, C. S. A., stated that he saw the dogs only once and they were your ever day breed of fox hounds.

Note. It was well known by all the prisoners that if the Hounds were put on you all was lost. If you were lucky you would be just bitten and torn up a might, but if you tried to fight the dogs off Turner would let the dogs tear into you till you were dead. At times the dogs were permitted to attack and lacerate the prisoner, for the purpose, as the hound man expressed it, “of keeping the Dogs in proper training."

Thomas N. Way, of the first Ohio Volunteers, stated that he know of the dogs. “ They caught me three times. I remember about a soldier being torn to pieces by hounds. He was a young man whose name I don’t know. I knew him by the name of Fred. He was about seventeen years old. When we heard the dogs coming, I and another prisoner who was with me, being old hands, climbed a tree. He tried to so but had not got up when the hounds, caught him by the foot and pulled him down, and in less then three minutes he was torn all to atoms. Turner was close behind. He got up just as the man was torn to pieces and secured the hounds, and we came down. Fred died; he was all torn to pieces. No other of our member was torn at the same time.”

Note. The polemical post-war writers faced something of a problem with figures in trying to prove that the South had killed off prisoners as part of a deliberate extermination policy. The number of Union prisoners who died was not large enough to substantiate the claim. So the myth-makers either ignored the numbers completely, or came up with new figures of their own. One writer claimed, for example, that no record remains of the many prisoners who "were pursued through fen and forest by bloodhounds and demons and their mangled corpses left to the carrion birds."


As the war wore on the need for more hounds was on the rise, as the number of run away slave was increasing and the longer a war went on there would more prisoners and some of them would escape and had to be hunted down. The dogs were now on the fighting line, some would be killed and would need to be replaced. Dogs ( Hounds ) were not only used for hunting slaves or escapees but in the sniffing out Indians as will. As in the case of June of 1865, when the Honorable S. Finch, sent a letter by Major Evins of the State Militia to Major General C. R. Curits, stating the need for blood hounds to hunt down the Indians in he neighborhood. The letter read in part:

SAINT PAUL, MINN, June 6, 1865.
Honorable S. FINCH,
Mankato, Minn.:
MY DEAR SIR: Yours of the 27th ultimo, concerning an effort which is being made to procure blood- hounds to hunt down the skilking Indians in your neighborhood, m and requesting my assistance in procuring transportation, was handed me by Major Evins, I believe, an officer of the State militia. I told the major it was not my province to interfere with any State matters designed to regulate the police or safety of citizens, but my inclinations, previous conduct, and best judgment were all opposed to the movement. I have publicly denounced the use of blood- hounds as dishonorable and despicable, and I could not allow my troops to directly or indirectly participate in such an effort to procure or use them.
The cry of needless alarm and inordinate cruelty is constantly raised against us, and the belief that frontier men are themselves savages seems to prevail in some quarters, much to my vexation and often to our injury. I have met this feeling as a military obstacle int he way of procuring or retaining adequate force. This move is very likely to return upon us in the same way. Besides, Indians are not afraid of dogs; they like and eat them. The trail in Florida was a failure, a folly, and a disgrace which hoped to break down Van Buren's administration. I have talked in this wise to Major Evins, who, being the near relation to the Jewtt family (brother, I believe, of the unfortunate victim, Mrs. Jewtt), is of course most anxious to secure some means of avenging the barbarous outrages of his kindred and protecting the rest of his people against their repetition. But I do not think the major will doubt my desire to do the very best I can in the efforts to guard the settlements, although I do not favor this blood- hound movement, and I am sure you will not doubt the sincerity of my purpose.
I have been through the region of Arkansas where the rebels have freely used blood- hounds, and understand what I am talking about. Our Indian scouts are far better followers and hunters of vagrant Indians, and our troops, even if you have hounds, will be the only dependence. Troops are moving and more are coming. There is a vast difference between your danger in 1862 and to- day. Then you had some 6,000 foes in your own immediate neighborhood. Now those Minnesota Indians are most of them dead and the remnants are far away near Devil's lake and Turtle Mountain, on the very border of the British Province, and there we will strike their settlement or frighten them still farther from you. In this starving condition occasional efforts of a few may be made to your annoyance, and you may be sometimes approached by straggling Indians from other bands; all our frontier States are so annoyed. But the great rebellion being closed, our Federal Government will be better able to afford assistance, and your frontier will therefore hereafter have as good or better protection than usually occurs in the settlements of frontier States.

C. S. Bell, was a scout for the Union and had been on a mission when he was betrayed by an old foe who was trying to save is own life, as he was charged with killing a major. Bell was caught and put on trial as a Federal spy. He was later found innocent, then pressed into the Confederate Army. He was later able to desert, this is part of his report on his run from the hounds.

On the 24th, of January 1865, while on dress parade, a general order dated the 23rd and signed "E. Kirby Smith," was read to the troops. He recounted the disasters to Lee's army and bade his army to be hopeful; to not abandon their colors; that the eyes of the world were upon them; that their resources were inexhaustible, and that on them depended the fate of the Confederacy. The effect of this order upon the troops was marked in the extreme. The men instantly became dejected. Mutiny and wholesale desertion was openly talked of. This soon gave way to a general apathy and indifference, but through all could be seen by a close observer that the Army of the Trans-Mississippi was in spirit crushed. The night of the 26th of April was rainy. In company with a Union-loving lad who had been forced from his home by the press gangs of the Confederacy in March, I set out for liberty and our lines. We traveled southwest all night. At daylight the baying of hounds told us but too truly that we were followed. To be taken was death. We were in the vicinity of Red River, and plunging into the deep swamps, we fled onward through the day among snakes and mosquitoes, with the blood hounds close behind. By almost superhuman exertions we kept beyond the reach of the hounds, although they were several times within 200 yards. My only weapon was a large knife. Our only safety was in keeping in the water. The horns of the drivers were continually heard. At last the welcome shades of night covered the earth, and our baffled pursuers called off their dogs until the light of another day should enable them to regain our trail. Celerity and ten miles travel would save us. I knew where a canoe lay on a bayou eighteen miles above Shreveport. We struck out for a road, reached it, and after avoiding several pickets, reached the canoe. It is to be noted , that after some further difficulties and dangers they arrived safe on the bank of the Mississippi twenty-five miles above the mouth of Red River on the 7th of May. Here their eyes were gladdened by a sight of their glorious star spangled banner. they had made a journey of 400 miles in a canoe in the short space of eight days.

On a night of 1863, A Captain Heasley, of the First South Carolina Volunteers Co. E., came under a attack while guarding a road that lead to a landing. The enemy attacked with 100 hundred in numbers, and were preceded by a pack of five bloodhounds. They attack in great fury, urging their dogs on in advance. Captain Heasley allowed them to approach within a few feet of his men and then ordered a charge, which they did most gallantly, killing three of the blood-hounds with the bayonet. At the same time a well-directed volley threw the enemy into disorder and he retreated amid the groans of his wounded
He, however, soon rallied. The situation now seemed to be very precarious, as the enemy were in front in large force with artillery. At this time, Captain Whitney, who, with 10 men in ambush, had been directed to guard a piece of woods through which our force must retreat, was attacked by another company of the enemy's cavalry. He opened fire upon them, killing, among others, the commander of the company and the remaining bloodhounds.

Note. If you were unlucky enough to be taken prisoners by the Confederates and sent to one of their prisons and you tried to make your escape, and the hounds were sent on you, and they caught up to you, you had no choices, but to give up, for if some how you were lucky enough to kill the Blood-hound it would be your death sentence as the Confederate Law states: To kill a blood hound on your track was death by the military law as resistance to capture.

The Blood-Hound Law of Georgia, 1855.

It will be seen from the following judicial opinion rendered in the supreme court of Georgia in 1855, that the use of hounds or dogs was dogs not deemed unnatural or even illegal in the pursuit of human beings. It would seem that the prison authorities at Audersonville had become so largely imbued with the spirit of slavery, mingled as it was with an unsoldier like hatred of their enemies, that they easily fell into the practice with their prisoners which they had pursued under sanction of law, toward their fugitive negroes. We can hardly wonder that in a State whose jurisprudence authorized the pursuit, tearing, and even death of fugitive slaves by hounds, the controlling power could hesitate long in dealing out to the helpless prisoners in their hands the same measure of iniquity.
The ease to which we allude was the suit of Moran Vs. Davis to recover the value of a slave boy who had been drowned in an attempt to recapture him by the use of hounds. The boy was the slave of the plaintiff, let on hire to the defendant, and escaping from the latter was pursued by him with the result which we have stated, whereupon the plaintiff brought a suit to recover the value of the boy. It was held that the defendant was not liable, having the right to pursue the slave with hounds or dogs “with due degree of caution and circumspection.” Lumpkin, justice, in delivering the opinion, says:
There is but a single question in this case, and that is, is it lawful to track runaway negroes with dogs and follow them up until they are caught, provided it be done with due degree of caution and circumspection. Judge Starke instructed the jury, in substance, that it was, amid we concur with him in that opinion.

Military-Telegraph Service.

Telegraphic duties at military headquarters yielded little in brilliancy and interest compared to those of desperate daring associated with tapping the opponent's wires. At times, offices were seized so quickly as to prevent telegraphic warnings. General Mitchel captured two large Confederate railway trains by sending false messages from the Huntsville, Alabama, office, and General Seymour similarly seized a train near Jacksonville, Florida. While scouting, Operator William Forster obtained valuable dispatches by tapping the line along the Charleston-Savannah railway for two days. Discovered, he was pursued by bloodhounds into a swamp, where he was captured up to his armpits in mire. Later, the telegrapher died in prison.

Note. There is a drawing held at the New York Historical Society, that shows some of General Sherman’s troops killing blood hounds, an inscription on the back of the drawing reads: "Gen. Sherman's men invariably killed all the bloodhounds and dogs of most every description by the order of the commanding general."

A last note. It was not the intent of this author to give a full history of the Blood-hound in the Civil War, that would be impossible. It was this authors hope to give the reader a better understanding on how the Hound was used in the time of the CivilWar.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for this information it was very interesting