The Incredible American Generals that Defined their Eras
The Incredible American Generals that Defined their Eras

The Incredible American Generals that Defined their Eras

Khalid Elhassan - May 4, 2022

The Incredible American Generals that Defined their Eras
George Washington with some of his dogs. History Network

3. A General Who Stopped a War for a Dog

Just about all American presidents have been dog people. Even the ones who might not have been that fond of dogs have often found it convenient to keep a mutt or two in the White House for appearances’ sake, and to project a wholesome image. However, few American presidents were as fond of Man’s Best Friends as was George Washington. America’s first president was a big-time dog lover. During his lifetime, he had dogs from just about every group recognized by the American Kennel Club today.

Greyhounds, French hounds, spaniels, terriers, Newfoundlands, and Briards were just some of the breeds kept by Washington at one time or another. He maintained a pack of fox hunting hounds in a well-kept kennel that had a spring running through it to supply the dogs with fresh water. He personally inspected it twice a day, every morning and evening, when he dropped by to check on his hounds. As seen below, Washington’s love of dogs even led him to call an unexpected truce during the Revolutionary War, in order to return a lost dog to its owner: an enemy general.

The Incredible American Generals that Defined their Eras
The Battle of Germantown. Wikimedia

2. A Great Leader, but a So-So General

George Washington was a great man and a great leader, but only a so-so general who lost more battles than he won. Fortunately for him, the Patriots did not need to outright win the War of Independence on the battlefield, but simply continue the fight until the British finally grew tired and gave up. Even more fortunately for General Washington, the battles he won included the American Revolution’s final and most important battle: the Siege of Yorktown, which ended with the surrender of a British army.

The Incredible American Generals that Defined their Eras
General William Howe. Brown University

The fights he lost included the Battle of Germantown, near Philadelphia, in which a British army led by Sir William Howe defeated Washington and his forces on October 4th, 1777. After the loss, the retreating Americans discovered that their ranks included an unexpected addition: an unknown but clearly well-kept terrier. When they inspected the dog’s collar, the Americans discovered that it belonged to Sir William Howe. The British commander’s dog had wandered into the battlefield, and in the chaos and confusion attached itself to the Americans. The Patriots wanted to keep it in order to taunt the British, but Washington was too classy to keep another man’s dog.

The Incredible American Generals that Defined their Eras
George Washington riding after his hounds at a hunt. Journal of the American Revolution

1. A Touching and Honorable Moment In the Midst of War

George Washington bucked his men and resisted their calls to keep Sir William Howe’s prized terrier. Instead, he sent a messenger under a white flag of truce, across the lines to the British commander. The messenger delivered the dog to Sir William, along with a note that read in relevant part: “General Washington’s compliments to General Howe. He 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“.

Howe was impressed by the unexpected gesture from his enemy. The British commander expressed his gratitude to Washington, and described the incident as “the honorable act of a fine gentleman“. The touching episode did not end the war, which continued unabated for years. Nor did it end Howe’s participation in the conflict. However, although he continued to fight and win battles against the Americans, Sir William Howe did so with less enthusiasm than he had exhibited before Washington interrupted the war to return an enemy’s dog.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

American Battlefield Trust – The Death of John Sedgwick

Antietam on the Web – Special Order 191: Perhaps the Greatest ‘What If’ of American Military History

Arnold, Isaac Newton – The Life of Benedict Arnold: His Patriotism and His Treason (1880)

Atkinson, Rick – The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 (2007)

Barthel, Thomas – Abner Doubleday: A Civil War Biography (2010)

Burns, Patrick – American Working Terriers (2006)

Catton, Bruce – The Civil War, Three Volumes in One (1984)

Chernow, Ron – Washington: A Life (2011)

Coffey, Thomas M. – Iron Eagle: The Turbulent Life of General Curtis LeMay (1986)

Council on Foreign Relations – TWE Remembers: Secret Soviet Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Cuba (Cuban Missile Crisis, a Coda)

Doubleday, Abner – My Life in the Old Army (1998 Edition)

Elting, John Robert – Amateurs, to Arms! A Military History of the War of 1812 (1995)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Benedict Arnold

Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia – Trenton and Princeton Campaign (Washington’s Crossing)

History Collection – 10 Significant Things About the Culper Ring, George Washington’s Most Important Spy Network

History Daily – When George Washington Ordered a Ceasefire to Return a Dog

James, Dorris Clayton – The Years of MacArthur: Triumph & Disaster, 1945-1964 (1985)

Kilmeade, Brian, and Yaeger, Don – George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution (2013)

Manchester, William – American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur, 1880-1964 (1978)

Politico, December 24th, 2015 – George Washington Crosses the Delaware, Dec. 25, 1776

Psychology Today – George Washington: President, General, and Dog Breeder

Sears, Stephen W. – To the Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign (1992)

Task Force Baum – The Hammelburg Raid

Zaslow, Morris – The Defended Border: Upper Canada and the War of 1812 (1964)

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