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U.S. Civil War Regimental Animal Mascots

Instructor: Loren Rozanski

Loren has a B.S. in History and a M.S. in Special Education. She works actively in the education field.

Animal mascots were an integral part of military regiments during the U.S. Civil War. Continue reading to learn more about how these mascots came to be and why they became so important.

Why Animal Mascots?

Between 1861 and 1865, the United States was locked in a war between the North and South, which would later be referred to as the deadliest war in American history. During this time, many young soldiers served on both sides of the fighting, and were placed into regiments, or army units.

These young men often faced brutal battles and even harsher living conditions. Often times, regiments would have an animal mascot to help distract soldiers from the realities of war and to boost morale.

Types of Animal Mascots

Many different animals became regimental mascots during the U.S. Civil War. The most popular were dogs and horses, as they were commonly available animals during wartime. Often times, the animal would be a family pet brought along by a soldier in the regiment.

However, regiments were also known to have much more obscure mascots as well. Some kept non-traditional but still common mascots such as cats, squirrels, and raccoons. These mascots would typically be found along the way and 'adopted' by the regiment.

Other, not so common animal mascots included chickens, badgers, donkeys, and even a bear. These would typically be animals found near their camp or near battlegrounds.

Famous Mascots

Some of the regimental mascots grew to be famous, both within the regiment and throughout the battle fields.

Nellie the Hen

One of the best known mascots of the Civil War was Nellie, the hen owned by General Robert E. Lee. Found in his tent, she became a true member of his fighting regiment. She is said to have laid an egg for General Lee every morning.

General Robert E. Lee kept a chicken during the war that became his army
robert e lee

Nellie's true moment of fame came during the Battle of Gettysburg, where she went missing. General Lee had his entire regimen search for her before he would allow them to retreat. Luckily, Nellie was found perched in an ambulance.

Nellie traveled with the army for two years, until General Lee had a dinner and a servant, at a loss for good meat, served the chicken to the men.

Old Abe

Another well known mascot was Old Abe, an eagle who served as the mascot of the 8th Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers. Abe, who was originally a family pet, was named after Abraham Lincoln and gifted to the regiment as a mascot.

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