The Terrier Who Crossed Enemy Lines

Terrier folks may be well acquainted with this story, but non-terrier owners may not be, and it’s worth sharing.

It was during the American Revolutionary War when George Washington leading the Americans was engaged with the British under the leadership of General Howe in the Battle of Germantown (1777).  A little dog described as a “fox terrier,” was noticed wandering around in the space between the American and British front line – a decidedly unsafe place to be. A colonial soldier scooped up the dog and took it to safety where he noticed a plate on its collar identifying the dog’s owner as General Howe. When General Washington was shown the dog, the soldier suggested keeping it as a mascot to bolster troop morale. Washington, however, was missing his own favorite dog, “Sweet Lips,” and as a dog man, he understood all too well the relationship between an owner and his dog. Historical accounts tell us that the terrier was cleaned up, fed, and during an ordered cease-fire, returned to General Howe with a note that read:

To General William Howe

[Perkiomen, Pa.] Octr 6. 1777

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.

Some believe the note was written by Washington’s aide-de-camp at the time, Alexander Hamilton, but no matter. Though separated by ideals and loyalties, both Washington and Howe adhered to a common code of conduct.

Many books, including a children’s book, have been written about this, and for anyone interested in reading a fascinating account of the upbringings and ascents through the military ranks of both generals, look into General Howe’s Dog: George Washington, the Battle for Germantown.”

Image: A scene from the Mel Gibson movie, The Patriot,” in which the character of Benjamin Martin returned two Great Danes to British General Cornwallis, a scene most likely inspired by the story of General Washington and General Howe’s Dog.


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