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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Dog’s Fidelity

By Timothy Dwight (1752–1817)

[From Travels in New England and New York. 1821.]

IN the autumn, when the siege of Fort Stanwix was raised, the following occurrence took place here. Capt. Greg, one of the American officers left in the garrison, went out one afternoon with a corporal belonging to the same corps, to shoot pigeons. When the day was far advanced Greg, knowing that the savages were at times prowling round the fort, determined to return. At that moment a small flock of pigeons alighted upon a tree in the vicinity. The corporal proposed to try a shot at them; and having approached sufficiently near, was in the act of elevating his piece toward the pigeons, when the report of two muskets discharged by unknown hands at a small distance was heard. The same instant, Greg saw his companion fall and felt himself badly wounded in the side. He tried to stand but speedily fell, and in a moment perceived a huge Indian taking long strides toward him with a tomahawk in his hand. The savage struck him several blows on the head; drew his knife, cut a circle through the skin from his forehead to the crown, and then drew off the scalp with his teeth. At the approach of the savage, Greg had counterfeited the appearance of being dead with as much address as he could use, and succeeded so far as to persuade his butcher that he was really dead; otherwise measures still more effectual would have been employed to despatch him. It is hardly necessary to observe that the pain, produced by these wounds, was intense and dreadful. Those on the head were, however, far the most excruciating, although that in his side was believed by him to be mortal. The savages, having finished their bloody business, withdrew.

As soon as they were fairly gone Greg, who had seen his companion fall, determined if possible to make his way to the spot where he lay;—from a persuasion that if he could place his head upon the corporal’s body it would in some degree relieve his excessive anguish. Accordingly he made an effort to rise; and, having with great difficulty succeeded, immediately fell. He was not only weak and distressed but had been deprived of the power of self-command by the tomahawk. Strongly prompted, however, by this little hope of mitigating his sufferings, he made a second attempt and again fell. After several unsuccessful efforts, he finally regained possession of his feet; and, staggering slowly through the forest, he at length reached the spot where the corporal lay. The Indian who had marked him for his prey, took a surer aim than his fellow and killed him outright. Greg found him lifeless and scalped. With some difficulty he laid his own head upon the body of his companion; and, as he had hoped, found material relief from this position.

While he was enjoying this little comfort he met with trouble from a new quarter. A small dog which belonged to him and had accompanied him in his hunting, but to which he had been hitherto wholly inattentive, now came up to him in an apparent agony; and, leaping around him in a variety of involuntary motions, yelped, whined, and cried in an unusual manner, to the no small molestation of his master. Greg was not in a situation to bear the disturbance even of affection. He tried, in every way which he could think of, to force the dog from him, but he tried in vain. At length wearied by his cries and agitations and not knowing how to put an end to them, he addressed the animal as if he had been a rational being. “If you wish so much to help me, go and call some one to my relief.” At these words the creature instantly left him, and ran through the forest at full speed to the great comfort of his master who now hoped to die quietly.

The dog made his way directly to three men, belonging to the garrison, who were fishing at the distance of a mile from the scene of this tragedy. As soon as he came up to them, he began to cry in the same afflicting manner and, advancing near them, turned, and went slowly back toward the point where his master lay, keeping his eye continually on the men. All this he repeated several times. At length one of the men observed to his companions that there was something very extraordinary in the actions of the dog; and that, in his opinion, they ought to find out the cause. His companions were of the same mind; and they immediately set out with an intention to follow the animal whither he should lead them. After they had pursued him some distance and found nothing, they became discouraged. The sun had set; and the forest was dangerous. They therefore determined to return. The moment the dog saw them wheel about, he began to cry with increased violence; and, coming up to the men, took hold of the skirts of their coats with his teeth and attempted to pull them toward the point to which he had before directed their course. When they stopped again he leaned his back against the back part of their legs, as if endeavoring to push them onward to his master. Astonished at this conduct of the dog, they agreed after a little deliberation to follow him until he should stop. The animal conducted them directly to his master. They found him still living, and after burying the corporal as well as they could, they carried Greg to the fort. Here his wounds were dressed with the utmost care; and such assistance was rendered to him as proved the means of restoring him to perfect health.

This story I received from Capt. Edward Bulkley, a respectable officer of Gen. Parson’s brigade. Greg himself, a few days before, communicated all the particulars to Capt. Bulkley. I will only add what I never think of without pain, and what I am sure every one of my readers will regret, that not long after a brutal fellow wantonly shot this meritorious and faithful dog.