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Let Slip the Dogs of War: Carillon’s Canines

Charles Lee with dog
A veteran of the 1758 Battle at Carillon, Charles Lee was so fond of dogs that he preferred them to most people. Major Genl Charles Lee Alexander Hay Ritchie after B. Rushbrooke, c.1840-1895 (Collection of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum, 2002.0153)

In 2016, Fort Ticonderoga invited guests to bring their leashed dogs onto our campus to enjoy the remarkable scenic beauty and historic significance of the grounds. In recent years, more and more animals have been finding their way back to Ticonderoga with the beginning of our own historic breeds program in 2015.

Animals have formed a part of the Ticonderoga landscape from the beginning of its military occupation in the eighteenth century. Horses and oxen were used by the French military to haul timber and artillery. Captain Charles Osbone of the 44th Regiment of Foot kept cattle at the fort during his tenure here in 1764, and hired the wife of a soldier to tend to them. William Delaplace, the Captain of the 26th Regiment of Foot who commanded the fort when it was taken by Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen in May of 1775, kept a considerable quantity of livestock around the fort. These included a horse, an ox, a heifer, six cows, and forty-four sheep. These animals were here for draught purposes, riding, milk, or meat, not as pets. But, what of man’s best friend? Dogs are known to have accompanied some officers and soldiers during the wars of the 18th century. During his service as a General in the Continental Service, the Englishman Charles Lee (a veteran of the July 8, 1758 Battle of Carillon as a Captain in the 44th Regiment of Foot) was known to have a pack of his dogs with him. Dogs had been kept and used by Native Americans in Canada for centuries. During the French and Indian War, French officers were actually provided with dogs for use in towing toboggans loaded with provisions in winter, although these were clearly more for work than companionship.

Dog collar
Found in the ruins of Fort Ticonderoga, the dog’s owner was only recently identified as Lieutenant John de Birniere of the 44th Regiment of Foot, which garrisoned the fort from January of 1764 to June of 1765. The collar is pierced with a series of holes where leather would have been sewn over the rim. Lieutenant John de Birniere’s Dog Collar, c.1764-65(Collection of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

There is, however, at least one dog that may not have been a working animal that can be documented at Fort Ticonderoga. Early in the 20th century, workers recovered fragments of a broken dog collar in the ruins of the fort. Made of brass, the collar has an iron loop that passed through a corresponding slot on the opposite side of the collar to close it against the animal’s throat. The collar bears an engraving indicating the dog’s owner, although the fragment does not include the entire name, which left the owner’s identity and affiliation in question for over a century. New research into the peacetime garrisons of Ticonderoga conducted in the winter of 2017 has finally revealed his identity. The engraving “DzLieut Jno De Bdz” is all that is legible on the collar, but when searched against the British Army Lists held in Ticonderoga’s archives a match was found in Lieutenant John de Birniere. De Birniere served in the 44th Regiment of Foot, receiving his Lieutenant’s commission on August 9, 1760. The collar must have been lost at the fort between January of 1764 and June of 1765. During that time, a detachment of the 44th Regiment garrisoned Ticonderoga as well as Fort William Augustus and Oswegatchie on the Saint Lawrence River in Northern New York and Crown Point. We do not know how Lieutenant de Birniere’s dog lost its collar, nor what kind of breed it was, although given the size of the collar, it was likely a rather large dog. Its presence suggests that at least in time of peace, some officers may have kept animals with them for companionship as well as work.

You can see Lieutenant de Birniere’s dog’s collar on display during the February 16, 2019 living history event in the Mars Education Center. Your dogs are welcome to enjoy the grounds with you, just remember that unlike the 18th century, they may not go inside the buildings within the fort.