Sallie Ann Jarrett was described as a brindle “bull-and-terrier” (aka a 19th Century pit bull dog) – which got its generic name for the obvious reason of intentionally breeding a bulldog with a terrier over generations. She was born in the spring of 1861, at the start of the American Civil War, given to the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry as a gift by a civilian when she was just four weeks old.
For those unaware, the topic of pit bull dogs is no stranger to River Fire Films; Our first documentary – “Guilty Til Proven Innocent” examined the effectiveness of breed specific legislation using Ohio as the backdrop.
The former film’s objective was to examine the validity and effectiveness of a laws which singled-out one or more breeds or types of dog on the basis that they pose an escalated risk to the public at-large; whereas the intention of this endeavor is to examine the complicated past of pit bull dogs and go down this rabbit hole as far back as documented history allows, because it’s a fascinating discussion that includes human social issue components.
And, that brings us back to Sallie…
I first learned about Sallie during the first year of production on “Guilty Til Proven Innocent” (GTPI) sometime between the spring of 2007 and Q1 of 2008. Her story was prominent on many pro-pit bull websites, who used her to showcase an example of an exceptional pit bull dog in history.
While on one of these web searches back then, I discovered an artist by name of Greg Stump, who painted a Civil War scene featuring Sallie and the 11th Pennsylvania and their position on Oak Ridge during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. Greg titled his painting “Loyal Heart“, due to Sallie’s loyalty to the men of her regiment, who she helped to protect while on the battlefield and watched over those who were injured.
Unfortunately, Sallie never knew anything but the American Civil War, as she was shot in the head in the Battle of Hatcher’s Run on February 6, 1865 – just two months shy of the conclusion of the war.
When the surviving members of the infantry and their families organized to have a monument installed in Gettysburg dedicated to the 11th Pennsylvania, they insisted Sallie be included at the base.
When it came time to start production on GTPI and plan out my roadtrips to conduct interviews, I included a stop in Gettysburg to visit Sallie.
I left my Lakewood (OH) apartment on May 3, 2008 and headed towards the coast making stops in Virginia and Washington D.C., before arriving into Gettysburg on the evening of May 6th on my way back home to stay overnight.
The following morning I woke up early and checked out of my hotel, and then began my search for the 11th Pennsylvania monument. When I finally found her, I took some video, snapped a few photographs (images above) and sat down next to her, staring westward out into the field on ground she previously once walked on during the short time she was here.
After about a half hour or so, I packed my things up, got into my car and drove the five hour drive back home. Eight days later, on May 15th (2008), I would visit the only pit bull rescue in Cleveland – For the Love of Pits, for the sole purpose of seeking information, and left falling madly in love with a black dog named Preston.
At some point in 2008 or 09, I did end up purchasing one of Greg Stump’s prints of Sallie, and it’s always hung in my home office through several moves. If you are interested in owning one of his limited edition prints, you can order here:
After Preston passed in 2020, I began pre-production on this new film project previously mentioned – “Once In A Lifetime“, for the aforementioned reason, but also in large part to honor that special relationship Preston and I shared for those 12 years. Reading what those soldiers wrote about Sallie, I feel I understood how important she was to their outlook and spirit in the face of bloody conflicts and national turmoil.
Sallie’s story was important to include in “Once In A Lifetime”, so I contacted Greg Stump to request an interview. And on Saturday, September 2, 2023, Greg and I met in Gettysburg at the 11th Pennsylvania monument where he told me how he got to know a dog named Sallie.
Get to know more of this film project and its content pertaining to the fascinating and complicated story behind pit bull dogs.