Going up against the most powerful army in the world wasn’t easy. And the Continental Army knew all too well the smell of defeat at the hands of British regulars during their war for independence.
Bitterness at suffering a loss could drive most troops to lash out at the victor in any way they could — even to hold a British general’s dog hostage to snub the victorious commander.
But fortunately for the American rebels, their commander had the moral fortitude — and an abiding appreciation for man’s best friend — to do the right thing.
And there’s even a book about the exchange.
After losing the American revolutionary capital at Philadelphia to British forces lead by Gen. William Howe in September 1777, Washington tried to knock out part of the Red Coat force camped at nearby Germantown. The attack launched Oct. 4 collapsed under its own complexity and the Continental troops were driven from the field by Howe’s forces.
General Howe beat the pants off of Washington, but he lived the rest of his life fighting criticism of his conduct of the war in America. (Photo Wikimedia Commons)
The Continentals lost an estimated 1,000 men to Britain’s 500 and it was the second defeat of the American army under Washington’s leadership.
But it turns out the rebels captured an important asset of the British general who just dealt them a crushing blow.
“A dog … which by collar appears to belong to [Howe] accidentally fell into the hands” of Washington’s army.
Washington was well known as a dog lover, with a host of precarious pooches kenneled on his estate at Mount Vernon in Virginia. And though his men were inclined to keep Howe’s dog in retribution, Washington would have none of it.
He ordered a courier to take the dog through British lines and deliver him to Howe with a note written by his aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton.
“General Washington’s compliments to General Howe, 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,” the note reads.
It turned out Washington’s good karma paid off, as Howe resigned as Britain’s top general of the Colonial Army not long after his victory at Germantown and spent the rest of his life fighting off criticism of his conduct of the war in America.