The Faithful Dog: A Civil War Novel - Overview

The Faithful Dog: A Civil War Novel

Author: Terry Lee Caruthers
Genre: Children - Preteen
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Date Published: July 7, 2022
ISBN-13: 9781684339785


About :   The Faithful Dog: A Civil War Novel

Author Terry Lee Caruthers’ novel, The Faithful Dog, is based on a true event that was published in an 1862 newspaper. Through her exhaustive research, Caruthers was able to recreate a moving and heartwarming narrative of the life of Lieutenant Louis Pfeif and his dog as a member of the Fifty-Eight Illinois Regiment during the Civil War. Louis Pfeif was a young Lieutenant with the Union Army. The war forced him to leave behind his young wife and two daughters to join the Fifty-Eighth Illinois Infantry Regiment.

In this fictionalized version of the event, Pfeif’s faithful pointer dog, Bärchen, accompanies him at the insistence of his oldest daughter, Louisa, and the two of them begin the experiences of training for combat and then their actual deployment to the battlefield. Bärchen adapts to the sound of artillery, the sound of guns, and the explosions that greet them on the battlefield. It isn’t long before Lieutenant Pfeif learns how helpful his dog is both for him and his entire unit. Bärchen is a blessing to the men because with his superior hearing and powerful nose, he is able to alert the unit of any approaching enemy. 

Lieutenant Pfeif’s life is also saved a couple of times as a result of Bärchen’s action. The bond between the Lieutenant and Bärchen is powerful, and any show of aggression towards Louis is met with snarls, growls, and often razor-sharp teeth ripping into the aggressor’s flesh. In one incident, Bärchen knocks his master to the ground as a deadly volley of musket balls punches the air where he had previously stood. In another situation, he helps disarm a confederate soldier before he can kill Pfeif.

The narrative of their experiences is based on historical information but is presented in an entertaining yet believable format. Her description of the horror of war and the resulting dismal day-to-day life is vividly portrayed. Caruthers did her homework and crafted a short novel of unflinching psychological realism, capturing every vicissitude of brutality, dread, horror, and reckless courage the soldiers of the Civil War faced as they fought through battle after bloody battle. The book would be an important inclusion in the library for teachers of the Civil War as it shows a side of a soldier’s personal life and trials while in combat.

            The author reveals her evident familiarity with the actions and life of dogs through her many descriptions of Bärchen’s behavior. For example, she writes during a torrential rainstorm, Bärchen and Louis return to their tent. The “dog licked at the moisture beading on his coat.” As Louis toweled him dry with a rag “his grunts and groan-purrs of contentment” filled the air. He “lay nestled against his master’s side, his light snores joining those of the men.”
     Readers will be captivated by the dog’s story even if they have limited interest in history. Hopefully, Caruthers’ narrative of the Civil War will remind readers of the suffering and sacrifice our animal friends experience in these brutal conflicts we commit them to. The Faithful Dog is heart-wrenching because it’s about the bloody horrors of war, but it is also one of the sweetest stories of man’s best friend you’ll ever read. 

About Terry Lee Caruthers

Born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, Terry Lee Caruthers is a special projects librarian with the Knox County Library System. She grew up surrounded by strong, female role models who nurtured her imagination and imbued her with a love of reading, writing, and storytelling. Terry continues to reside in South Knoxville where she shares her life with her three rescue cats.

Visit for more information on Terry Lee Caruthers


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