121st Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Mascot of the 121st Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Many regiments and companies during the Civil War on both sides sometimes marched away from home with a mascot, a
symbol unit pride. Dogs, horses and even an eagle were mascots for various units. The 121st Ohio Infantry had no such
mascot when it marched off to war in September 1862. In fact, by time they did finally get a mascot, most of their battles and
campaigns were behind them. Despite this, however, Fighting Dick came to be beloved by the regiment to the point that the
121st became known as the "Rooster Regiment."
The 121st was still in its first week on Major General William T. Sherman's Famous (or
Infamous) March to the Sea, when they approached the Georgia state capital of Milledgeville and
camped on the plantation of Howell Cobb, an influential Georgia statesman who had served as a U.S.
Senator and Secretary of War before the war and was now a Confederate major general. As had
become customary upon making camp on this march, the men went to foraging from the plantation.
20 year old Private Abner Berry of Company E was able to snag one of the plantation's roosters.
Before the men would set it to stew, they decided to have a little warped fun with the creature. Cock
fighting was one of those brutal soldier pastimes that gets played off as something quaint from a
bygone era, but was by the men who had seen too much death and continually dealt with it on a daily
basis a little fun and a release of tension. There was also the chance of winning some money. So,
the boys of Company E put the rooster into the pit against other company and nearby regiment found
roosters. Company First Sergeant Daniel S. Mather gave the chicken the name "Bill Sherman," like a
lot of other short lived fighting cocks the soldiers captured. However, Berry's
bird proved himself to be quite the fighter. It was decided to keep the fighting
fowl with them, instead of turning him into a stew. It was decided to change
his name to "Fighting Dick." (It's probably little coincidence that a fighting
cock was named Dick. They really weren't that different from us.)
Dick was handed to the care of Sergeant Clark Pierce, also of Company
E, who was in charge of the regimental mule train. Pierce made a perch for
the bird on the back of one of his mules and trained Dick to ride on it during
The rooster was also trained to help with foraging. When the unit raided
a chicken coop, they sent in Dick to deal with the local rooster, and after he
was dispatched, Dick often chased the hens into the waiting and hungry arms
of the soldiers. If the chickens weren't to be eaten right away, soldiers tied
the birds by their necks to their belts with twine. Occasionally, this chickens
broke loose and ran from the column. That's when Dick was sent to chase
after them and bring them back. He became so popular with the men by the
time Savannah fell, Fighting Dick was adopted as the regimental
Soldiers foraging for food. This picture is labeled
as occurring in Alabama, but similar scenes played
out in Georgia.
mascot. That popularity was tested when the men plunged into the swamps and troops of South
In late January, 1865, the 121st OVI entered into Sherman's Carolina Campaign. With actual
military formations of threatening size began to confront them, word came down from headquarters
that all quiet in the camps was the general order of the day. Dick, doing what comes naturally to a
rooster, crowed at various times throughout the day. Putting nervous generals on edge, word came
down to have the mascot killed. Three times the order came from the generals, and all three times,
Major Aaron B. Robinson, commanding the regiment, mysteriously never received them.
Dick's most famous fight occurred on the morning of March 19. At that time, the regiment was
near the town of Bentonville, North Carolina, and their pickets were in contact with Confederate
pickets. The two sides struck up a conversation which was recorded as such:
Confederate: "Hollow Yank, have you'uns anything to swap?"
Confederate: "Wall, have you'uns got eny game cock?"
Aaron B. Robinson
orders too close to the
Confederate: "We've got one that can lick eny rooster in the Yankee army."
121st: "What's his name?"
Confederate: "Jiffersin Davis, by gosh."
121st: "All right, we'll give you a whirl."
Confederate: "What's the name of your rooster?"
121st: "Abraham Lincoln."
Confederate: "Wal, we'uns can lick 'Old Abe' in a jiffy."
The two sides retrieved their fighters, with Fighting Dick sporting the moniker of the U.S. president. Fighting Dick made
quick work of the Rebel bird. All the Southern fighters could do was take their fallen fowl back to their camp with news of
the defeat. All this occurred while units of the XIV Corps were advancing into battle.
Dick went on to march on the Raleigh Campaign and up through Virginia. He was perched on the back of his mule,
riding along with the troops in the Grand Review of the Armies on May 25, crowing as he passed President Andrew
Johnson on the reviewing stand. When the regiment was mustered out on June 8, it was decided to take Fighting Dick
home with them. Since the boys of Company E were his main caretakers, he was to go home with them to Morrow
County, Ohio. He initially stayed with one of the boys from Chesterville, but Dick's fighting qualities made him extremely
violent towards the other animals, and so was put into confinement. It was then decided to give him to a farmer from
Pulaskiville, James Schenck. Schenck, too, was unable to control him, and so the farmer let him roam free. In 1867,
nearly two years after the close of the war, Fighting Dick challenged an entire flock of guinea fowl to a fight. It was the
only fight he lost, but in that business, one was all it took. When news of the tragedy reached members of the regiment,
they gathered and buried the bird with full military honors. The location of the burial site is currently unknown.
However, Dick's story is not finished. During the war, a photograph was taken of Dick standing on an army cracker
box. That photo was given to a Mrs. D. V. Werry of Mount Gilead to created a large painting of the bird, which became a
centerpiece for every reunion of the regiment. The location of the painting is as well unknown, however, somewhere, out
there, there is likely an individual with a large painting of a rooster standing on a box from grandpa's attic and has no idea
what it's for or why he had it. This was its story.