The Soldier and the Mastiff on Mule Head Island

Cast bronze, 2005
30" x 14" x 18"

Julius was his name. Julius Ward, the grandson of Gregory Ward, who fought in the Revolutionary War. His story starts as Julius is a prisoner of war, held by the Confederates. Most of his fellow Negro soldiers were killed right at the spot where they were captured. The only reason that Julius and his companions' lives were spared was that Johnny Reb wanted to use them to build fortifications against the Union army.

One day the prisoners were lined up and shot down like dogs. Julius took four miniballs, two in the leg, one grazing his ear, and the other in his armpit. The blood flowed from him like water from a sieve. And soon he was rendered unconscious. A group of slave gravediggers were brought in to clean up the mess and bury the dead. The soldiers were carried one by one, all shot up and torn to pieces. When Julius was lifted up, there was the sound of air rushing from the mouth of this supposed corpse of a man. The gravedigger handling him was quite shocked to find that there among such carnage, a body still breathed life. The man took Julius in his arms, and carried him off to his cabin far in the woods, where he was given herbs and food and brought back to his original health.

Julius knew he had to leave this part if the country as soon as he was able. So he escaped to a place called Mule Head Island. It was a small spit of land that was only connected to the mainland during low tide. Soon word got out that someone was living there, because of the fires seen through a spyglass. Also it was revealed it was a black man, possibly a maroon or army deserter. The townspeople were afraid to approach the suspect, because too many Negroes were carrying guns in those days.

So they rounded up the meanest dog in the county, which was a mastiff, partly bred with bulldog and bloodhound. The breed was trained especially for hunting and killing human beings, in particular fugitive slaves. One low-tide evening, while crabs scuttled sideways across the sand, this huge-footed beast, weighing some 200 pounds, crossed the shallow waters and was unleashed by her handlers.

Immediately, the dog was on the trail of the soldier. She had acquired non-pack behavior. Her attack was more quiet and stealthy, like that of a feline. The mastiff stalked through nocturnal silence, waiting for the moment to pounce. When Julius decided to take water from a fresh spring, the huge brinnel-striped brute jumped her prey. Springing upward, she headed for the throat of the soldier. Flapping jaws and bulging eyes hidden behind lobes of skin, her mouth open and her sharp teeth within powerful jaws flashed in the moonlit night. 

Julius, being a soldier of the great 54th, and being skilled in the ways of Injun fighting, fell completely backwards, but before hitting the ground drew a large Bowie knife from his gunbelt. As his back struck heavily on the earth he positioned the butt of the knife against a flat piece of rock. The dog, with all its lunging weight, fell upon the knife, slitting its own belly open. Julius lay there for a moment, gathering his senses. He was not aware of the weight of the beast, nor the odor of his furry predator. He lay there, exhausted and thankful. Soon he pushed the would-be assassin aside and rose to his feet, standing taller than ever before. He knew it was time to meet his next challenge--returning to the Union lines.