Jake Donelson: Fighting Rooster of the Confederacy

Jake Donelson, a feisty game rooster and the mascot of Co. H, 3rd Tennessee Infantry (CSA), was one of the more colorful participants in the Civil War. Sgt. Jerome B. “Joe” McCanless of Cornersville purchased Jake for a silver dime from a farmer who was selling chickens to the soldiers. After realizing Jake’s martial potential, McCanless spared him from the stewpot, clipped his red comb, and soon had him fighting against other companies’ roosters. Jake prowled the breastworks at Fort Donelson, crowing at the enemy and encouraging his companions. He alerted the soldiers to incoming shells by sounding low guttural warnings about the dangerous missiles. The Confederates surrendered the fort to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in February 1862. McCanless, a prisoner of war, took Jake with him to confinement at Camp Douglas near Chicago. After seven months, the regiment was exchanged for Federal prisoners of war at Vicksburg. While still in Mississippi, McCanless paid an itinerant artist to paint Jake’s portrait from a tintype he had made earlier. When Jake died in 1864, he was placed in a handsome casket and given a “military burial” by his old friends in Cornersville. His final resting place in Cornersville is unknown.