Old Abe the War Eagle
The mascot of the Eighth Wisconsin infantry during the Civil War, Old Abe became a symbol of the Union war effort.
Born in 1861 the female bald eaglet was captured soon after birth by Ahgamahwegezhig (Chief Sky) a member of the Ojibwe tribe. Traded to Daniel McCann for a bushel of corn in the summer of 1861, he sold her to the Eau Claire Badgers a company of Union volunteer infantry for $2.50. Captain Perkins of the company named the bird Old Abe and a perch was made for her to stand on, and a soldier assigned to look after her. The Eau Claire Badgers became part of the Eighth Wisconsin and Old Abe became the regimental mascot.
Old Abe served with the regiment throughout the War and witnessed some thirty battles. During fighting she would spread her wings and shriek. Press coverage of her was extensive. Confederates referred to her as the Yankee Buzzard and placed bounties on her head.
A soldier wrote home after the battle of Corinth:
The finest thing I ever saw was a live American eagle carried by the Eighth Wisconsin in place of a flag. It would fly off over the enemy during the hottset [sic] of the fight, then would return and seat himself upon his pole, clap his pinions, shake his head and then start off again. Many and hearty were the cheers that arose from our lines as the old eagle would sail around, first to the right, then to the left, and always return to his post regardless of the storm of leaden hail which was flying around him.
After the War Old Abe lived out her life as an honored guest in the Wisconsin capitol building with a custodian assigned to take care of her. Inhaling smoke from a fire in the capitol led to her demise in 1881. Her remains were stuffed and she was put on display in the capitol until a subsequent fire destroyed her remains in the early part of the last century.
She is remembered in the screaming eagle patch of the 101st Airborne.