Old Abe the War Eagle

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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.

youngabewithcolorguard1863

7 Responses to Old Abe the War Eagle

  • The eagle, the mark of Saint John the evangelist, is the symbol for the swiftness of God’s Justice. How appropriate is this eagle for the preservation of the dignity of the human being. Thank you Donald McClarey. And thank God Americans have the eagle as our national symbol. Franklin wanted the turkey. Can anyone imagine a turkey on our dollar and The Great Seal of the United States of America? This story is so relevant at this time in our nation’s struggle to remain a God-fearing nation.

  • Thanks, Donald. My 13-year-old son, who knows much more about the Civil War than I do, will appreciate this. My daughters will simply think it’s “cute”! The various military-related posts here are interesting and often inspiring.

  • It may be sacrilege to hope this and I certainly don’t mean it as such, but wouldn’t it be nice if Old Abe was in Heaven with our Blessed Lord?

    Revelation 4:6b-8:

    Around the throne, and on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing,

    “Holy, holy, holy,
    the Lord God the Almighty,
    who was and is and is to come.”

  • Glad you enjoy them Matt. My first academic love has always been History although I earn my daily bread as an attorney.

  • “but wouldn’t it be nice if Old Abe was in Heaven with our Blessed Lord?”

    I can think of many a dog Paul that I have known, although they do not have the type of souls we have, who I think are far fitter for Heaven than some of the people I have known. :)

  • A great story. Thanks, Don.
    Peter

  • Thank you Pete. Now if only a movie were made about Old Abe…

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