University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The State of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Toepel, M. G.; Theobald, H. Rupert (ed.) / The Wisconsin Blue Book, 1962
(1962)

[Frontispiece] Old Abe: the Civil War eagle PDF (475.9 KB)



                   Old Abe, the War Eagle
  One of the great Wisconsin symbols to come out of the Civil
War was the legend of Old Abe, the war eagle. In a manner similar
to the sagas of the Iron Brigade, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address,
the struggle of the Merrimac and Monitor, it stands out as a story
which transcends the horrors of that great internal struggle.
  In the spring of 1861, a band of Flambeau Indians of the Chippe-
wa Tribe captured Old Abe as a young eagle from its nest in a tall
tree near the mouth of the Jump River in Chippewa County. As
the Indians moved down the Chippewa River trading their maple
sugar for food, they sought to trade the young eagle; and finally
Mrs. Dan McCann, who lived near the waters' edge, traded some
corn for the bird.
  The eagle became a family pet; and when a regiment of soldiers
was being organized at Eau Claire, the eagle was offered to them
as a mascot. After some hesitation, it was accepted and Old Abe
was sworn into the service as a mascot. He was attached to Com-
pany C of the regiment which came to be known as the "Eagle
Regiment" and Old Abe rode on a standard consisting of a shield
on a pole to the left of the colors in all marches and parades and
even in battle.
  Old Abe was present in 42 battles and skirmishes. He would sit
on his standard and scream during an engagement and was a strong
factor in maintaining the morale of the regiment. The Confeder-
ates who called him the "Yankee Buzzard" sought to capture or
destroy him, but they did not succeed.
  On September 26, 1864, the eagle was presented by Captain
Wolf of C Company to the state in a formal ceremony. Thereafter
he lived in a cage in a basement room in the Capitol except when
he made public appearances. Many people came to see him.
  One night in February, 1881, a fire started in the Capitol base-
ment near Old Abe's cage; and the eagle suffered from the smoke
before he was rescued. After that his health declined; and on March
28, 1881, he died.
  Old Abe's body was mounted and placed on exhibit in Memorial
Hall in the Capitol, but when the Capitol burned in 1904, Old
Abe burned with it. Replicas may still be seen in Memorial Hall
and the Assembly Chamber in the Capitol.


Go up to Top of Page