The Pride Of The Regiment

: Good Stories For Great Holidays


"Old Abe" was the war-eagle of the Eighth Wisconsin Volunteers. Whoever

it may have been that first conceived the idea, it was certainly a happy

thought to make a pet of an eagle. For the eagle is our national bird,

and to carry an eagle along with the colors of a regiment on the

march, and in battle, and all through the whole war, was surely very

appropriate, indeed.
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"Old Abe's" perch was on a shield, which was carried by a soldier, to

whom, and to whom alone, he looked as to a master. He would not allow

any one to carry or even to handle him, except this soldier, nor would

he ever receive his food from any other person's hands. He seemed to

have sense enough to know that he was sometimes a burden to his master

on the march, however, and, as if to relieve him, would occasionally

spread his wings and soar aloft to a great height, the men of all

regiments along the line of march cheering him as he went up.

He regularly received his rations from the commissary, like any enlisted

man. Whenever fresh meat was scarce, and none could be found for him by

foraging parties, he would take things into his own claws, as it were,

and go out on a foraging expedition himself. On some such occasions he

would be gone two or three days at a time, during which nothing whatever

was seen of him; but he would invariably return, and seldom would come

back without a young lamb or a chicken in his talons. His long absences

occasioned his regiment not the slightest concern, for the men knew

that, though he might fly many miles away in quest of food, he would be

quite sure to find them again.

In what way he distinguished the two hostile armies so accurately that

he was never once known to mistake the gray for the blue, no one can

tell. But so it was, that he was never known to alight save in his own

camp, and amongst his own men.

At Jackson, Mississippi, during the hottest part of the battle before

that city, "Old Abe" soared up into the air, and remained there from

early morning until the fight closed at night, no doubt greatly enjoying

his bird's-eye view of the battle. He did the same at Mission Ridge. He

was, I believe, struck by Confederate bullets two or three times, but

his feathers were so thick that his body was not much hurt. The shield

on which he was carried, however, showed so many marks of Confederate

balls that it looked on top as if a groove plane had been run over it.

At the Centennial celebration held in Philadelphia, in 1876, "Old Abe"

occupied a prominent place on his perch on the west side of the nave

in the Agricultural Building. He was evidently growing old, and was the

observed of all observers. Thousands of visitors, from all sections of

the country, paid their respects to the grand old bird, who, apparently

conscious of the honors conferred upon him, overlooked the sale of

his biography and photographs going on beneath his perch with entire


As was but just and right, the soldier who had carried him during the

war continued to have charge of him after the war was over, until the

day of his death, which occurred at the capital of Wisconsin, in 1881.