Old Abe, the War Eagle

Old Abe, the War Eagle

Did you know …

During the Civil War, the Eighth Wisconsin Regiment had a very special mascot, a bald eagle. The soldiers named him “Old Abe” in honor of President Abraham Lincoln.

Old Abe’s freedom in camp leads to trouble.

While the soldiers from Old Abe’s regiment camped at Camp Clear Creek in 1862, his eagle-bearer, Thomas Hill, gave the eagle a lot of freedom. This led to some trouble for the soldiers.

The eagle tipped over fire pails filled with water which the soldiers had to refill. Old Abe chased large insects through the camp and knocked down laundry left out to dry.

The soldiers played games by rolling round bullets on the ground. Old Abe learned to catch the bullets as they rolled.

Old Abe wants to be safe, too.

When the soldiers were fighting a battle at Farmington, Mississippi, Captain Perkins ordered James McGinnis, the eagle-bearer at the time, to go to the back where he and Old Abe would be safe. The eagle was tied to a leather cord and sat on a perch during battles.

When the captain ordered the fighting men to lie down for safety, James knew he and Old Abe were too far away for the bullets to reach them so he didn’t lie down. Old Abe saw the other soldiers lying on the ground, so he jumped from his perch to the ground. James put him back on his perch. The eagle jumped down again. James put him back.

After this happened several times, James realized that Old Abe wanted to be close to the ground like the other soldiers and let the bird stay there.

Old Abe sounds an alarm.

While the soldiers were in Bayou Rapide, Louisiana, Old Abe noticed a soldier from the other side before his regiment did. The eagle cawed and flapped its wings to warn his friends.

Old Abe was with the soldiers for three years. The bald eagle from Wisconsin saw battles in Missouri, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The men loved Old Abe, their feathered mascot.


– Sandra Merville Hart


“Animal Mascots of the Civil War,” Fort Ward Museum & Historic Site, 2014/11/10 http://alexandriava.gov/historic/fortward/default.aspx?id=40198.

“Old Abe the War Eagle: At War,” Wisconsin Veterans Museum, 2014/11/10   http://www.wisvetsmuseum.com/exhibitions/online/old_abe/?ID=33.

“Old Abe the War Eagle: Close Calls,” Wisconsin Veterans Museum, 2014/11/10   http://www.wisvetsmuseum.com/exhibitions/online/old_abe/?ID=34.

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