Caught In Time Northwoods Wisconsin Memories and Gifts
Fond Memories ...
An excerpt from
Tales of Lac du Flambeau continued...
There is also the story of "Old Abe" the war eagle. In fact, Hwy. 47 is still referred to by many of the older generation as "Old Abe" road. The story dates back to the years before the Civil War.
It was in the spring of 1860, after making maple sugar, that Ah-ge-mah-we-ge-shig, the son of AhMonse, the chief of the Flambeau tribe, found an eagle's next on the south side of the Flambeau river.
The tree was cut down and the nest "as big as a bushel basket," and made of "sticks, turf and weeds," was preserved. There were two young eagles in the nest, but one was so badly injured that it died. The other eagle was kept for several weeks at the Indian Village and then taken down river and sold to Daniel McCann who had a farm and stopping place on the Chippewa River, a short distance above Jim Falls.
In August of that year McCann took the eagle to Chippewa Falls and tried to sell it to a battery being organized there. There was no sale, so he went on to Eau Claire where a company, then called the Eau Claire Badgers, was about to leave for the Civil War front. He made the sale and the Eau Claire Free Press printed the following. "The Eau Claire Badgers are going into battle under the protecting aegis of a veritable American Eagle."
After arriving in Madison, the Badgers were made Co. C of the 8th Wisconsin infantry. They were also made the color company of the regiment and given the name of the Eagle Company, and were known as the Eagle Regiment.
A member of the regiment, Capt. Green, wrote his wife the following. "We have a new recruit, a live eagle. Co. C Captain Perkins brought him down from Eau Claire. He is a fine specimen of the national bird, and the boys have named him 'Old Abe.' A perch has been made for him with a shield and a number of darts beneath. Old Abe is carried on a pole next to the colors. If he stands it to go through the war, he will be a famous bird."
Old Abe had many exploits with the Company. The tale is told of the time at Benton Barracks, Missouri, when Old Abe got loose as the soldiers were getting off from the cars. He was given up for lost, but could occasionally be seen flying high above the soldiers as they marched to the barracks in the outskirts of the city. However,when they reached the barracks Old Abe came soaring in and settled down on his perch.
Old Abe made it, and for many years after the Civil War he was in great demand for public gatherings, and even appeared at the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia in 1876. At one point P.T. Barnum offered $25,000 for the bird, but the offer was refused.
His permanent home became the Wisconsin State Capitol. However, he might have done better with Barnum; for in 1881 a fire started in the basement of the old capitol; in a room where paints and oils were stored. Old Abe was saved, but the smoke seemed to have affected him and he died in March of that year. His body was mounted and placed in a glass case which stood at the end of the corridor in the capitol building. Then, a few years later, when the old capitol burned, his mounted body was burned.