In September 1861, Company C of the 8th Wisconsin Infantry left Eau Claire on the steamboat Stella Whipple with a bald eagle aboard. The company soon became noted around the country for its unique mascot, which soldiers named Old Abe after President Lincoln. Old Abe had been captured along the Flambeau River that spring by Flambeau Ojibwe chief Ahgamahwegezhig (“Chief Sky”). After passing the stopping place of his friend Jean Brunet, Ahgamahwegezhig traded the young eagle to settler Daniel McCann, who in turn sold her or gave her, depending on the story, to Company C. At Camp Randall in Madison, “Old Abe” was mustered into the army like any other recruit.
This is the story of Old Abe. It is also the story of the men among whom Old Abe lived: the farmers, loggers, clerks, and immigrants who flocked to the colors in 1861.
Author: Richard Zeitlin
Publisher: Wisconsin Historical Society Press