“Old Abe,” a bald eagle, was the mascot of Company C, Eighth Wisconsin, who carried the bird into 37 Civil War battles and skirmishes. Abe was a natural battle mascot, screeching encouragement to the soldiers. After the War, the eagle was given to the state of Wisconsin, and he had special quarters in the basement of the state capitol. Old Abe died in 1881; his stuffed body was displayed in the capitol building. Several replicas of the eagle were made; the original was lost when the capitol burned in 1904. One of the replicas has kept watch over the state Assembly Chambers since 1915.

Youth’s Companion wasn’t the only children’s magazine to print a piece about the eagle in 1866: after Our Young Folks printed an article in its October issue, Alfred Sewell, founder of the Army of the American Eagle and of The Little Corporal, wrote a correction of errors he saw in the article.

The stand on which Old Abe perched, described below, is pictured in the Young Folks article.

“Patriotic Eagle” (from The Youth’s Companion, August 9, 1866; p. 125)

The veteran of the Eighth Wisconsin Regiment is a white-headed eagle, taken from the nest in the northern part of Wisconsin by a Chippewa Indian at the beginning of the war. From a little fledgling he soon became a magnificent bird, and seemed animated by a national enthusiasm. Adopted by the Eighth Wisconsin Veteran Volunteers, he became the pet of the regiment. One man was delegated to take care of him and act as standard-bearer, having his place by the flag, his perch being cut in the shape of a shield and painted with the stars and stripes. He seemed proud of his position, and often balanced himself with expanded wings, a living national emblem. His eye would flash, his feathers quiver, as if he held in his talons the forked lightnings. The soldiers, on catching sight of the bird, would kindle with fresh fervor, and often broke forth into cheers, and when they marched through a city, the eagle borne aloft excited the whole populace.

The bird seemed to share in the excitement of battle, and was in seventeen engagements. He was at the taking of Vicksburg, at the Little Bear Creek, and in many of the fiercest contests. The rebels called him “Owl,” and “Yankee Buzzard,” and hated him. One commander declared that he would rather capture that bird than a whole brigade. Once a bullet ruffled his feathers, but left him unharmed. He fought through the war and came home in safety, yes, in triumph, and seemed to rejoice in the knowledge that the old flag was secure. When the boys of the Eighth Wisconsin went to their homes from the many hard fought fields, they parted from their eagle with great regret. A place was assigned him in the Capitol, where he has a room and is well provided for, and during the morning he is among the trees in the Park, enjoying rest after his battles for his country His name is “Old Abe.”

On the Fourth of July he was taken, with the flags captured in various battles, and the powder-stained banners which had waved above the noble volunteers from Wisconsin, and passed through the streets of the city, guarded by the boys of the ‘Eighth,’ who love him well. It was the event of the day. Every body here knows “Old Abe,” and at the Chicago Fair in aid of the Sanitary Commission, the sum raised by an additional fee for a visit to the bird amounted to twenty thousand dollars. All honor to the brave sons of Wisconsin, and a long life to their eagle.

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