About The River

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

For Those Who Like History

For those who like history, I think you will find this interesting.
If you are a regular reader here at The River you know our son is at Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He recently shared in his letter the reason behind the greeting "40 Rounds" for their Battalion.
Photo taken at Wisconsin's Capitol, Madison, Wisconsin

During the Civil War is when the 2-13th IN Regiment came into being. (This is the regiment Sam is in now at Fort Jackson.) There was a rival Regiment or Battalion that had just recently gotten fancy buttons or pins for their caps. Anyway, they went around boasting, bragging and showing off their new, fancy, button. When they approached this one 2-13th Private they showed him the button and acted all posh and condescending. The private responded with "we only need 40 rounds." and tapped his ammunition pouch. It stuck ever since then.
Madison, Wisconsin

How about a little bit of Wisconsin Civil War history, do you know the story about Old Abe?

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Nov. 14, 2012) -- The Screaming Eagle insignia of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) is perhaps the most recognized and famous shoulder sleeve insignia in the United States Army.

However the history and symbolism of the patch is often forgotten. The eagle on your shoulder is not just any American Bald Eagle, but instead, it commemorates the most famous animal mascot that ever served in the United States Army.

In 1861, an American Indian named Ahgamahwegezhig -- or Chief Sky -- a member of the Flambeau band of the Chippewa tribe, cut down a tree in an attempt to capture two American Bald Eaglets in their nest. Chief Sky later traded the surviving eaglet to Daniel McCann of Eagle Point, Wisc., for a bushel of corn.

McCann took the bird to Eau Claire, Wisc., and briefly kept it as a family pet. Caged inside a modified oaken cask, the bird grew larger and quickly became too expensive to feed. McCann actively sought to sell the as yet unnamed bird to the many units of Wisconsin troops passing through the area enroute to their muster site at Camp Randall in Madison, Wisc.

After many unsuccessful attempts to rid himself of the bird, McCann eventually sold the eagle for $2.50 to Capt. John E. Perkins, commanding officer of a militia company called the "Eau Claire Badgers." Part of the money was, reluctantly, given by local tavern-keeper S.M. Jeffers.

In light of their newly acquired mascot, the unit renamed themselves the "Eau Claire Eagle."

Perkins' unit entered federal service and was re-designated as Company C, 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The Eau Claire Eagles' mascot was adopted by the new 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment which was quickly nicknamed the "Eagle Regiment." After much deliberation, the mascot was named "Old Abe," in honor of President Abraham Lincoln.

During its time awaiting muster into Federal service at Camp Randall, the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment purchased a special, shield-shaped perch on which to carry their mascot. It was here, in Madison, Wisconsin where "Old Abe" was named in honor of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.

The 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment spent its entire military service in what was then known as the Western Theater of the American Civil War comprising: Missouri; Arkansas; Tennessee; Mississippi; Louisiana; and Alabama. "Old Abe" was present during all of the 8th Wisconsin's battles and was carried into combat by a sergeant on a special perch alongside the 8th Wisconsin's National and Regimental colors.

Seeing "Old Abe" atop his perch during the battle of Corinth, Mississippi, Confederate General Sterling Price remarked, "that bird must be captured or killed at all hazards, I would rather get that eagle than capture a whole brigade or a dozen battle flags."

During "Old Abe's" service, the 8th Wisconsin participated in many battles, expeditions, and pursuits of Confederate forces. Among these were the battles of: Iuka; Corinth; Island Number 10; Big Black; Champion's Hill; the Red River and Meridian expeditions; and the Battle of Nashville. "Old Abe" was there every step of the way.

The 8th Wisconsin's most famous fight came in June of 1863, when the regiment participated in a futile frontal assault along Vicksburg's Graveyard Road. "Old Abe" and his regiment, then part of Mower's Brigade, failed to penetrate the center of the Confederate fortifications near a 90-degree bend in the Confederate defensive positions known as Stockade Redan.

Their enlistments having expired, the men of the 8th Wisconsin were mustered out of federal service in late-1864. The 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment was no more. On Sept. 26th, 1864, a contingent of 70 8th Wisconsin veterans marched "Old Abe" to the state and presented him to Governor James Lewis. "Old Abe" was donated to the people of Wisconsin by the loving comrades alongside whom he had fought for four years.

In 1865 an enterprising Chicagoan, capitalizing on "Old Abe's" fame, sought to enlist him in support of the United Sanitary Commission's efforts to provide aid and comfort to wounded Veterans. Thus the "Army of the American Eagle" was formed. Children were "enlisted" to sell paper photographs of "Old Abe" in much the same way that schools raise funds today. Proceeds from the sale of these photographs went to benefit local veteran's charities.

The Wisconsin War Eagle's post-war life was punctuated by frequent nation-wide travel in support of veteran reunions, patriotic gatherings, Soldier relief benefits, and special exhibitions during which he achieved a rock star-like status. In 1876, "Old Abe" again toured the country as part of America's Centennial Exposition.

"Old Abe" lived out the remainder of his life in an aviary in the Capitol building. In 1881, a fire broke out in a paint and solvent storage area near "Old Abe's" aviary. A month later the famous Wisconsin War Eagle, weakened by fumes, died in the arms of his handler, George Gilles.

Many newspapers and Veterans groups wondered aloud "what would become of this famous, flesh and blood war relic?" Upon his death, "Old Abe" was preserved and exhibited in the Capitol building's Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall until a fire destroyed the display in 1904. Sadly, only a few of "Old Abe's" feathers survive, carefully preserved by the Wisconsin Veterans' Museum in Madison.

Today, large sculptures of "Old Abe" stand atop the Wisconsin monument at Vicksburg, Miss., and atop the entrance to old Camp Randall, now the main entrance to the University of Wisconsin's football stadium. Since 1865, Wisconsin-based J.I. Case farm implement company has used "Old Abe" as part of their corporate logo. "Old Abe" also serves as the mascot of several Wisconsin high schools.

Since 1921, "Old Abe's" head, in profile, has served as the shoulder sleeve insignia of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). A large-scale diorama of the 8th Wisconsin's Color Guard, complete with "Old Abe," is on exhibit in the atrium of the division headquarters building on Fort Campbell.


  1. Good morning, my lovely friend. Thank you for a most enjoyable post...I am going to have my son read it as well :)

    I hope you are well and I trust your week is off to a beautiful start. Hugs to you, dear one!

  2. I had never heard of Old Abe, what a story!! Sadly, he saw way too many battles and fires. How strange that a fire killed him, and later even his dead body!! And you even have an old Photo! Now I can see the shield shaped perch. What a beautiful painting at the capitol building. I am assuming it is the ceiling?

  3. What a great story! I love reading history and finding out how names/traditions got started and what the back story was. Hope you are having a great day! Love and hugs!

  4. Such a picture...hard to believe how good the condition is. I like the history, sad about hold the eagle captive though. Blessings, xoxo, Susie

  5. What a read this is …
    Thanks so much for taking time to share it.

    All the best Jan

  6. That is a wonderful story, wonderful history! My uncles were at Ft. Campbell back in the 1950s and we visited there often and are proud of the Screaming Eagles but I never knew the history of it and Old Abe. I love the 40 rounds background too!


  7. Thanks for some other magnificent post. Where else could anyone get that type of information in such an ideal means of writing? I have a presentation subsequent week, and I am at the look for such information.
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  8. i have heard this story for years.he was found about 8 miles or so from where i live now.just a few miles north of where the flambeau river joins the chippewa river.if you drive south of cornell wi on hyway 178 you will find a sign where McCanns trading post was i am related to the McCanns somehow

  9. Very interesting stories. I am glad you can correspond with Sam.

  10. This is a great story and I love the history. I had never heard this story of "old Abe" so interesting to learn about this special eagle. Happy Wednesday.

  11. I love history...got it from my mom and dad. Thank you for sharing this....very interesting.


High Fives from Wisconsin!