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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 17, 2003 - Issue 87


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Old Abe 'The War Eagle' -- Bartletts additions (Part 2)

From the book: 'History, Traditions and Adventures in the Chippewa Valley' (1929)
By William W. Bartlett
(Chapter 8 - pages 225-231)
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

Too much reliance should not be placed on the distances as given by these old pioneers. It was a wilderness country and their estimates, or guesses, as to distance on those crooked streams would vary widely.

To locate definitely after all these years the place where the eagle was captured is not as easy a task as one might imagine. Neither the sketch map of Israel Gould nor that of Ah-mous and his son has been preserved. The Barrett book contains a map of the entire Chippewa Valley, with a cross indicating the place where the eagle was captured, but the scale on which the map is drawn is so small as to make it of little value.

The region had been only partially surveyed with streams and lakes inaccurately defined, nor not shown at all. Numerous floating dams put in by loggers and later dams for power development purposes have changed the size and outlines of many of the lakes. Present day plats do not show any such lakes as 'Asken' Lake, but as most of the lake are but a widening of the river channel it is possible that in the 60s' a section of the river was designated by the name.

Mr. Donald Boyd, land man for the Northern States Power Company, after careful study of the Gould and other descriptive matter in the Barrett books feels assured that the rapids near which the eagle was captured is the one for many years past known as Schultz Rapids, in Section 33, Township 41, Range 1 East, in the extreme southern part of Ashland County. To be more exact the rapids is located in the SE¼ of the SW¼ of Section 33. As this particular 40 is so largely taken up by the river it is designated on the government plat as Lot 4. A carefully drawn plat of Township 41 shows the rapids to be not over forty rods from the line between Townships 41 and 40, which line is also the boundary between Ashland and Price Counties. The nearest city or village is Park Falls, about five miles below the rapids on the Flambeau River. Since My Boyd gave his decision as to the location of the place where the eagle was captured an interesting confirmation has come from another source. Mr. C.H. Henry of Eau Claire was for many years in charge of log driving operations on the upper Chippewa and its tributaries for the Chippewa Logging Company, his acquaintance with the water dates back to the 70s'. He secured the charter to put the flooding dams in the Flambeau region. He says he personally knew A-ge-mah-we-ge-zhig and had cut some of the pine on his allotment on the reservation. He says the Indians frequently related to him the circumstances of the eagle's capture and told where it was secured.  Mr. Henry brought out a map on which he had some years ago noted the place of the eagle's capture as had been related by A-ge-mah-we-ge-zhig. It was just where designated by Mr. Boyd.

It is absurd to attempt to designate the exact spot, or 'the stump of the tree where the eagle was caught,' as some person's have done. The stretch of rough water designated Schultz Rapids is nearly two miles long. The Barrett map does show the eagle to have been captured on the south side of the Flambeau River, but just how far back from the rapids we do not know. It might easily have been over 40 rods, which would have brought it into Township 40 and into what is now Price County, instead of Ashland County. Why should not a marker be erected at some suitable point on the rapids?

Captain John C. Perkins
First Captain of the Eagle Company, Killed at Farmington, Mississippi in May 1862.
From a photograph loaned the author by Mrs. R.F. Wilson, and which was given her by the captain just before he left for the front. So far as known, her copy is the only satisfactory picture in existence of Capt. Perkins

In August, McCann took the eagle to Chippewa Falls and tried to sell it to a battery being organized there. Failing to dispose of it, he went to Eau Claire where a company, then called the Eau Claire Badgers, was about to leave for the front. A sale was made and the Eau Claire Free Press contains the following: 'The Eau Claire Badgers are going into battle under the protecting aegis of a veritable American Eagle.' Arriving at Madison the Badgers were made Company C of the 8th Wisconsin Infantry, also made the color company of the regiment and given the name Eagle Company. The regiment also was known as the Eagle Regiment.

Captain Victor Wolf
Promoted from First Lieutenant after the death of Captain Perkins, from a photograph loaned by the family.

Captain Green of Company F, in writing from Madison to his wife, wrote as follows:
September 10, 1861

We have a new recruit, a live eagle. Company 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 to go through the war he will be a famous bird.

Captain Green became a great admirer of the eagle and frequently mentions him in his letters written home. At Benton Barracks, Missouri, he wrote of Old Abe's exploits there, when he got loose as the soldiers were getting off 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. When the barracks were reached Old Abe settled down on his perch, to the great joy of the regiment. One member of Company C was designated to carry and care for the eagle. During the three years that Old Abe was with the regiment six of the men had this honor. The writer was personally acquainted with three of them, also with a number of other members of the company. A young cousin of his, a brother to the one who saw the eagle in McCann's door yard, enlisted in the company at the first war meeting and his death, by disease, was one of the first in the Company. For many years after the Civil War Old Abe as in great demand for public gatherings, especially of a patriotic nature, including the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia in 1876. In 1881 a fire started in the basement of the old capitol, in a room in which paints and oils were stored. Old Abe was saved, but the dense and offensive smoke seems to have affected him seriously, and he commenced to droop and pine away and died in March. The body was mounted and placed in a glass case. When the writer was attending the state university in the middle 80s', this case stood at the end of the corridor in the capitol building. His mounted body was destroyed a few years later when the old capitol burned. The last reunion of the Eagle Company was held in Eau Claire several years ago, the writer being on the citizens committee of arrangements. Only a few members of the Eagle Company were then alive and of these not more than two or three now remain.

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