The Story of Old Abe, the Case Eagle

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Huber 18 HP sawing lumber in Mason County in 1924. Jack Ackridge (deceased) on engine. The engine is operated by Ted Kruse.
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Orville Waddell's Case Separator at the Lehman Show in 1972.
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Threshing wheat in Mason County, Illinois in 1922. Ted Kruse on engine. L. W. Kruse (Ted's father) on thresher. 75 HP Case engine and 36'' Case thresher.

(This is the story of the eagle that was later used as the emblem on the front of the Case engines-many of you would be interested in it. It was sent to us by Arthur Bowman, New Lebanon, Ohio)

Old Abe’s history has been often told in poetry and prose, and his deeds recounted to thousands of interested people. Recently a history of ‘Old Abe’ has been published by Curran & Bowen, of Madison, Wis., from which I take some of the details of the following account:

Old Abe was captured when young by a Chippewa Indian, on the Flambeau River, Wisconsin, during the sugar-making season in 1861, when he was about the size of a full-grown hawk. His captor cut down a large pine tree, in which was the eagle’s nest, and secured this one eaglet in spite of the screams and menaces of the parent birds.

The Indian afterward sold the young bird to a white man for a bushel of corn. His new owner sold him to another man in Eau Claire, Wis., for $5. Capt. Perkins was at that time raising a company of volunteers for the war, which rendezvoused at Eau Claire, and while there the eaglet was presented to him. The company brought Abe with them to Madison, Wis., in September 1861, and he was adopted by the 8th Wis. and named Old Abe.

A perch was made for him, consisting of a shield and a bundle of darts underneath and a cross-piece on top, to which the eagle was tied by a stout cord to one of his legs; and he sat on the perch and was carried by a man, detailed for that purpose, next to the colors, in Co. C.

The eagle was nearly full-grown then, and weighed 10 pounds. His beak measured two and three-quarter inches, and bent into a semi-circle, having its edges cut sharp and clean to the point, where it was as hard as steel and as sharp as a needle, and of a beautiful flint color. His neck was short and thick, the body large and symmetrical, the general color of his plumage brown with a golden tinge, and his head and neck milky white. His wings measured over six feet from tip to tip when stretched.

At St. Louis a wealthy Union man offered $500 for Old Abe, but the reply was that ‘no money could buy him.’

The first engagements we were in, Old Abe would watch the proceedings with the greatest interest. His trepidation was plainly discernible, and as the rattle of musketry, the hastening of ambulances, the shouting of officers, the screams of projectiles and shrieks of the wounded burst upon his senses in the full tide of battle, he became wild with excitement, leaping and screeching and gnawing his perch, as if crazed by the tumult and destruction going on around him. He had a trick of rising on his perch and extending his wings to their widest extent, flapping them up and down and screaming.

In camp Old Abe had a frolicsome time, learning a great deal that was both mischievous and amusing running at large, catching bugs with his claws, fishing in creeks, catching bullets rolled upon the ground, running off with the ball when the boys were playing baseball, tipping over water pails, visiting tents and tearing up soldiers’ clothes.

Old Abe always went in swimming with the boys. He drank after the manner of other birds, but when no better chance availed itself he would throw back his head, open his mouth and permit his bearer to pour water down his throat from a canteen. He could never be induced to drink whiskey, but he had a liking for beer, and would guzzle it down whenever offered.

Once, and only once, he got drunk on that beverage, and behaved as nearly like a drunken man as can be imagined staggering, screaming, strutting; then lying on his side vomiting and completely played out.

The rebel women called him the ‘Yankee buzzard’ and a ‘dirty crow’.

At Duckport, La., opposite Vicks-burg, Gens. Grant, Sherman, Mower and Smith rode past our camp one day, and Gen. Grant doffed his hat to the eagle, at which the regiment cheered, and the bird responded by flapping his wings.

At the battle of Fort DeRussy, on the Red River campaign, Old Abe and his bearer were among the first to reach the rebel fort, and scaled it while the fire was the hottest. Old Abe was greatly excited and manifested so much joy as any of the soldiers over the victory.

After the war Old Abe was presented to the State of Wisconsin, and the Governor had a house built for him in the State-House grounds and employed an old soldier to take charge of him.

He was in great demand at all great gatherings in the country the Pittsburg Convention, Soldiers’ Fair in Milwaukee, the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, and other places where he was viewed by thousands of people and created great enthusiasm. His feathers, as they fell off occasionally, were bought as great treasures, and preserved, $5 and $25 being paid for them.

On a cold day in the Winter of 1881, a fire broke out in some paint pots and rubbish in a room near his house, and he screamed so loudly that people rushed to the spot. As soon as his door was opened he rushed out; but he was never well afterward. In March following he pined away, refused food, and died in his attendant’s arms. A taxidermist took his body and mounted it, and it now occupies a place in the flag-room of the State Capitol, sitting silently among the tattered and bullet-torn banners which, like him, had been through the fire of battle.

The following is a list of the battles and skirmishes participated in by Old Abe:

Friederickstown, Mo., Oct. 21, 1861; siege of New Madrid and Island No. 10, Mo., March and April, 1862; Farmington, Miss., May 9, 1862; before Corinth, Miss. May 28, 1862, Inka, Miss.; Sept. 12, 1862; Burnsville, Miss., Sept. 13, 1862; Corinth, Miss., Oct. 3 and 4; Tallahatchie, Miss., Dec. 2, 1862; Mississippi Springs, Miss., May 14, 1863; Jackson, Miss., May 14, 1863; Champion Hills, Miss., May 16, 1863; assault on Vicksburg, Miss., May 22, 1863; Mechanicsburg, Miss., June 4, 1863; Richmond, La., June 15, 1863; Vicksburg, Miss., June 24, 1862; surrender of Vicksburg, July 4, 1863; Brownsville, Miss., Oct 14, 1863; Fort Scurry, La., March 13, 1864; Fort DeRussy, La., March 14, 1864; Henderson Hill, La., March 21, 1864; Grand Ecore, La., April 2, 1864; Pleasant Hill, La., April 8 and 9, 1864; Nachatoches, La., April 22, 1864; Kane River, La., April 22, 1864; Clouterville and Crane Hill, La., April 23, 1864; Bayou Rapids, La., May 2, 1864; Bayou Roberts, La., May 4 to 6, 1864; Moore’s Plantation, La., May 8 to 12, 1864; Mansura, La., May 16, 1864; Maysville, La., May 17, 1864; Calhoun’s Plantation, La., May 18, 1864; Bayou de Glaise, La., May 18, 1864; Lake Chicat, La., June 6, 1864; Hurricane Creek, La., Aug. 13, 1864.

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