An Old Veteran

5 Nov

Recently, Catherine and I attended a farm business meeting in Jim Falls.  As we drove into that town we saw a large statue of a famous Civil War Veteran.  This brave veteran took part in 42 battles and skirmishes with bullets flying all around him.  This leader was so popular that they changed the name of the regiment from Badger to Eagle after him.  Who was he you ask?  Old Abe, the war eagle.  There has never been another bald eagle like him before or since.

Old Abe was born in the early spring of 1861 about 25 miles north of Jim Falls.  The Chippewa Indians that resided north of there a ways would always collect maple sap and boil it down to maple sugar to take down river in their birch bark canoes to trade for supplies.  On the way down river, Chief Sky’s group saw an eagle hovering around a tall pine tree.

So one of the young braves climbed up the tree to get the young eaglets in hopes of trading them for supplies also.  As the man got close to the nest, the mother eagle attacked him to protect her young ones.  The Indians shot her dead and the brave proceeded to get the two young eagles out of the nest.  God, the Creator, put it into the heart of the mother eagle to protect her young at all costs, even to the point of death.  It is sad to see that so many parents don’t protect their children from the evil and dangers in the world today.  Because of it, the children pay a terrible price.

The Indians proceeded down river and stopped at a small farm owned by Dan McCann and his wife.  The McCann’s had just finished planting their corn and had about a half bushel of seed left over.  The Indians offered to trade one of the young eagles for the left over seed, but when Mrs. McCann saw the bird she was convinced it was a crow and wanted nothing to do with it!  Young eagles are solid black and do not get their white feathers until they are two to three years old.  The Indians insisted that it was a bald eagle and went down to one of their canoes and brought up the dead mother.  When she saw it, she changed her mind and made the trade.

Dan McCann played the fiddle very well and the eagle loved it.  He would walk around and dance and flutter his wings to the music.  The eagle grew and by late summer had become a large bird.  A company of soldiers was being formed in the area to go and fight.  Dan wanted to go but couldn’t since he was a cripple, so he sent the eagle in his place.  The company gladly accepted him as their mascot and changed their name from the Badger Company to the Eagle Company.  They also named their new member, “Old Abe” in honor of President Abraham Lincoln.

Old Abe rode on a special perch next to the flags.  This usually put him in the worst part of the battle.  Most birds at the sound of a gun would seek to fly away to safety, but not Old Abe.  He lived for battle!  History tells us that the hotter the battle got the more he would flutter his large wings and let out shrill screams that could be heard above the sound of battle.  His courage gave the men great inspiration to fight even harder, sometimes against overwhelming odds.

Confederate Generals, Price and VanDorn commanded their armies to take Old Abe dead or alive.  They knew if they could get him it would have a very demoralizing effect on the union armies.  Old Abe was kept up front by the flags at all times and had tons of bullets flying around him, yet he only lost some of his wing feathers.  I think the Lord must have preserved his life, especially when you consider that in the battle of Corinth the regiment lost fifty percent of its men.

When General Grant and other Union Generals would pass by Old Abe they would salute him, like he was President Lincoln and raise their hats to him.  At this the Wis. Regiment would let out loud cheers and Old Abe would spread his magnificent wings.  The generals along with all the other men loved it; it motivated them to keep going on, even on bad days.

After the war, Old Abe returned to Wis. and made many public appearances to raise money for veterans.  He was always the honored guest at such meetings.  On his last appearance in Milwaukee in 1880 he met his old friend General Grant.  The two old warriors had a great love and respect for each other.  In March of 1881 the famous war eagle died.  It is said that many veterans cried when they heard about his death.

If Old Abe would have been left in his nest when he was young, he would have had a normal life like other eagles.  But circumstances beyond his control totally changed his life.  So it is in life for many people, circumstances beyond our control change our lives radically.  I know that has certainly been true in my life.  I am so glad though to know the Lord.  The Bible says in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  Since I belong to Him and follow Him, He makes all things to work out for my good.  He will do it for you too, if you will give Him your life.  I must say it is the most exciting and rewarding life possible.  I’m sure Old Abe would agree with that.

Tom Heck, his wife Joanne, and their two children, Catherine and Joshua, own and operate a 35 cow, 159 acre dairy farm in northwestern WI.  Contact Tom at:  lifeonthefamilyfarm@gmail.com  Copyright © 2012 by Tom Heck.  All rights reserved.

Catherine standing in front of Old Abe’s statue.

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