Old Abe the War Eagle: Legacy


Wisconsin Monument at Vicksburg National Military Park after the bronze Old Abe statue was repaired from damage caused by a lightning strike in 1952
Wisconsin Monument at Vicksburg National Military Park after the bronze Old Abe statue was repaired from damage caused by a lightning strike in 1952.
(Adjutant General Collection, WVM Mss 1278)
Old Abe's legacy began while he was still alive. From his triumphant arrival at Camp Randall, through his brief flight at Corinth, to his post-war "celebrity" appearances at state and national functions, he captured the imagination and affection of people in Wisconsin and around the country. Following his death in 1881, he and his story quickly became legend and Old Abe himself became a symbol of the Civil War, the state of Wisconsin, and ideals like patriotism and bravery. This becomes evident when considering the wide array of places and ways that Old Abe's likeness has been used around the country, and the places it continues to be used to this day.

Old Abe’s strong association with the Civil War and Wisconsin veterans is reflected on numerous monuments across the country. One example is the Wisconsin monument at Vicksburg, Mississippi, where Old Abe and the Eighth Wisconsin saw action. The forty-seven and a half foot granite column is topped by a six-foot bronze statue of Old Abe. An image of Old Abe is also carved into one side of the Eighth Wisconsin Monument at Vicksburg. Closer to home, the Camp Randall Memorial Arch is located on the grounds in Madison that held the Civil War training camp in the 1860s and holds a college football stadium today. Dedicated in 1912, the Arch honors all Wisconsin Civil War veterans and features a stone statue of Old Abe perched on top.

Old Abe a top the Camp Randall Memorial Arch Civil War veterans in front of the Memorial Arch at Camp Randall

Old Abe a top the Camp Randall Memorial Arch Civil War veterans in front of the Memorial Arch at Camp Randall. Note the stone bald eagle on the top, at the center, clutching a heart with the name “Old Abe” inscribed.
(Herbert Bird Collection, WVM Mss 363)


J.I. Case hood ornament featuring Old Abe
J.I. Case hood ornament featuring Old Abe (Wisconsin Veterans Museum collection)
Four years after the Civil War, Jerome Increase Case, founder of J.I. Case & Company began using Old Abe’s likeness for his company’s emblem. The eagle, first appearing on the Case Eclipse Thresher in 18691, remained the company’s symbol for 100 years. The first logo pictured a likeness of Old Abe on a branch with the words, “J.I. Case Threshing Machine Co.” and the company’s home, Racine, Wisconsin, printed on the branch itself. Years later, conveying a more global approach, the company decided to portray the likeness on top of a globe with the same words on the face of the globe. This new logo appeared in advertisements for the company, as well as on the sides of many of its machines and as hood ornaments. Cast iron statues of the logo were placed at Case facilities around the world. In 1969, the company decided to revamp their corporate logo and ceased using Old Abe.

Wisconsin veteran Jeff Carnes, 101st Airborne, pictured here during Operation Iraqi Freedom with the Old Abe shoulder patch visible
Wisconsin veteran Jeff Carnes, 101st Airborne, pictured here during Operation Iraqi Freedom with the Old Abe shoulder patch visible. (Jeff Carnes Collection, WVM)
The shoulder patch for the famous 101st Airborne Division also features Old Abe. Organized for World War I, the 101st was reorganized in 1921 with its headquarters in Milwaukee. The men surely heard stories of Old Abe, as the unit quickly adopted an insignia with a white eagle above flames on a royal blue shield. Later the flames were removed and the blue shield was replaced by a black shield. The “Airborne” tab now seen above the shield was added in 1942. During World War II, the 101st received its first of two eagle mascots. Named Young Abe, the eagle was captured in Wisconsin and presented to the 101st by the State in November 1942. However, Young Abe died less than one year later. Bill Lee I, the division’s second eagle mascot, was acquired in September 1956 and named after the division’s first commanding officer, Major General William C. Lee. Bill Lee, too, died less than one year after joining the 101st.2
Pre-World War II insignia of the 101st Infantry Division featuring Old Abe Theater-made pocket hanger patch from Vietnam
Pre-World War II insignia of the 101st Infantry Division featuring Old Abe
(Wisconsin Veterans Museum collection)
Theater-made pocket hanger patch from Vietnam
(Wisconsin Veterans Museum collection)


 Logo for Eau Claire Memorial High School
 Logo for Eau Claire
Memorial High School.
Many high schools have mascots with a local connection or special meaning to the community. Eau Claire Memorial High School chose the “Old Abes” as its mascot to honor the famous military mascot whose military journey started in their city. The school also has an Old Abe Memorial Garden located in its courtyard. Many other area businesses and attractions have been named after Old Abe including, a state trail, photo studios, and a supper club in the area where the McCann’s home once stood.

Wisconsin continues to honor Old Abe to this day, with mounted eagles representing Old Abe featured prominently in two state buildings: the Assembly Chamber in the State Capitol and the exhibit gallery of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum (WVM). In addition, the WVM preserves a substantial Old Abe manuscript collection featuring original papers and photographs relating to this unique figure in American history.

Replica of the taxidermist's portrayal of Old Abe on display in the Wisconsin Veteran's Museum Replica of the taxidermist's portrayal of Old Abe on display in the Wisconsin Veteran's Museum. A similar one also resides in the Wisconsin State Assembly Chambers in the State Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin. (Wisconsin Veterans Museum Collection)



1 Holmes, Michael. J.I. Case: The First 150 Years. Racine, WI: The Case Corporation, 1992, page 12.
2 Hesler, Ken. “Legendary ‘Old Abe,’ Still Soars with Eagles.”

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is an educational activity of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.