I’D RATHER HAVE THAT EAGLE . . . (Part 2 of 2)

Part 1 describes the 8th Wisconsin Infantry’s entry into the State of Missouri in October, 1861, with their eagle mascot, “Old Abe.”  Old Abe heard the sounds of battle the first time at Fredericktown, Missouri, on October 21, 1861.

The Wisconsin men left Missouri for Cairo, Illinois in January, 1862, when Ulysses Grant left the relative safety of that place to march on Forts Donelson and Henry.  The Eighth Regiment had a small part to play in the Island No. 10 campaign, entering New Madrid, Missouri, on April 7, 1862.  Soon the men were on transports steaming up the Tennessee River.  They landed at Hamburg, Tennessee, near the battlefield of Shiloh, following in Grant’s wake.

History records that at the Battle of Farmington, Mississippi, on May 9, 1862, the Eighth Wisconsin Regiment first went into battle.  Old Abe was close to the fighting – closer than he was in Fredericktown.  Guard duty in northern Mississippi and Alabama occupied the summer, until a Confederate force commanded by Missouri’s own Sterling Price threatened the Union’s hold on Corinth, Mississippi.  Price attacked, pushing the Union troops from their outer trenches.  As the battle for Corinth reached its climax, Old Abe broke his tether and soared over the heads of the Confederates.  He invigorated the Union defenders.  General Price was reportedly moved to say:

“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.”

Corinth, October 3-4, 1862, was Old Abe’s finest hour.  But as the Wisconsin Historical Society reports, all together he witnessed 37 battles or engagements in the Civil War.  He was wounded once or twice, some say.  When the Eighth Wisconsin returned to Madison in 1864, the men presented their mascot to the Governor.  Old Abe lived in a special room in the Wisconsin Capitol until 1881, when he died as the result of a fire.  He was revered then; he is revered now.  A bronze likeness stares down from a perch above the rostrum of the Wisconsin State Assembly chambers.

After World War I, the 101st U. S. Army Division was reconstituted a reserve unit with headquarters in Milwaukee.  Called up in World War II, the unit retained its numerical designation and a shoulder patch honoring Wisconsin’s famous eagle, as it moved into airborne operations.  The “Band of Brothers” of Normandy fame, the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Division, trace their lineage to a day long ago in Fredericktown, Missouri.

One Response to “I’D RATHER HAVE THAT EAGLE . . . (Part 2 of 2) on “I’D RATHER HAVE THAT EAGLE . . . (Part 2 of 2)”

  • I represent Save the Ozarks, a grass roots organization formed to stop an extra high voltage power line from damaging the environment, the scenic beauty and economic viability of an area of the Arkansas and Missouri Ozarks known as an important tourist destination.

    Utility giant AEP has proposed an extra high voltage power line bordering Pea Ridge National Military Park in Northwest Arkansas. As you know this is one of the best preserved battle field parks in the US. The AEP/SWEPCO power line would require power poles twice the height of our tallest oaks and a right of way equal to the width of a twelve lane highway. The Department of the Interior has informed the Arkansas Public Service Commission of their firm opposition to this project, in part because of it passing between two areas of the park, and through portions of the battlefield that are included in expansion plans and have yet to be acquired. The AEP/SWEPCO attorney responded to this letter, that “it would take an act of Congress” to prevent them from having the right to traverse and thereby desecrate these lands.

    I ask that we give them that act of Congress. I have begun lobbying with our Arkansas Senators and Congressmen to put forth legislation to make the purchase of lands to preserve the full battlefield for future generations.

    It would also be helpful for us if your members were asked to go to stoplines.com and note their opposition to the battlefield being desecrated by power lines.
    American Electric Power Corporation, parent company of their SWEPCO subsidiary, claims as one of their key corporate values, that of Citizenship, which they describe as “developing a sense of community among all those they encounter.” Would it not be a better expression of the values of citizenship and community to assist the National Parks System and the people of Northwest Arkansas in the vigorous protection of all the land associated with this historic battlefield rather than to battle before the APSC for its destruction?

    Pea Ridge, as you may know, is one of the best preserved of all National Battlefield Parks in the US. But it will only continue to be what it is, by a vigorous defense of it. I hope you will join us and help us in its preservation.

    Thank you for your careful consideration and all that you do.

    Doug Stowe

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