What Is the True Story of War Eagle?

Most Auburn fans know and understand the term War Eagle does not have a single meaning; in other words, it is not a battle cry, a motto, a yell, or a greeting.

Instead, it is all four of those rolled into one.

The battle cry is a very common and it is a yell as well as a motto for supporters of the University of Auburn, especially football.

The Auburn Greeting

The Auburn Alabama War EagleAuburns War Eagle

While Auburn is very competitive in all academic sports, for some reason football brings out the true competitiveness among the Auburn fans.

However, perhaps its more common usage is that of a salutation or a greeting.

You could be riding a subway in New York City and see someone with an Auburn hat or shirt on and you would naturally say War Eagle, if you were a fellow Auburn fan.

The person to whom you said it would automatically recognize this and say the same thing back, while hundreds of passengers would set by and wonder what just happened.

However, it is also the title of Auburns fight song as well, to add yet another meaning to the term.

However, using the term War Eagle has caused some confusion over the years.

The widespread usage of this term leads most people to believe that the mascot for the University is an Eagle, and not “Aubie” the tiger.

They will wonder why if you are the Auburn Tiger, why the heck do you keep saying War Eagle.

This has prompted the University to make an official response which was this.

We are the Auburn Tigers who say War Eagle—just that simple—nothing more or nothing less,  and some people still do not understand.

The Legend of War Eagle

The Auburn War Eagle Flying in the StadiumThe Auburn War Eagle Flying in the Stadium

So when and where exactly did the term War Eagle officially start or come from.

The answer to this question is very simple; no one knows for sure period.

They may tell you that they know, but it is all speculation.

However, what is not speculation are the four different rumors.

Here are the four rumors on how the term War Eagle started.

  • The 1892 Georgia football game and the soldier who had an eagle at the game
  • The toughest player on the Carlisle Indian football team was named Bald Eagle
  • The 1913 prep rally when a cheerleader said this game will be “a “war”
  • The reported connection between the Saxton warriors and the eagle.

The most popular of the stories dates back to 1892 the first time Auburn met Georgia on the football field.

It all centers on a spectator who was a veteran of the Civil War who had an Eagle with him in the stands. 

According to witness at the game, the eagle suddenly escaped and started to majestically circle the playing field.

With each pass he made, the Auburn tigers kept moving the ball downfield for the winning touchdown.

Soon the students begin yelling “War Eagle” as they were sure the bird was an omen for success.

At the end of the game, the Eagle made a very sudden dive, hit the ground, and died.

But the term lived on to this day.

The second legend involves the 1914 Carlisle Indian football team and their toughest player, a guy named Bald Eagle.

The Auburn quarterback soon identified him as their toughest player on defense and started to run the ball at him on every play to wear him down.

The Auburn team would not huddle, and the quarterback would simply say Bald Eagle, to let his team know the play.

However, the fans in the stadium thought he was saying War Eagle, and the tradition was born.

Legend three involves a pep rally prior to a 1913 football game.

The head cheerleader said if we are going to win this game, we will have to fight, and it will be a war.

At that same moment an eagle emblem fell off a student’s military hat and when asked what it was, he said it is a “War Eagle”, as this was the start of the saying.

The fourth and final legend says that it is associated with the Saxon warriors who would yell in battle.

When the buzzards would circle the field looking for the dead, they would say those are our War Eagles.

The War Eagles

Close up picture of the Auburn War EagleClose up picture of the Auburn War Eagle

Since the 1930’s and continuously until 1960, The University has a kept a live golden eagle on Campus.

Since the year 2001, Auburn has presented an untethered eagle to fly over Jordan- Hare Stadium prior to the start of the game

A Brief History of the War Eagles

  • War Eagle I-1892
  • War Eagle II-1930
  • War Eagle III-1960-1964
  • War Eagle IV-1964-1980
  • War Eagle V-1981-1986
  • War Eagle VI-1986-2006
  • War Eagle VII-2006-present

War Eagle I is the story Civil War veteran who owner an Eagle from the Civil war that took it to 1892 Georgia game, as mentioned above in the first legend.

War Eagle II was an Eagle that swept down on a flock of turkeys in Beehive, Alabama and was caught in a mass of pea vines.

14 different individuals put together $10.00 to care for the eagle.

It was placed in a strong wire cage and taken to the game against South Carolina for luck, as Auburn had not won a conference game in four years.

With War Eagle II at the game, they won 25-7.

War Eagle III arrived in 1960 after being caught by a cotton farmer in Curry Station, Alabama.

He was cared for by students until 1964 when he escaped and was found shot to death in a wooded area.

War Eagle IV was transferred by the Jackson Mississippi Zoo to the students at Auburn. Called Tiger like the 3rd eagle, she was cared for by the students.

On the morning of the 1980 Iron Bowl, she was found dead by here trainers at the age of 22. by natural causes.

War Eagle V arrived on March 3rd, 1981 and then was taken to the veterinary school for care.

This Eagle was under the stewardship protection of the U.S. Government, as part of the Endangered Species Act.

She arrived at the age of two, and named War Eagle V, she died of a ruptured spleen at the age of 8.

War Eagle VI was found at the Tennessee Valley Authority Raptor Rehabilitation Facility. She was also under the protection of the Endangered Species Act and arrived on October 8, 1986.

She was 6 years old and nicknamed Tiger.

On November 11, 2006, she was officially retired and replaced by War Eagle VII, named Nova, at the pregame ceremony for the Georgia game.

Nova is still very alive today but was suspended from all flying in the year 2017.

She has been replaced by Spirit, a bald Eagle, and will be officially named when Nova passes.



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