“War Eagle” is not a mascot or nickname, but it has long been Auburn’s battle cry.
The most popular story about the battle cry dates back to the first time Auburn met Georgia on the football field in 1892. The legend centers around a spectator who was a veteran of the Civil War. In the stands with him that day was an eagle the old soldier had found on a battlefield during the war. He had kept it as a pet for almost 30 years. According to witnesses, the eagle suddenly broke free and began majestically circling the playing field. As the eagle soared, Auburn began a steady march toward the Georgia end zone for a thrilling victory. Elated at their team’s play and taking the bird’s presence as an omen of success, Auburn students and fans began to yell “War Eagle” to spur on their team. At the game’s end, the eagle took a sudden dive, crashed into the ground and died – but the battle cry “War Eagle” lived on to become a symbol of the proud Auburn spirit.
The 1914 contest with the Carlisle Indians provides another story. The toughest player on the Indians’ team was a tackle named Bald Eagle. Trying to tire the big man, Auburn began to run play after play at his position. Without even huddling, the Auburn quarterback would yell “Bald Eagle,” letting the rest of the team know that the play would be run at the imposing defensive man. Spectators, however, thought the quarterback was saying “War Eagle,” and in unison, they began to chant the resounding cry.
There is another story surrounding the 1914 Carlisle game. Each time the Indians had scored during the season, fans and the Carlisle players yelled, “War Eagle.” On this particular afternoon, however, it was Auburn’s own Lucy Hairston who adopted the battle cry as he danced across the goal line for the only touchdown of the game.
Another version of the War Eagle story comes from Indian lore. Legend says “War Eagle” was the name given to the large golden eagle by the Plains Indians because the eagle furnished feathers for use in their war bonnets.
The rarest version of the origin of the “War Eagle” cry grew from a 1913 pep rally at Langdon Hall where students had gathered the day before the Georgia football game. Cheerleader Gus Graydon told the crowd, “If we are going to win this game, we’ll have to get out there and fight, because this means war.” During the frenzy, another student, E. T. Enslen, dressed in his military uniform, noticed something had dropped from his hat. Bending down, he saw it was the metal emblem of an eagle that had been loosened while he cheered. Someone asked him what he had found, and Enslen loudly replied, “It’s a War Eagle!” History was made as the new cry echoed throughout the stadium the next day as Auburn battled Georgia.
Regardless of where or when “War Eagle” first originated, it is the resounding battle cry that boosts enthusiasm and pride in the hearts of Auburn fans everywhere. Whenever Auburn people gather, the battle cry “Warrrrrrr Eagle!” is almost certain to be heard. It has been a part of Auburn’s spirit for more than 100 years. Since the first War Eagle, there have been six other birds throughout Auburn’s history that have served as the school’s symbol and kept alive the legendary battle cry. War Eagle VII (Nova) currently entertains fans with her customary flight around Jordan-Hare Stadium prior to each home football game.