Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Death of Elmer Elsworth

Elmer Ellsworth
 Elmer Ellsworth was born on April 11, 1837. in Malta New York. In 1854 he moved to Illinois where he eventually studied law in Chicago. By 1860 he was living in Springfield working for Abraham Lincoln. Ellsworth worked on Lincoln's campaign for president and became a close friend. He accompanied Lincoln to Washington in 1861. Ellsworth joined the Illinois militia in 1857 studying drill and military tactics. He admired the French Zouave soldiers from Algeria and was impressed by their fighting abilities. Ellsworth travelled to New York and helped raise the 11th  New York Infantry Regiment better known as the Fire Zouaves. They were raised from the New York area volunteer fire companies. Ellsworth returned to Washington as their Colonel.

  Alexandria Virginia sat across the river from Washington and each day when Ellsworth and Lincoln looked in that direction they could see a very large Confederate flag flying from the roof of the Marshall House Inn. Virginia seceded from the Union on May 23, 1861 and Ellsworth led his regiment into Alexandria on the 24th. He detached men to occupy the railway station while he took the rest of the men to secure the telegraph office. They turned a corner and saw the Marshall House Inn. Ellsworth immediately called for re-enforcements and continued on to the telegraph office. Suddenly he changed his mind and charged into the hotel. He felt that the flag was a mockery flying from the top of the building so close to Washington. Ellsworth took seven men to the top of the Marshall house to remove the flag. They ran into a man who was half-dressed looking as if he had just gotten out of bed. Ellsworth demanded to know why the flag was flying from the roof. Ellsworth, along with four men climbed the stairs to the roof and cut the flag down.

  When Ellsworth came down the stairs carrying the very large flag, the man he had run into earlier was pointing a shotgun at him. He was a staunch secessionist named James W. Jackson and the owner of the house. Jackson shot Ellsworth in the chest at close range killing him instantly. Corporal Francis Brownell killed Jackson by running him through with his bayonet.  Brownell was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. Lincoln was so saddened by Ellsworth's death that he allowed his body to lie in state in the East Room of the White House. He became the first national hero of the Union and many men enlisted to the cry of "Remember Ellsworth". The 44th New York Infantry called itself the "Ellsworth Avengers". Ellsworth Michigan, Ellsworth Wisconsin and Ft. Ellsworth were named in his honor.         

The death of Ellsworth

Ellsworth's uniform coat

Corporal Brownell

1 comment:

  1. Great account of this very sad event which really forecasted what was about to take place over the next four years.