Tuesday, May 24, 2011
A Man, A Flag, A Death
Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth was born April 11th 1837 in Malta, New York. He grew up in Mechanicville, New York. Ellsworth moved to Rockford, Illinois in 1854 to work for a patent office. While living there he became the drillmaster in 1857 for the local militia company the “Rockford Greys”. After his engagement to Carrie Spafford, at the suggestion of her father he moved to Chicago, Illinois to study law. Ellsworth went to work for Abraham Lincoln in 1860 to studied law, and help with Lincoln’s 1860 presidential campaign. At 5’6” Lincoln called Ellsworth "the greatest little man I ever met." Ellsworth accompanied Lincoln in 1861 to Washington, DC.
When the Civil War started and Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to be raised, Ellsworth recruited the 11th New York Volunteers known as the “Fire Zouaves”. He was their Colonel. On May 24th 1861; Ellsworth went to Alexandria, Virginia to remove a Confederate flag from the roof of a tavern. Ellsworth took the 11th across the Potomac, where he posted men at the railroad station and telegraph office. Then Ellsworth with four men entered the Marshall House Inn and cut down the Confederate flag. As Ellsworth came down the stairs with the flag the owner of the Inn, James W Jackson shot and killed him. Union Corporal Francis E Brownell killed Jackson straight away.
Ellsworth’s body was laid in state in the East Room of the White House. From there he was taken to City Hall in New York City where Union supporters came to see his body by the thousands. He was brought home to Mechanicville, New York, where he is buried in the Hudson View Cemetery. The 44th New York Infantry were formed in Ellsworth’s memory and were known as the “Ellsworth Avengers”.