elmer ellsworth


Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth-The First -“Conspicuous-Union Man Killed” in the Civil War- He is a Character in the film Saving Lincoln, in Which His Death is Portrayed. Photo: His Avenger Francis Brownell (left) and Ellsworth (right)

The death of Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth in Alexandria, Virginia, was one of the sensational flash points at the start of the Civil War. His death at the hands of a local innkeeper made him a martyr in the North. Throughout the conflict, his name, face, and heroism would be recalled on stationery, in sheet music, and in memorial lithographs. Francis E. Brownell, the soldier who personally killed Ellsworth’s assailant, bequeathed several artifacts to the Smithsonian Institution, including the weapons used in the incident and his congressional Medal of Honor.-Source Smithsonian Institution

~Lincoln looked out from the White House across the Potomac River, and saw a large Confederate flag prominently displayed over the town of Alexandria Virginia….

Colonel Ellsworth led his personally raised Fire Zouaves (the 11th New York Regt.) across the state line in order to rectify the disgrace.  While descending the staircase of Alexandria’s Marshall House Inn with the flag in hand, Ellsworth was killed with a shotgun blast fired by innkeeper James W. Jackson, who was then promptly shot and killed by Brownell.  Francis E. Brownell (1840-1894)  was rewarded with the Medal of Honor and a commission in the regular army but, more importantly, the sensational story of he and Ellsworth became a rallying call for thousands of patriotic Northerners who would enlist in the following months.  

Lincoln was deeply saddened by his friend’s death and ordered an honor guard to bring his friend’s body to the White House, where he lay in state in the East Room. Honored as a hero relics associated with Ellsworth’s death became prized souvenirs.

National Portrait Gallery, unknown artist, after Matthew Brady photograph. Elmer Ellsworth in National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., public domain.  March 31st. Post updated to reflect he was the first -“Conspicuous-Union Man Killed” in the Civil War. Not the first.

View of a crowd in line to see a traveling sideshow exhibit about Elmer Ellsworth and the Civil War put on by Garrett’s Union Museum which traveled with O'Toole and Miles Circus, c. 1863.