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The Death of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth

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by on 15 November 2013

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Transcript of The Death of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth

The Ellsworth Letter: Lincoln as a mourning father
First Union officer to die in the American Civil War
The Death of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth
On the night of May 23-24, the Union Army crossed the Potomac River to occupy Alexandria, Virginia.
A large Confederate flag flew atop a hotel--the Marshall House. President Lincoln could see it from the White House. Ellsworth declared, "Let's get that flag, boys!"
In 1860, Elmer Ellsworth toured the Northeast with an amazing group of men--the U. S. Zouave Cadets. He did so to raise awareness of the necessity for military preparedness.
The U. S. Zouave Cadets
The Fire Zouaves
When the war began, President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to "fight for the Union." Ellsworth responded by recruiting over 1000 New York City Firemen and bringing them to Washington, DC to join the Union army.
Ellsworth was killed inside the Marshall House by secessionist James Jackson. Jackson was immediately killed by Corporal Francis Brownell--Ellsworth's Avenger.
President Abraham Lincoln was devastated when he heard of Ellsworth's death. Ellsworth had been a clerk in Lincoln's law office, and had come to Washington with the Lincoln family.
Ellsworth lay in state in the East Room of the White House before he was taken to Mechanicville, NY, for burial.
This letter, known as the "Ellsworth Letter," has become famous for its elegant use of language. Alas, it was only the first of thousands of "dead soldier" letters written during the American Civil War.
As Commander-in Chief, as Ellsworth's friend, but especially as the father of his own young sons, President Lincoln wrote a letter of condolence to the parents of Elmer Ellsworth.
Washington, D.C.

May 25, 1861

To the Father and Mother of Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth:

My dear Sir and Madam. In the untimely loss of your noble son, our affliction here is scarcely less than your own. So much of promised usefulness to one's country, and of bright hopes for one's self and friends, have rarely been so suddenly dashed, as in his fall. In size, in years, and in youthful appearance, a boy only, his power to command men, was surpassing great. This power, combined with a fine intellect, an indomitable energy, and a taste so altogether military, constituted in him, as it seemed to me, the best natural talent, in that department that I ever knew. And yet he was singularly modest and deferential in social intercourse. My acquaintance with him began less than two years ago; yet through the latter half of the intervening period, it was as intimate as the disparity in our ages, and my engrossing engagements, would permit. To me, he appeared to have no indulgences or pastimes; and I never heard him utter a profane, or intemperate word. What was conclusive of his good heart, he never forgot his parents. The honors he labored for so laudably, and in the sad end, so gallantly gave his life, he meant for them, no less than for himself.

In the hope that it may be no intrusion upon the sacredness of your sorrow, I have ventured to address you this tribute to the memory of my young friend, and your brave and early fallen child.

May God give you that consolation which is beyond all earthly power.

Sincerely your friend in a common affliction. A. Lincoln
All the facts concerning the fate of the Marshall House Flag are not known. Its provenance has several missing pieces--as does the flag itself! Currently, it is in the care of the New York Military Museum. This video explains how carefully it has been cared for by the New York historians.
Elmer Ellsworth is buried in Mechanicville,
New York
The piano music you hear with this Prezi is the U. S. Zouave Cadet March, by Root & Cady. It is brought to life, once again, by the talented fingers of Ms. Laurie Avey.
To hear the audio on the video clip, simply pause the curser on the download at the bottom of the Prezi.

A fragment of the original Marshall House flag, stained with blood.
See the full transcript