(April 11, 1837 - May 24, 1861)
The First Martyr of the Union
Tomorrow, May 24, marks the Sesquicentennial of the death of Union Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, on a dark stair case in the Marshall House Hotel, in Alexandria, Virginia. With this killing, the Union had their first martyr of the Civil War. Also tomorrow at Noon, Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, Inc., opens an exhibit of art, artifacts, documents and letters from the largest private collection of Elmer Ellsworth-themed historic material extant. The exhibit will be on display for one month, and can be viewed at the Book Shop, 357 W. Chicago Ave., during the regular business hours of 9-5 on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 9-7 on Thursdays, and from 10-4 on Saturdays.
The opening event features Abraham Lincoln Presenter George Buss, reading and discussing Lincoln's condolence message to Ellsworth's parents; he will then take questions from the press.
Ellsworth Killed by James Jackson.
On the day he was killed the young Chicago-based commander of Union troops was one of the most well-known men in America, with his award-winning military drill squad, enjoying the status similar to a top athlete or a pop star today. The fact that he was the first Union officer to die in the war, that he was a personal friend of President Abraham Lincoln and an idol to Lincoln's young sons, and that he was so widely known and admired, led to the rise of a cult of mourning in the wake of his demise.
Among the rare and one-of-a-kind artifacts is an 1859 Chicago document in Ellsworths' hand to the governor of Illinois enrolling the names of the members of "U. S. Zouave Cadets" drill team and requesting a commission in the Illinois State Militia for himself. Also, letters from the martyr's parents regarding the recovery of his horse, photographs of Ellsworth and his "avenger," Sergeant Francis Brownell, who killed his commander's assassin, and even Brownell's reward for his act, a commission as second lieutenant in the regular army signed by President Lincoln himself.
Stereo Plate of Francis Brownell, "Ellsworth's Avenger"
Following Ellsworth's death Americans, or rather northerners, eagerly collected any mourning regalia, or even personal relics they could acquire. Relics include scraps of covering from the floor he died on, and splinters from the flag pole that once flew the Confederate banner he died trying to tear down. The exhibit features sheet music, a newspaper broadside giving news of his funeral arrangements, and patriotically illustrated envelopes and jewelry.
If you cannot come to Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, you can view the exhibit at our Exhibit Display Page.
Like all items on display at Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, the Elmer Ellsworth collection is available for sale. For questions regarding acquisition, please contact proprietor Daniel Weinberg at (312) 944-3085.