The Colonel Of The Zouaves
: MEMORIAL DAY
: Good Stories For Great Holidays
BY NOAH BROOKS (ADAPTED)
Among those who accompanied Mr. Lincoln, the President-elect, on his
journey from Illinois to the national capital, was Elmer E. Ellsworth,
a young man who had been employed in the law office of Lincoln and
He was a brave, handsome, and impetuous youth, and was among the first
to offer his services to the President in defense of the Union, as so
as the mutterings of war were heard.
Before the war he had organized a company of Zouaves from the Chicago
firemen, and had delighted and astonished many people by the exhibitions
of their skill in the evolutions through which they were put while
visiting some chief cities of the Republic.
Now, being commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Army,
he went to New York and organized from the firemen of that city a
similar regiment, known as the Eleventh New York.
Colonel Ellsworth's Zouaves, on the evening of May 23, were sent with
a considerable force to occupy the heights overlooking Washington and
Alexandria, on the banks of the Potomac, opposite the national capital.
Next day, seeing a Confederate flag flying from the Marshall House,
a tavern in Alexandria kept by a secessionist, he went up through the
building to the roof and pulled it down. While on his way down the
stairs, with the flag in his arms, he was met by the tavern-keeper, who
shot and killed him instantly. Ellsworth fell, dyeing the Confederate
flag with the blood that gushed from his heart. The tavern-keeper was
instantly killed by a shot from Private Brownell, of the Ellsworth
Zouaves, who was at hand when his commander fell.
The death of Ellsworth, needless though it may have been, caused a
profound sensation throughout the country, where he was well known. He
was among the very first martyrs of the war, as he had been one of the
Lincoln was overwhelmed with sorrow. He had the body of the lamented
young officer taken to the White House, where it lay in state until the
burial took place, and, even in the midst of his increasing cares, he
found time to sit alone and in grief-stricken meditation by the bier of
the dead young soldier of whose career he had cherished so great hopes.
The life-blood from Ellsworth's heart had stained not only the
Confederate flag, but a gold medal found under his uniform, bearing the
legend: "Non solum nobis, sed pro patria"; "Not for ourselves alone, but
for the country."