The Colonel Of The Zouaves

: Good Stories For Great Holidays


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

Herndon, Springfield.

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

first volunteers.

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."