The Death of Ellsworth

One of the most famous people in America at the onset of the Civil War was Elmer Ellsworth. After growing up in New York, he moved to Illinois to start a career and family, including clerking for a time in Abraham Lincoln’s law office. Ellsworth was also a militia drill sergeant and brought the French Zouave style of military dress and drill to America, eventually touring with his men to great acclaim.

When the Civil War broke out, Ellsworth enlisted and formed a Zouave regiment. This placed him in Washington in May 1861, where he observed a secessionist flag flying over an inn in Alexandria, Virginia. Ellsworth went to remove the flag, but was murdered by the secessionist owner, James W. Jackson. One of Ellsworth’s men, Francis E. Brownell, shot and killed Jackson, for which he received the Medal of Honor. In this letter, Brownell sends a piece of Jackson’s flag to Lincoln Tomb Curator John Carroll Power.

SC194 May 24, 1878, Brownell letter with Ellsworth flag

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Letter Transcription

Francis E. Brownell to John C. [], 24 May 1878

St Louis Mo. May 24th 1878

Mr. John C. [?]

Springfield Illinois,

Dear Sir—

In accordance with promise, I inclose three small pieces of the Flag captured at Alexandria, Va. by Col E. E. Ellsworth May 24th 1861.  You will observe that this is the 17th anniversary of that tragic event, on that fatal day it was my painful task to relate to Mr Lincoln at the Navy Yard while standing by the body of his young and loved friend the circumstances connected with his death.

I am

Very Respy Yours

Frank. E. Brownell

U.S. Army

Letter Audio

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