The Colonel of the Zouaves
By Noah Brooks
Among those who accompanied Mr. Lincoln,
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
soon 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, wilh 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."