Thursday, June 30, 2011

SC6's Civil War Diary: Elmer Ellsworth's Empty Chair



        As we continue our diary of the Civil War on the 150th anniversary of the events as they occured, we'll admit..... Right now is not a very exciting time, as far as major events go.  The late Spring and early Summer months were ones mainly of gathering troops and training the green soldiers for battle.  Most people were still seeing the fight as a short period of time.  Many feared that they would 'miss out' on all the fun.



    There was a certain crazy amount of romance in the very beginning.  In our opinion, there were many acts of stupidity, disguised as bravery and love of country. Very often, people lose their common sense at times like those.  A perfect example is that of Elmer Ellsworth....



    Ellsworth was a close personal friend and associate of Abraham Lincoln's, having worked with him back in Springfield, Illinois.   Despite a War Department appointment, Ellsworth declined it, and became a Lieutenant in the New York Zouaves, mainly as a firefighter....



    As the story goes, Ellsworth was at the White House, when Lincoln was looking out the window across the Potomac River into Virginia.  In the neighboring town of Alexandria (Southern Territory, mind you), Lincoln noted a Rebel flag displayed on the roof of the Marshall House Inn. Surely the irony of the US Capital being literally within eyesight of the enemy must have hit Lincoln.  Well, his eyes and words had much more of an ironic effect on Ellsworth.



    Ellsworth dispatched his 11th New York infantry across the river, where they went to the Inn unmolested. First they seized a railroad station, then a telegraph office.  Next, he went to Marshall House Inn, and with three other soldiers, he tore the Rebel Flag down, with the intention of giving it to Lincoln.  Waiting at the bottom of the stairs was James W. Jackson, the owner of the Inn.  Jackson shot Ellsworth with a shotgun blast to the chest, and Jackson was immediately killed by one of Ellsworth's corporals.  The first casualties of the Civil War had just occured...



    In an odd way, Ellsworth got the glory he had wished for.  Lincoln had his body lie in state in the East Room of the White House, and then to City Hall in New York for similar honors, before being buried Upstate.  No doubt Lincoln was regretful for making the comment that led to Ellsworth's foolish charge, or probably for even looking out the window at that moment.  Funny things happen in war - even funnier when it's grossly misunderstood as being romantic....

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5 comments:

Bobby said...

not sure this is a related story...but found out yesterday that our church is built on the property that used to be General Moultrie's property.

mg said...

He should had taken more men with him.

Mike Reino said...

Or stayed at home, Moye. Good to hear from you, and sorry for the absence...

Anonymous said...

Mike--General Wm.T.Sherman is often quoted as saying that "...it is a good thing that war is so horrible or else we may grow to fond of it...". The Civil War is filled with many great examples from both sides of braveory and heroism; of stupidity and butchery.

But 150 years later, what has emerged and grown from those bloody dark days, is truly a United States of America.

Mike Reino said...

I'll answer that with a quote from Shelby Foote... "Before the war, it was often was said The United States are. Afterwards, it was said The United States is. The War made us an IS."