Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Will Colonel Ellsworth Please Raise His Hand?

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on August 15, 2019

One of the earliest heroes in the North during the Civil War was Elmer Ellsworth, a Zouave officer from Illinois. Before the war he had led traveling drill team, the “Zouave Cadets of Chicago,” and was a friend of Abraham Lincoln. Ellsworth was killed in May 1861 seizing a Confederate flag flying from an inn in Alexandria, Virginia. Ellsworth’s death, coming before most combat and bloodshed had started in earnest, shocked many in the North. Lincoln had his friend’s remains brought to the White House, where they lay in state in the East Room. Ellsworth was later buried in Mechanicsville, New York. “Remember Ellsworth!” became a rallying cry, and one regiment, the 44th New York Infantry, styled itself as “Ellsworth’s Avengers.”

Recently Civil War Talk user Chubachus posted an image from the J. Paul Getty Museum, a stereoview showing a group of soldiers aboard the famous British steamer Great Eastern, that first visited New York in 1860. Another user commented that the uniforms looked similar to Ellsworth’s old unit, the Zouave Cadets of Chicago. Well, sure enough, we know through newspaper accounts that the Zouave Cadets (and Ellsworth) were in New York at the time of Great Eastern’s visit, and at least some of them visited the ship in July 1860 (New York Commercial Advertiser, 16 July 1860, p. 1).

We also know that some of the Zouave Cadets were on board Great Eastern several day later when she made an excursion trip from Manhattan to Cape May, because (New York Evening Post, 1 August 1860, p.3)

So back to Chubachus’s photo – are any of these men on Great Eastern’s deck the famous Elmer Ellsworth?

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