Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Saturday May 25

William is about home today which has been seldom the case lately.  Lucy is quite sick.  
Did not get our Cincinnati Gazette today, but received dispatches which state that Alexandria was taken by federal (i.e. government) troops, but with the loss of Col. Elsworth of the New York Zouave regiment, -- a gallant young officer, who is much lamented.  He was I believe, an Illinoisian, had visited the Crimea and on his return taught a company in Chicago the Zouave drill, then went to New York city where he enlisted the fire-companies for the same service.  The pranks of Elsworth's Zouaves in and about Washington have supplied many newspapers items.  They saved Willard Hotel from being destroyed by fire.  At  Alexandria it was Col. Elsworth who took down the secession flag and run up the Stars and Stripes.  Soon after he was fired upon and killed by a concealed foe, who is reported to have been discovered and immediately put to death.  The Zouaves threaten to take a terrible revenge.  Twelve thousand troops have been sent into Virginia.  The war has begun.  God give success to our armed hosts.  A company of troops from Clarksburg, Va., went up to Wheeling today to get their arms to fight for the Union.

Editor's Comments:
There were several regiments which were "Zouave" units, i.e., styled after North African units that were fighting for the French in the 1830s.  The uniforms were distinctive:  baggy pants, a vest and short jacket, and a fez.

Julia refers to Col. Elsworth (correct spelling is Colonel Elmer Ellsworth) who formed a Zouave unit and toured with it in 1860, challenging other military units to drill competitions.

Cover on Harper's Weekly, May 26, 1861
Ellsworth and his unit of fire-fighting Zouaves did indeed extinguish a fire in Washington.  Ellsworth had recruited a regiment of New York fire fighters and the recruits made their way to Washington.  On May 9, 1861, fire broke out at the Willard Hotel.  The fire-fighting Zouaves helped save the building.

Elmer Ellsworth
Two weeks later news of Virginia's secession spurred Ellsworth to march his troops to Alexandria.  He found an inn above which waved a Confederate flag.  He was determined to take down the flag and did so himself.   Coming down the staircase of the inn, Ellsworth  was shot by the owner of the inn, who was immediately shot by one of the men in Ellsworth's unit.  Col. Ellsworth was the first Union officer to die in the Civil War.

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