Friday, May 27, 2011

1861: Revenge For Elmer Ellsworth

When Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth, commanding officer of the 11th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment ("Ellsworth's New York City Fire Zouaves"), was killed by innkeeper James Jackson on May 24, 1861 after hauling down a large Confederate flag at the Marshall House in Alexandria, VA, the killing of Jackson was only the beginning of the revenge for Ellsworth.  Union troops ransacked the Marshall House and stole most, if not all, of the hotel's furniture.

In Phillipsburg, on May 25, The Ellsworth Company of mounted riflemen, also known as The Ellsworth Guards, was created for the Warren County militia.  The ladies of Phillipsburg made a silk flag for the Ellsworth Guards. 

The 44th New York Volunteer Infantry was soon called Ellsworth's Avengers or People's Ellsworth Regiment.  Zouaves in the 44th added brass letters "P E R" to their caps. 

When Col. Ellsworth was killed, Lieutenant William Mathews, stepson of Belvidere Intelligencer publisher Franklin Pierce Sellers, was present in Company K of the Zouaves.  Two more Belvidere men were later present   for a subsequent incident involving Jackson's mother.  On October 12, 1861, the 4th Pennsylvania Veteran Reserve Regiment  was in the area of Prospect Hill, VA.  In that regiment were Corporal Thomas A. H. Knox and his life-long friend Corporal Andrew A. Neal.

The Easton Daily Express reprinted a Philadelphia newspaper report on the incident.  The report stated, "The farm and homestead of Mrs. Jackson,  mother of the assassin of the brave Col. Ellsworth, is two miles beyond our pickets, within rebel lines and three miles from Prospect Hill.  On last Saturday morning [October 12], Capt. George B. Keller, of Monroe County, PA, of the Fourth Regiment of the Pennsylvania Reserve, crossed the bridge, beyond where the turnpike had been closed with large trees, and beyond any of our cavalry pickets.  It was he, one of the most gallant in the army, who thwarted the movements of this troublesome She-Rebel.  At first, she talked loudly of secession, and said the rebels could never be whipped, and boasted that her son, who shot Ellsworth, was buried on her premises.  Before sunrise next morning, Gen. McCall sent a body of cavalry and infantry to arrest Mrs. Jackson and her mother.  Passing through our lines, she exclaimed, 'My God! I never saw so many soldiers in all my life!'  Captain Keller commands one of the best companies in the service, and is one of the bravest officers."  

Copyright 1997-2011: Jay C. Richards

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