Then your ancestor was named for Elmer Ellsworth,
the first Union officer killed in the Civil War.
At the age of 24, Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth died in battle, the first Union soldier killed in the Civil War. Ellsworth was murdered by a civilian Confederate innkeeper in Alexandria, Virginia. He died on May 24, 1861, the day after Virginia seceded from the Union. At the time, Ellsworth commanded the 11th New York Volunteers, also known as the First Fire Zouaves.
Born and raised in upstate New York, Elmer moved to Rockford, Illinois, in 1854. He worked there for a patent agency. In 1860, he moved, with his wife Carrie Spafford, to Springfield, Illinois, where he read law in Abraham Lincoln’s office. In 1860, he campaigned for Lincoln. Once Lincoln was elected, Ellsworth followed him to Washington, D.C.
The Loss of Ellsworth
Smithsonian Magazine’s article, The Death of Col. Ellsworth by Owen Edwards:
A student of military history and tactics, Ellsworth admired the Zouaves, Algerian troops fighting with the French Army in North Africa, and had employed their training methods with his cadets. He even designed a uniform with baggy trousers in the Zouave style.
On May 24, 1861, the day after Virginia voters ratified the state convention’s decision to secede from the Union, Ellsworth and his Zouave troops entered Alexandria, Virginia, to assist in the occupation of the city. As it happened, an 8- by 14-foot Confederate flag—large enough to be seen by spyglass from the White House—had been visible in Alexandria for weeks, flown from the roof of an inn, the Marshall House.
The regiment, organized only six weeks earlier, encountered no resistance as it moved through the city. National Portrait Gallery historian James Barber notes that “the Zouaves were an unruly bunch, spoiling for a fight, and when they got into Alexandria they may have felt they were already in the thick of it. So Ellsworth may have wanted to get that flag down quickly to prevent trouble.”
At the Marshall House, Barber adds, “Colonel Ellsworth just happened to meet the one person he didn’t want to meet”—innkeeper James Jackson, a zealous defender of slavery (and, says Barber, a notorious slave abuser) with a penchant for violence.
Ellsworth approached the inn with only four troopers. Finding no resistance, he took down the flag. But as he descended to the main floor, Jackson fired on Ellsworth at point-blank range with a shotgun, killing him instantly. Click on the folllowing link for an online exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery about Elmer Ellsworth.
Ellsworth, Friend of the Lincoln Family
Mary Todd Lincoln’s cousin, Elizabeth Grimsley, wrote to her family that Ellsworth “was a great pet in the family and Mr. Lincoln feels it very much.” Lincoln was quoted as saying, “Excuse me but I cannot talk. I will make no apology, gentlemen, for my weakness but I knew Ellsworth well, and held him in great regard.”
He has been assassinated! His murder was fearfully and speedily revenged. He has lived a brief but an eventful, a public and an honorable life. His memory will be revered, his name respected, and long after the rebellion shall have become a matter of history, his death will be regarded as a martyrdom, and his name will be enrolled upon the list of our country’s patriots.
Ellsworth’s funeral service was held in East Room of the White House. Sheet music, poems, engravings, marches, and other tributes followed.
So that’s why you have an Elmer Ellsworth in your family tree
In my tree, it’s Elmer Ellsworth Neff, b. 7 Jul 1861, in Kendall County, Illinois.
Do you have an Elmer Ellsworth too?
Is Elmer Ellsworth related to the explorer Lincoln Ellsworth????
I don’t know the answer, but I’m sure it can be discovered.
My great grandfather was Joseph Alfred Ellsworth from upstate New York. He married Nancy green and moved to lanark county Ontario in about 1850 during war times. Maybe a relative
Hi Susan, there are a lot of trees online with the original Elmer Ellsworth’s info. I hope you turn out to be related.
My father was named Elmer Ellsworth Lasher, his grandfather was also Elmer Ellsworth Lasher. The family is from upstate NY and I’ve been told they were named after their uncle Elmer Efhaim Ellsworth a friend of Abraham Lincoln. I would love to find the actual link. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you!
There are several genealogists who have responded and are working on Elmer Ellsworth. I’ll send you that info directly to your email.
My sister in law is a descendant of Elmer Ellsworth.
Hi Nancy- My grandmother was an Ellsworth from the Ulster County NY branch that moved to Illinois in the 1870’s.. Family lore has it that Elmer Ellsworth was a cousin and I am seeking a genealogical connection. If you could help, I would appreciate it.
I have responded to you via email Leslie, with some ideas.
My Grandfather was Elmer Ellsworth Hoyt born in Henry, IL in 1870. His family came from Upstate NY.Could there be a connection?
It would seem clear that you have an ancestor who was named after Elmer Ellsworth. However, I haven’t researched Elmer Ellsworth’s tree, but I know others online have if you are seeking a genealogical connection.
NANCY: I am a cousin of Col. Elmer E Ellsworth of Mechanicville…In 2011, there was a mock funeral for him in memoriam athis gravesite there…I met various cousins. I have all the genealogy charts. PLEASE let me how to contact Mr. Roberson…(DeWayne) !!!
Patty, I will give him your email address. Thank you for being generous with your research.
I recently discovered that the actual Col. Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth is in my family tree. While I am not an expert in genealogy, I believe he was a distant cousin. I have a lot of genealogical documents that show the family tree, but not in an easy-to-read graphic document, and not all in one lengthy breakdown.
I am the Associate Bandmaster of a Civil-War-era brass band in Wisconsin and I am in the process of arranging music originally written in his honor or in memoriam. I am also writing a script that will go together with the music to tell the Ellsworth story. I am very excited about the project and, hopefully, it’s first performance.
I would like to confirm my exact relationship to the Colonel. Can you offer any help?
I’ll respond to you directly. DeWayne.
My Great Grandfather was born in 1861 in Somerset, Massachusetts. He was named Elmer Ellsworth Sherman. A family member told me that his wife said he was named after Elmer Ephrain Ellsworth. The name Ellsworth was passed down to his daughter as well. Our Elmer died at only 44 years old on March 28, 1906 from Meningitis. His daughter was not born until August 18th of that year and she was the one that got the name Ellsworth for her middle name.
This is wonderful, Cheryl. I love hearing about new (old) Elmer Ellsworths. Was your great-grandfather born before Elmer Ellsworth was killed in the war?
My husband’s grandfather was Elmer Ellsworth Baker (1864-1940). He homesteaded in Wyoming & his two sons were physicians. His father, Chambers Baker was in the Civil War. We understand that there is a recent Smithsonian exhibit about Elmer Ellsworth.
Another Elmer Ellsworth heard from – this is great. And thanks for the tip about the Smithsonian. Here’s the article: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-col-ellsworths-death-shocked-the-union-1277063/
My great-grandfather was Elmer Everett Ellsworth. He died in 1932. He worked at the A.M. Leach Planing Mill in Honcut CA. His son, was a US Congressman from Oregon, Matthew Harris Ellsworth 1900-1986.
Thanks for contributing, Margi. I’m so glad to hear of another Elmer Ellsworth.
A reader writes: My great grandfather was Elmer Ellsworth Billings. He was born in 1868 in Union Kansas. His father was Charles Billings who enlisted in the Iowa Infantry Company K. He eventually became a corporal. I always wondered where the name Elmer Ellsworth came from as there was nobody named that before him. The name Elmer continued in my family as my grandpa was Dewey Elmer (named after Admiral Dewey who was a distant relative) and my uncle was named David Elmer Billings. Thanks for solving this mystery.
Elmer Ellsworth Gilbert born 1864 father union soldier who died in Washington DC of typhus 1863 pioneer of Kirkland Washington d. 1935
Wonderful, Sharon. I love seeing examples like this.