Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth, of the Fire Zouaves.

Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth, of the Fire Zouaves.

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This 1861 print contains two full length posthumous portraits of Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth, one in regular uniform and the other in the outfit of the Fire Zouaves. Originally born New York in 1837, Ellsworth later moved to Illinois, where he found employment in Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield law office in 1860. He assisted Lincoln in his 1860 presidential campaign, accompanying the president-elect to Washington in 1861. Before the war, Ellsworth returned to his native New York City to raise the 11th New York Volunteer Infantry Regimen. A student of military history and science, Ellsworth was fascinated by the Zouaves, France’s colonial soldiers in Algeria. He emulated the drills and methods of this group when training his regiment and even based the design of his men’s uniforms on those of the Zouaves. Since many of the regiment’s enlistees came from New York’s volunteer fire departments, the unit earned the nickname, the “Fire Zouaves.”
On May 24th, 1861, the day after Virginia secession, Ellsworth entered Alexandria with soldiers from the 11th New York to aid in the city’s occupation, He was determined to remove a large rebel flag that had flown above one of the city’s inns for weeks and had even been visible through a spyglass from the White House. After removing the flag, he was shot by the inn’s pro-slavery owner, and became the first Union officer to be killed during the Civil War. Below his portrait, this print also contains a facsimile signature of the Colonel and the last letter he wrote before he was killed. In death, Ellsworth became a martyr for the Union cause and he was celebrated in printed illustrations, poems, and ballads. His legacy remained an inspiration for young Northern soldiers throughout the war, and “Remember Ellsworth!” quickly became a favorite rallying cry.
John L. Magee was born in New York around 1820 and was employed by the lithographic firms of James Baillie and Nathaniel Currier. He started his own business in New York City in 1850, but moved to Philadelphia sometime shortly after 1852. He was known mainly for his political cartoons, which he produced until the 1860s.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
Ellsworth, Elmer E.
Magee, John L.
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Physical Description
ink (overall material)
paper (overall material)
image: 12 1/2 in x 10 in; 31.75 cm x 25.4 cm
ID Number
catalog number
Credit Line
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
Civil War
Chronology: 1860-1869
Uniforms, Military
Fraternal Associations
Civil War
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Domestic Life
Domestic Furnishings
American Civil War Prints
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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