Discussion Death of Elmer Ellsworth

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W. Richardson

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Just reading the history of the incident leading to his death and it seemed so unnecessary. Why was such a well connected officer charged with the task of removing a flag ?

Ellsworth was not ordered to by anyone. He decided to steal property of another person, and unfortunately that decision costed him his life. It was all so unnecessary.

Respectfully,
William

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KianGaf

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Ellsworth was not ordered to by anyone. He decided to steal property of another person, and unfortunately that decision costed him his life. It was all so unnecessary.

Respectfully,
William

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I’d say it’s safe to assume he did it to impress the president.
 

JohnJW

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Just reading the history of the incident leading to his death and it seemed so unnecessary. Why was such a well connected officer charged with the task of removing a flag ?
I can't speak to the motivations other than to suspect that the boy was too big for his britches.

I also can't speak for Jimmy Jackson's motivations. That's the guy who blew him away.

However . . . I can say that if you're fool enough to go on someone's porch in my neighborhood and rip down their rebel flag, you'll still get a load of buckshot in the chest.

Not much has changed when it comes to Southerners and their property . . . .
 
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7thWisconsin

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Everyone thought the wr was still going to be short, glorious and largely bloodless when US troops marched into Alexandria. Ellsworth was acting out of the grand tradition of glorious acts of war. As Thomas Grey observed "the paths of glory lead but to the grave." Ellsworth wasn't a professional soldier; he was thinking of war as a great showy adventure.
 

KianGaf

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Everyone thought the wr was still going to be short, glorious and largely bloodless when US troops marched into Alexandria. Ellsworth was acting out of the grand tradition of glorious acts of war. As Thomas Grey observed "the paths of glory lead but to the grave." Ellsworth wasn't a professional soldier; he was thinking of war as a great showy adventure.
It's amazing that up to WW1 people still thought of war in that way.
 
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Ellsworth was not ordered to by anyone. He decided to steal property of another person, and unfortunately that decision costed him his life. It was all so unnecessary.

Respectfully,
William

One Nation
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View attachment 315233

"Montgomery Blair urged an immediate attack on the Confederates, but General Scott and Montgomery Meigs argued against a precipitate offensive because the troops were woefully ill-prepared. Lincoln accepted their advice, though he did authorize a mission to secure Alexandria. When one of Lincoln’s favorite surrogate sons, Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth, asked to serve in the vanguard of that expedition, the president 'replied that the first movement on Southern soil was one of great delicacy. Much depended thereon. He desired to avoid all violence. The people of Virginia were not in a mass disloyal and he wanted nothing to occur that might incense them against the government, but rather wished to so conduct the movement that it would win them over.' On May 24, federal troops crossed the Potomac and occupied Alexandria without opposition, though Ellsworth took umbrage at the Confederate flag flying atop a hotel. (Visible from the White House, that flag had been an irritant to Lincoln and his cabinet. Two weeks earlier Chase said 'very emphatically' that 'if I had my way yesterday that Flag wouldn’t be there this morning.') Impetuously the young officer dashed into the offending hostelry, clambered up the stairs to the roof, and hauled down the secessionist ensign. As he descended, Ellsworth encountered the hotel proprietor, who shot him dead. News of his murder shocked Northerners and devastated Lincoln, who 'mourned him as a son.' Upon learning of Ellsworth’s death, the president burst into tears, telling some White House callers: 'Excuse me, but I cannot talk.' After regaining his composure, he said: 'I will make no apology, gentlemen, for my weakness; but I knew poor Ellsworth well, and held him in great regard. Just as you entered the room, Captain Fox left me, after giving me the painful details of Ellsworth’s unfortunate death. The event was so unexpected, and the recital so touching, that it quite unmanned me. . . . Poor fellow! It was undoubtedly an act of rashness, but it only shows the heroic spirit that animates our soldiers, from high to low, in this righteous cause of ours.'"
Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Volume 2, pg. 177, Michael Burlingame
 
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Lubliner

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Even at that point in May, there was an ongoing stand-off between the southerners and the northerners. I believe an underlying theme had been set that the first one to cross the line would fall. Both did.
Lubliner.
 

JohnJW

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Poor fellow! It was undoubtedly an act of rashness, but it only shows the heroic spirit that animates our soldiers, from high to low, in this righteous cause of ours.'"
I suspect that a lot of self-important Northerners had the air let out of their tires when they released that Southern men could fight, would fight and would fight well.
 
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W. Richardson

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"Montgomery Blair urged an immediate attack on the Confederates, but General Scott and Montgomery Meigs argued against a precipitate offensive because the troops were woefully ill-prepared. Lincoln accepted their advice, though he did authorize a mission to secure Alexandria. When one of Lincoln’s favorite surrogate sons, Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth, asked to serve in the vanguard of that expedition, the president 'replied that the first movement on Southern soil was one of great delicacy. Much depended thereon. He desired to avoid all violence. The people of Virginia were not in a mass disloyal and he wanted nothing to occur that might incense them against the government, but rather wished to so conduct the movement that it would win them over.' On May 24, federal troops crossed the Potomac and occupied Alexandria without opposition, though Ellsworth took umbrage at the Confederate flag flying atop a hotel. (Visible from the White House, that flag had been an irritant to Lincoln and his cabinet. Two weeks earlier Chase said 'very emphatically' that 'if I had my way yesterday that Flag wouldn’t be there this morning.') Impetuously the young officer dashed into the offending hostelry, clambered up the stairs to the roof, and hauled down the secessionist ensign. As he descended, Ellsworth encountered the hotel proprietor, who shot him dead. News of his murder shocked Northerners and devastated Lincoln, who 'mourned him as a son.' Upon learning of Ellsworth’s death, the president burst into tears, telling some White House callers: 'Excuse me, but I cannot talk.' After regaining his composure, he said: 'I will make no apology, gentlemen, for my weakness; but I knew poor Ellsworth well, and held him in great regard. Just as you entered the room, Captain Fox left me, after giving me the painful details of Ellsworth’s unfortunate death. The event was so unexpected, and the recital so touching, that it quite unmanned me. . . . Poor fellow! It was undoubtedly an act of rashness, but it only shows the heroic spirit that animates our soldiers, from high to low, in this righteous cause of ours.'"
Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Volume 2, pg. 177, Michael Burlingame

"When one of Lincoln’s favorite surrogate sons, Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth, asked to serve in the vanguard of that expedition, the president 'replied that the first movement on Southern soil was one of great delicacy. Much depended thereon. He desired to avoid all violence. The people of Virginia were not in a mass disloyal and he wanted nothing to occur that might incense them against the government, but rather wished to so conduct the movement that it would win them over.' On May 24, federal troops crossed the Potomac and occupied Alexandria without opposition, though Ellsworth took umbrage at the Confederate flag flying atop a hotel. (Visible from the White House, that flag had been an irritant to Lincoln and his cabinet. Two weeks earlier Chase said 'very emphatically' that 'if I had my way yesterday that Flag wouldn’t be there this morning.') Impetuously the young officer dashed into the offending hostelry, clambered up the stairs to the roof, and hauled down the secessionist ensign."


As I had earlier stated, Ellsworth was not ordered to take the flag. He took it upon himself to steal private property, and gave his life in doing so. Stealing the flag was not going to "win them over" Ellsworth became a martyr to the North and Jackson became a hero to the South. Ellsworth was destined to die in this conflict, as he was heroic, he also acted with rashness.

Thanks for sharing !!

Respectfully,
William

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privateflemming

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Ellsworth's killer was a bad guy, a murderer. There's no defending the extreme he went to. How hard would it have been to sue for trespass and robbery and have another flag made up. Is there no moral compass whatsoever by which a Confederate apologist will be bound?
Well... obviously if this guy "sued" to have his rebel flag restored he knew it wouldn't be and he would have been completely right. I think he was wrong for killing him because I oppose the Confederacy but doing what you suggest would have just made him an idiot. It was a war and plenty of people got killed.

In answer to OP's question, I think Ellsworth just made the mistake of not realizing how fanatical and ready to fight and die his opponents were. He was killed before there had been any significant fighting or battles and probably never would have dreamed the scale of what was to come in the next few years.
 

7thWisconsin

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Amid all this front-porch, stand-your-ground, home-invasion language (which is not appropriate to the time period), we've lost something: in the rash actions of 3 men, 2 lost their lives. One a celebrity, the other a prominent businessman in his community. There was a war on now, and virtually no one understood how devastating it was going to be. Their deaths, which were militarily insignificant, were part of that learning process. When I used to say "I think..." my grandma would interrupt with "Thoughts once killed a man." In this case 2.
 

byron ed

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Well... obviously if this guy "sued" to have his rebel flag restored he knew it wouldn't be...I think he was wrong for killing him...but doing what you suggest would have just made him an idiot...
Yes, for Jackson to have sued for his lost flag would have been mostly symbolism, but to note there were fellow Southerners yet suing for property (stolen slaves) and winning at that point (U.S. courts were yet finding for Southern claimants as private citizens, as the Confederacy was not legally recognized, as we recall). So Jackson at a minimum would have had the legal upper hand (as it could be established that the flag was taken without orders), but more to the point Jackson would have remained alive to continue to promote his cause. And after all he could have just made another flag and put it up within a few days, he was a man of means not much of a burden for him there. So instead of those win-win-wins he chose instead the actual idiot's choice.

...I think Ellsworth just made the mistake of not realizing how fanatical and ready to fight and die his opponents were. He was killed before there had been any significant fighting or battles and probably never would have dreamed the scale of what was to come...
Yes, right on. And that applied to Jackson as well. Neither man planned to be a martyr by sundown. It was the emotional equivalent of Road Rage that did them in. Except you will notice how in this old case the spastic behavior of both men has been glorified to serve the agendas of self-righteous heritage Unionists and self-righteous heritage Confederates (omg read that plaque again!).

Neither man should be glorified for their rash behavior, shame on us.
 
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matthew mckeon

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There is a good description of the incident in Adam Goodheart's 1861. Unsurprisingly it doesn't quite fit in the good guy/bad guy narratives trotted out here.
 

JohnJW

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Well... obviously if this guy "sued" to have his rebel flag restored he knew it wouldn't be and he would have been completely right.
You know . . . I'm not sure that a jury of his peers wouldn't have found that Jackson was right and Ellsworth wrong.

Supposedly, a coroner's jury concluded exactly that.

I'm still trying to find it online, but no luck. It would probably take a trip to the Library Of Congress or National Archives to find it.
 

privateflemming

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Yes, for Jackson to have sued for his lost flag would have been mostly symbolism, but to note there were fellow Southerners yet suing for property (stolen slaves) and winning at that point (U.S. courts were yet finding for Southern claimants as private citizens, as the Confederacy was not legally recognized, as we recall). So Jackson at a minimum would have had the legal upper hand (as it could be established that the flag was taken without orders), but more to the point Jackson would have remained alive to continue to promote his cause. And after all he could have just made another flag and put it up within a few days, he was a man of means not much of a burden for him there. So instead of those win-win-wins he chose instead the actual idiot's choice.

Yes, right on. And that applied to Jackson as well. Neither man planned to be a martyr by sundown. It was the emotional equivalent of Road Rage that did them in. Except you will notice how in this old case the spastic behavior of both men has been glorified to serve the agendas of self-righteous heritage Unionists and self-righteous heritage Confederates (omg read that plaque again!).

Neither man should be glorified for their rash behavior, shame on us.
But raising a rebel flag in defiance of the US government in a state that has declared secession and supported active rebellion against the US government, is obviously a lot different than demanding one's property (slaves) back in a court. There was no chance in hell James W. Jackson was going to be able to sue the US government and be given the right to put his flag back up and he knew that. I don't know how you possibly can't see that. It also clearly wasn't about the monetary value of flag but the symbolism. Ellsworth removing a rebel flag would have been a victory for the Union and a humiliation for the Confederate cause. Jackson suing the US government afterward and getting laughed at wouldn't be a "win" from his perspective either.

I don't know what Jackson was thinking and no one does because he's dead but he must have known he was likely going to die that day, since Ellsworth entered the inn with seven soldiers and had more waiting. He couldn't have defeated all of them singlehandedly. I don't see Ellsworth being overly glorified but although I disagree with neo-Confederates I can see why they like Jackson if they like the Confederate cause. If the Confederacy was really a good and noble cause then I would sympathize with Jackson too.
 
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W. Richardson

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...in every instance there a case of personal grave danger, unlike Mr. Jackson who was under no threat of personal harm whatsoever. Is this so hard to figure out?

It is about as hard to figure out as is your claim. Perhaps Mr. Jackson felt threaten by armed men running into his place of business, and probably where he also may have lived, physically and illegally took possession of his property. Those armed individuals then came back down to where Mr. Jackson was at, and attempted to leave with his property. He then shot the thieving criminal to death. The other criminals then murdered Mr. Jackson for defending his place of business and himself...................

I will ask you once again, did any UNION soldiers killed any Confederate soldier over an attempt to take control of the UNION men's flag? A mere flag.................

Respectfully,
William

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James N.

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I believe that it was probably an ego thing and besides, what could possibly go wrong?
He was a clerk in Lincoln's Law Office and they became friends.
One aspect of Ellsworth's personality that has so far gone unmentioned was his appetite for fame and notoriety. Prior to the war he was best- (and extremely very well-) known as the originator of the popular military drill team known as Ellsworth's Chicago Zouave Cadets. With his group Ellsworth toured the States and was largely responsible for the Zouave craze that swept the nation when the war began. He also had something of the stereotypical Napoleonic Complex, being himself a rather short little popinjay. It wasn't until his death that his newfound martyrdom replaced the popular image of commander of the Zouave Cadets. I have little doubt that Ellsworth was only continuing his self-aggrandizing campaign and that it didn't work out so well for him this time!
 
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