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Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth met Lincoln after he was advised by his prospective father-in-law to seek a career in the law and found a position as clerk in Lincoln & Herndon's Springfield law office. Although the charismatic Ellsworth’s ambitions in the law did not last long, he and Lincoln became fast friends and he was well known to all of Lincoln’s intimates, including Hay. When Lincoln ran for president, Ellsworth was among his staunchest supporters.

After the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861, Ellsworth, long a proponent of the Zouave military drill technique, recruited volunteers from New York City firehouses to form a Union regiment of Zouaves. The First New York Fire Zouaves (officially known as the 11th New York Infantry, and informally as "Ellsworth's Zouaves") were mustered within ten days and quickly shipped out to Washington to join the Union forces. In the assault on Alexandria, Virginia, Ellsworth was fatally shot by a local innkeeper after removing a Confederate flag from the roof of the inn.

Ellsworth’s death was both tragic and heroic; as a friend and admirer of his ardent patriotism to the Union cause, Hay took it upon himself to organize a memorial in Ellsworth’s honor, of which this piece in the Atlantic was the result. Ellsworth was also posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

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“E. E. Ellsworth,” steel engraving by John Chester Buttre, New York, circa 1861
(after a photograph by Mathew Brady).

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John Hay, “Ellsworth,” Atlantic Monthly (July 1861). Gift of W. Easton Louttit, Jr., Class of 1925.

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