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    Col. Ellsworth letter written one week before his death

    Elmer Ellsworth Autograph Letter Signed "Ellsworth." 7.5" x 9.5", [Washington]; [May] 16, 1861. In an exceedingly rare war-date letter to his second-in-command, Lieutenant Colonel Noah L. Farnham, Ellsworth writes orders concerning his troops until he is able to return. Although no month is written, it is possible to date the letter to May 1861, due to the fact that Farnham enlisted on April 17, 1861 and was commissioned into the 11th New York Infantry's Field & Staff on May 10, 1861. It is also possible to place the letter in Washington, D.C. because Ellsworth mentions Willard's Hotel. It reads in full: "Have struck a lead. Am doing a good thing for the boys. Shall have to remain here until tomorrow 10 o'clock. Have the men pack knapsacks & fall in & commence drilling at precisely 9 o'clock. Drill by companies. Double the Guard. Allow no man to leave the ground. Have the Quartermaster meet me at Willards at precisely 8 o'clock. Keep things going until I return."

    Pinned to the letter is a 1" x 1" piece of beige fabric that purportedly was taken from the Confederate flag that Ellsworth removed from the Marshall House and which, subsequently, resulted in his death. Clippings from the flag became popular souvenirs for people around the country.

    Yankee troops first entered the Confederacy proper at Alexandria, Virginia on May 24, 1861 counting on an easy jaunt down to Richmond. The dashing Elmer Ellsworth and his New York Fire Zouaves of the 11th NY Volunteers were among the invading forces. Ellsworth, while removing a Confederate flag from the Marshall House, was shot dead by James Jackson, the proprietor. Jackson was in turn gunned down by Private Francis Brownell. The Northern public made Ellsworth a martyr, Jackson a villain and Brownell a hero. From the Bret J. Formichi American Civil War Rarities Collection.

    Condition: Flattened folds to the letter, with soiling, toning, and chipping at the edges. Some of ink from Ellsworth's signature and part of the text has been smudged. There are separations at some of the folds and edges where the paper was weakened. There is a small strip of tape at the top edge. A few additional strips of tape on verso, along with remnants of a news clipping that had been attached to the letter. The piece of fabric is frayed at the edges.

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