Elmer Ellsworth: From Man to Martyr

Page updated on Jul 7, 2011 at 8:51 PM

Fort Ward’s exhibition focuses on the death of Col. Elmer Ellsworth, who was killed during the May 1861 Union occupation of Alexandria, and documents the resulting public outcry that sparked a patriotic fervor and turned him into a hero for the North. From Man to Martyr features items associated with Ellsworth, who, by age 24, had popularized the Zouave movement in the United States and befriended President Abraham Lincoln. Visitors to the exhibition will see a kepi belonging to Ellsworth, newspaper accounts and illustrations of the incident at the Marshall House, locks of his hair accompanied by sentimental verse, a commemorative pitcher and other objects, including the “O” from the Marshall House sign.

Ellsworth’s kepi, covered with gold braid and other ornamentation, is a good example of a Union officer’s cap. Conservation funding for this object was provided by the Friends of Fort Ward.

Colonel Ellsworth's kepi

This glazed graniteware pitcher is believed to be one of the earliest pieces of American pottery made to commemorate a specific historical event.

Ellsworth commemorative pitcher