ELLSWORTH, Elmer Ephraim (1837-1861). Autograph letter signed ("Ellsworth") to Captain James Henry Coates (1829-1902). Buffalo, NY: 17 Feb. 1861.

3 pages, 8vo, 5 1/4 x 8 3/8 in., with cover, toned, old creases, a few stains. Provenance: James Henry Coates, to his son Eugene Coates (accompanying typed note dated 1907). 

While in Buffalo, NY as he accompanied Abraham Lincoln's railway entourage from Springfield, IL to Washington D.C. for his first inauguration, Ellsworth writes passionately to his friend James Henry Coates regarding the apparent dissent among members of the United States Zouave Cadets regiment, "I also saw the Tribune & Journal with call for meeting composed of those who were expelled. Who never amounted to anything, and were dropped from the vol. and those who did go east and are liable to expulsion for their conduct. And all who failed to get office in the regiment and strange to say, three good men." In a particularly gripping and prescient statement regarding the situation, Ellsworth writes: "I for one will never consent to see those flags disgraced and I authorize you herewith to obtain & keep them."

He closes his letter contemplating his standing: "My friends will not lose by standing by me. My enemies may go their way, until they attempt to ruin my character, then I'll try & punish them. I hold the power to do it. If a company does organize and assume that name & try to cast reflections upon me. I'll organize another company & take that championship. They ought to know by this time that this is not an idle bost but just what I can & will do."

Shortly thereafter, Coates would enlist on 30 June 1861 with the 11th Illinois Infantry, commissioned as a captain on the same day into Company H. He saw action at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Riggins Hill, and throughout the Vicksburg campaign. He was promoted several times, ultimately to colonel on 22 May 1863 before the Battle of Vicksburg and to brigadier-general by brevet on 13 March 1865. The United States Zouave Cadets would disband with the majority of its veterans joining separate zouave companies, most of which were integrated into the 19th Illinois Infantry which fought in the Battles of Stones River, Chickamauga, and the Atlanta Campaign. 

Ellsworth, despite the drama related in this letter, did not join the 19th Illinois but raised the 11th New York. Comprised predominately of volunteer firefighters, the regiment was known as the Fire Zouaves. it was this unit that Ellsworth led into Alexandria, Virginia the day after that state's secession on 24 May 1861. They met little resistance, but Ellsworth spotted a secessionist flag on an inn and went to take it down. Having retrieved the flag, he was shot point-blank by the irate innkeeper, killing Ellsworth instantly. He became the first conspicuous death of the Union and a martyr for the cause. Lincoln described him as “the greatest little man I ever met.” 

Provenance:Property from the Estate of Louis Hahn

Estimate: $3,000 - $5,000
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