3 1/2 x 2 1/16 in. letterpress coated card (some discoloration, very light wear to edges).
A small membership card or ticket from the Cadets' Terpsichorean Club, a dance society founded by the U.S. Zouave Cadets. The founding of the Club on 12 October 1859 was reported upon in The Press Tribune (Chicago) on 26 December 1859 with a description of one of their gatherings: "the first hop of the series was given some weeks' since, and was one of the most brilliant affairs of the kind ever known in this city. The entire floor of the main hall was covered with canvas, presenting the appearance of marble, and making the best dancing floor in the world. The walls were heavily festooned with American flags, and hung with fine pictures and mirrors from the establishment of S.P. Ondershaw, Esq. The usual seats were replaced by elegant tete-a-tete sofas, and around the hall were arranged marble-top tables, loaded with bon-bons and perfumery. The melody of a large number of canary birds' completed the charm of the scene."
A similar card in the Kenosha (WI) Civil War Museum Archives notes that Elmer Ellsworth was the president of the Club who has signed this card with his distinctive cursive triple-E initials. Ellsworth formed, trained, and led the United States Zouaves (also known as the Chicago Zouaves and the Zouave Cadets of Chicago). They toured the United States in 1860 inspiring wide adoration of Zouave-style uniform and tactics. At the outbreak of war, Ellsworth raised the 11th New York Volunteer Infantry, known as the Fire Zouaves as they were primarily recruited from New York City firefighting companies. They saw action the day after Virginia's succession on 24 May 1861 when his unit attempted to retake Alexandria, VA. They met little resistance, but Ellsworth spotted a Confederate flag on an inn and went to take it down. Having retrieved the flag, he was shot point-blank by the irate innkeeper, killing him instantly. Ellsworth became the first conspicuous death of the Union and considered a martyr for the cause.
Zouaves & Ellsworth
The origins of Zouave units trace to Algeria and the Zouaoua (Zwawa), a Berber tribe that was renowned for their fighting prowess against the Ottoman Empire. They joined the French when they invaded Algiers in 1830 and inspired Zouave units both in the French army and throughout Europe. The phenomenon of American Zouave units can be attributed almost entirely to Elmer Elphraim Ellsworth (1837-1861). Of humble birth, Ellsworth was unable to attend West Point despite his lifelong fascination with the military. Not to be deterred, he studied military science in his spare time. His fencing instructor Charles DeVillier, a former surgeon with the North African Zouaves, shared a Zouave drill manual with Ellsworth who became enamored with the unique style of uniform and tactics based in dance and acrobatics. In 1859, he took over the National Guard Cadets of Chicago, renaming them the United States Zouave Cadets, drilling them in the Algerian system and adopting uniforms consisting of “a bright red chasseur cap with gold braid; light blue shirt with moire antique facings; dark blue jacket with orange and red trimmings; brass bell buttons, placed as close together as possible; a red sash and loose red trousers; russet leather leggings, buttoned over the trousers, reaching from ankle halfway to knee; and white waistbelt.” In 1860, the regiment toured the East Coast, gaining widespread fame and inspiring a “Zouave Craze,” even performing on the White House lawn for President Buchanan. Later in 1860, he traveled to Springfield, IL to study law under Abraham Lincoln and became involved in his presidential campaign. At the outbreak of war, Ellsworth raised the 11th New York Volunteer Infantry, known as the Fire Zouaves as they were primarily recruited from New York City firefighting companies. They saw action the day after Virginia's succession on 24 May 1861 when his unit attempted to retake Alexandria, VA. 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.” Though already popular, his martyrdom likely inspired the creation of many more Zouave units, with the Union fielding over 70 Zouave regiments. Though statistically the Zouaves saw greater mortality rates, with some historians theorizing that their flamboyant outfits made more conspicuous targets.
Provenance:Property from the Estate of Louis Hahn
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