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150 Years Ago: Tuesday, April 30, 1861


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The First New York Zouaves leaves for Washington fbrownell.jpgCity with 24-year-old Elmer E. Ellsworth leading the 1,200 volunteers. Ellsworth had studied the Crimean War and was taken with the French Zouaves, who were “the” military of envy at the time; he felt they exemplified the way all men should fight. In 1860 he went to work for Abraham Lincoln in his law office, and went with him to Washington City when he became President. When Lincoln called for troops, Ellsworth eagerly went back to his birth state of New York to assist. Ellsworth focused his recruitment efforts on firemen as he considered them brave, fit and disciplined. Nicknamed the “Fire Zouaves,” the men wore red firemen’s shirts, gray jackets and loose gray trousers tucked into their boots. They would make an impression in any battle and as well as easy targets.

Francis Edwin Brownell, age 21, would also leave with Ellsworth; he had enlisted with the Fire Zouaves on April 20. This photo would be take of him a few weeks later, complete with a mourning armband. (Photography by Mathew Brady, Source: National Archives)

At Harpers Ferry, Colonel Thomas Jackson wasted no time in getting his men drilled and ready for battle. He learned there were large barrels of whiskey in the town, so he ordered that they be opened and poured into the gutters. Men immediately tried to get whiskey from the gutters into the cups, angering Jackson; he changed his mind and told his men to dump it in the Potomac River instead.

Lincoln issues Executive Order/General Order #13, directing that all officers of the Army “take and subscribe anew the oath of allegiance to the United States”, excluding only those who had entered service since April 1. 

Horatio Nelson Taft, who works in the Patent Office in Washington City, today writes in his diary about the thousands of troops continuing to arrive in the city. As has been the case every day since troops arrived, he notes that Lincoln continues to make his daily rounds to the various government buildings to meet with the volunteers. Today William Seward joins him. Taft’s daughter Julia gives flowers to Rhode Island Governor Sprague, who has arrived with Colonel Ambrose Burnside and the R.I. Detached Militia. Taft describes the the men as orderly but also mentions a lot of confusion and little organization.

Citizens of Winchester, Virginia write Robert E. Lee. They are concerned at the lack of defenses around Chambersburg and Virginia’s northwestern boarder. They are fearful of a Union build-up and feel that Virginia is not prepared in men or arms to fend off an attack. They request a few good drill officers and ammunition; they will provide good men who are willing to fight. 

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About thecivilwarproject

Like many others, I have a passion for the Civil War era, and for decades have chosen to spend my much of free time researching this topic - particularly the people, as the human component is what I find most fascinating. The site is not a source of revenue for me, nor is it tied in with a company or individual behind the scenes. It is my own personal venture. It is because of this genuine bond of respect and affection I feel towards this period in our history that I created "The Civil War Project." If this is your first time visiting the site, I welcome you and thank you for your interest. If you have any feedback or questions, please feel free to contact me at thecivilwarproject@yahoo.com.

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