Editor's Note: It was in 1885, a year after the Civil War ended that the nation celebrated its first Memorial Day. Below are excerpts from the Madison Daily Courier in 1861, as it reported to its readers on the war ... Elmer E. Ellsworth had been a young lawyer in Abraham Lincoln's law office and had helped him with his presidential campaign in 1860. When the war began he raised the 11th New York Volunteer Regiment (the "Fire Zouaves") from New York City's volunteer fire companies. On May 24, 1861, Ellsworth was with Lincoln at the White House when the president noticed a large Confederate flag flying over the town of Alexandria, Virginia. Ellsworth offered to retrieve the flag for Lincoln. The description of his death which resulted from this action is below. Ellsworth is considered to be the first Union officer killed in the Civil War. His body laid in state in the East Room of the White House before it was sent back to New York for burial.

Madison Daily Courier

May 13, 1861

The following is an address of Miss Hester A. Willoughby, on the presentation of a flag to Capt. Chauncey's company last Saturday morning at the Court house:

Capt. Chauncy: As you and your company have received marching orders, and will, in a short time, leave for the tented field, I am here, in behalf of the ladies of Madison, to present you, before you go, with this flag, the expressive emblem of our nations greatness. It has been prepared by willing hands and happy hearts, as an expression of our regard for your patriotism and valor. We feel that our flag will be in safe hands when entrusted to you; you will not disgrace it, nor will you suffer others to disgrace it, until it is stained with your best blood and made your winding sheet. And now noble band go forth; your country needs you, her liberties, her very existence is in danger.

Go forth, and as this flag is unfurled above you, think of home, think of this occasion, think of your country; let this be your motto "My country's flag and my Father's God." And when the storm of war is past and the bow of peace is seen in the heavens; when the angry waves are hushed into silence, return and bring this flag with you. If it be tattered and torn all the better; we shall gaze proudly upon its shreds and they shall be as dear to us as the scars of the soldiers of a hundred fields.

I am sure that I express the feelings of the fair donors of this flag, and of thousands of others when I say, "the blessings of our father's God attend you."

Latest News!

The Campaign Opened!

Federal Troops Advanced Into Virginia.

Co. Ellsworth Shot

Washington, May 24 - As was supposed would be the case, late last night several regiments, with the New Jersey and Michigan brigades, Ellsworth's Zouaves and the District militia, crossed into Virginia, the Va. pickets having been previously driven in by the advance guards. One of the regiments took the road leading to Fairfax court house, about twenty miles from Washington, while another, the Jersey, stopped at the forks, a mile from the long bridge, awaiting orders...From six to ten thousand troops were sent over into Va. this morning. Firing was heard occasionally by the driving in of the Va. pickets...

The entrance into Alexandria was attended by an event which has caused the deepest gloom over the community. Col. Ellsworth, who had hauled down the secession flag from the Marshall House (a hotel), was soon afterwards shot by a concealed foe. His body has been brought to the Washington Navy yard.

Accounts from Alexandria are somewhat contradictory but there is no doubt of the fact that a man named Jackson, who shot Ellsworth, was instantly put to death; some say by both bullet and bayonet. When the federal troops reached Alexandria, the Virginia soldiers fired and fled. Visitors to the city say scenes were intensely exciting. Federal vessels were in the meantime before Alexandria. It seems to be true that a body of federal troops has advanced to Fairfax Court House to take possession of the junction of the Orange, Alexandria and Manasses Gap Railroad, with a view of intercepting the advance of the Virginia troops towards Alexandria from Richmond and other points.

Research conducted by the Jefferson County Civil War Roundtable.