Elmer Ellsworth was born in Saratoga County, New York, in 1837. After living in Chicago he moved to Springfield, Illinois, where he studied law. He campaigned for Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election and wrote the Manual of Arms for Light Infantry(1860).
Ellsworth worked in the War Department in Washington. On 18th March, 1861, Lincoln appointed Ellsworth as the Inspector General of Militia. On the outbreak of the American Civil War Ellsworth went to New York where he organized the Fire Zouaves, a volunteer unit recruited from the city's firemen.
On 24th May, Ellsworth and the Fire Zouaves marched into Alexandria. While attempting to remove the rebel flag from the Marshall House Hotel, the proprietor, James Jackson, shot him dead. Described as the war's first martyr and lay in state in the New York City Hall. In a letter to Ellsworth's parents, Abraham Lincoln wrote, "my young friend, and your brave and early fallen child".