Saturday, February 11, 2012

150th Commemoration of the Civil War: The Death of Ellsworth

Where: National Portrait Gallery

When: through March 18, 2012

The National Portrait Gallery is marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War by mounting four alcove exhibits, one each year.  The first in the series is composed of artwork and artifacts concerning the death of Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth.  Not being much of a Civil War buff, I had never heard of Ellsworth or his death before I went to see this exhibit, so I learned quite a bit.

Ellsworth was the first Union officer killed in the war.  Frances Brownell, who killed his assailant, bequeathed the weapons used in the incident to the Smithsonian, and they are on display here.  It's one thing to see an artist's rendition or even a photograph of an event - it's another to see an actual item from the event.  It makes it that much more real.  Ellsworth was a friend of President Lincoln and commanded a regiment of New York Zouaves, whose colorful uniforms Ellsworth himself designed.

Verdict: Do go see this exhibit - it's quite small, so it won't take very much time to see.  I'm now eagerly awaiting the next show in the series.

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