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Legacies: Collecting America's History at the Smithsonian, by Steven Lubar and Kathleen M. Kendrick
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Fragment of Confederate flag cut down by Colonel Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth, 1861Fragment of Confederate flag cut down by Colonel Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth, 1861

The day after Virginia voted to secede from the Union, eight regiments of infantry were sent across the Potomac River to seize Arlington Heights and Alexandria. Colonel Ellsworth, the leader of the Eleventh New York Volunteer Regiment, saw a Confederate flag flying over the Marshall House hotel. Ellsworth charged up the stairs and cut down the flag, only to be shot by James Jackson, the hotel proprietor, who was then killed by Francis Brownell, one of Ellsworth's soldiers. The incident electrified Washington, D.C. Ellsworth lay in state at the White House, Brownell received the Medal of Honor, and everyone wanted relics of the Marshall House incident. Over the years the Smithsonian acquired Jackson's shotgun and Brownell's rifle and Medal of Honor as well as this piece of the flag in 1961.

See also: Civil War, Flags, Military History, Intriguing Objects

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