Babies named for Elmer Ellsworth

U.S. Army soldier Elmer E. Ellsworth (1837-1861)
Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth

U.S. Army officer Elmer E. Ellsworth is virtually unknown nowadays, but he was very well known during the 1860s.


Because he was killed in May of 1861 while trying to confiscate a Confederate flag. This made him the very first Union officer to die in the Civil War.

Here’s how the New York Times concluded Ellsworth’s obituary:

He has been assassinated! His murder was fearfully and speedily revenged. He has lived a brief but an eventful, a public and an honorable life. His memory will be revered, his name respected, and long after the rebellion shall have become a matter of history, his death will be regarded as a martyrdom, and his name will be enrolled upon the list of our country’s patriots.

Ellsworth’s death was the first conspicuous casualty of the War, and it inspired thousands of men to enlist.

It also inspired thousands (yes, literally thousands) of Union-supporting families to name their newborns “Elmer Ellsworth.”

(This is one of those names that makes me wish the SSA data went back further than 1880. I would have loved to see the spike in Elmers in 1861-1862.)

Some of Elmer’s more famous namesakes include…

And less-famous namesakes include…

Others got the names out of order (e.g., Ellsworth Elmer Lesher), and those already in Ellsworth families simply got some version of “Elmer E.” (e.g., Elmer Everett Ellsworth).

The massive number of Elmer Ellsworths born in the early 1860s was even referenced in this anecdote by newspaperman Fred C. Kelly eighty years later:

[A] friend of mine, named Osborn, doesn’t profess to be gifted in second sight, but he once mystified a stranger by telling him that he — the stranger — was born in April, May, or June, 1861; moreover, that he was born in a Union state, and that his father was an enthusiastic Northern sympathizer during the Civil War. He knew all this just by noting that the man’s first two initials were “E.E.” The whole thing was a matter of simple deduction. The man appeared to be the age of one born during the Civil War. Osborn happened to know that one of the great Northern heroes of the Civil War was one Elmer Ellsworth, the first man killed on the Union side. Thousands of babies born during the two or three months following Ellsworth’s death were named “Elmer Ellsworth.” Knowing these facts, the “E.E.” in the man’s name meant much.

Do you have anyone in your family tree named Elmer Ellsworth?


P.S. Did you know that today, April 12th, is the anniversary of the start of the Civil War? It’s also is the anniversary of the first manned space flight. These events occurred exactly 100 years apart, weirdly.

14 thoughts on “Babies named for Elmer Ellsworth

  1. I had a great-great-grandfather named Elmer Ellsworth LN. I never knew that was a name of someone famous.

  2. @Elizabeth – That’s cool! The fact that he was born 25 years after the incident occurred makes me wonder if his father had the name as well and was passing it down.

  3. My great-grandfather was Elmer Ellsworth Billings. He was born in 1868. My grandfather Dewey Elmer Billings was named after Admiral Dewey, who was a distant relative. My Grandpa Dewey was born on 30 April 1898, the day Admiral Dewey sailed into Manila Bay and attacked the Spanish fleet. As my uncle was also named Elmer. There are no more Deweys, Elmers, or Ellsworth in our families.

  4. My maternal grandfather, Elmer Ellsworth Parker, was born in Vermont in 1863. He died in 1956 in Waterbury, CT, where he had served as city controller.

  5. Throughout my life, I came to understand that my father E. Dean Wood hated his first name not knowing its history which by coincidence I just found was the namesake of a one time hero of the Civil War and a Battle-cry of the Republic. A student of Genealogy, I found my father was named after his Grandfather (my Great Grandfather) George E. Wood who was born in 1861 in Walton, New York.

    Also from New York was a young man by the name of Ephraim Elmer Ellsworth who in 1860, moved to Springfield, Illinois, to work with Abraham Lincoln, studying law under Lincoln, and assisting in Lincoln’s 1860 campaign for US President. Ellsworth was killed at the Marshall House in Washington DC on May 24, 1861 (the day after Virginia’s secession) when he removed a Confederate Flag within spyglass view of the White House.

    “Remember Ellsworth!” became a Union rallying cry in 1861, and the 44th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment was nicknamed as Ellsworth’s Avengers. My Great Grandfather George Ellsworth Wood born in New York in 1861 was likely named after Ephraim E. Ellsworth who was the first casualty of the Civil War in 1861. My father was named after my Great Grandfather.. Ellsworth Dean Wood which I believe is a name to be proud of…..

  6. My great-grandfather is Elmer Ellsworth Heg. He was born in February 1861 and I can’t find his baptismal record, but I found a baptism record from 1864 with the name of “Hans Christian Elmer Higg” (I think the spelling of the last name was incorrect on the baptismal record because his mother and father’s names—His father’s name was Hans Christian—check out as well as his birthdate on the record). I am curious where you found the record that he was named at birth, Elmer Ellsworth because he was born before THE Elmer Ellsworth died and I am wondering if Elmer Ellsworth might have been added by the time of the Baptism in 1864. So interesting!

  7. @M Pavia – I’m not claiming that any of Elmer Ellsworth’s namesakes were named “at birth.” Babies born during the 19th century were often named weeks, months, sometimes years after they were born.

    Your great-grandfather wouldn’t have been named “Elmer Ellsworth” on his day of birth if he was born in February. :)

    It’s possible that he was named after his father initially, then been re-named later on. You could try tracking down the birth register for his home county — that might give you some insight regarding the evolution of his name.

  8. My paternal grandfather was name Leslie Ellsworth Hopkins. I could never determine where the “Ellsworth” came from but everything points to Elmer Ellsworth. He was born in December of 1861 and three of his mother’s brothers had enlisted in the Union Army that same year.

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