Saturday, September 17, 2011
On March 20, 1861, Elmer Ellsworth got the measles! He locked himself in a room at Willard's and prepared to die, thinking it was smallpox, which had killed his brother the year before. Good buds John Hay and George Nicolay soon smoked him out, and were there 'round the clock to nurse him to health. Ellsworth was terribly afraid his eyesight would be affected, as he mentions in weak, silly letters to Carrie, his fiancee. But--everything turned out all right. Well, except that it took Ellsworth almost a month to get better, Fort Sumter fell on April 13, and the world was collapsing into a chasm of secession. The combination of measles and Sumter decided Ellsworth's next actions--to NYC, and beyond! He came back two weeks later at the head of over a thousand lean, mean, fighting machines--the New York Fire Zouaves!