The Marshall House Flag
Shortly after the Confederates bombarded Fort Sumter, South Carolina, in April 1861, James Jackson hoisted an extremely large Confederate national flag onto a 40-foot-tall flagpole atop his hotel, the Marshall House, in Alexandria, Virginia. On May 24, 1861, Federal forces, including Colonel Elmer Ellsworth and the 11th New York Volunteers, entered Alexandria.
Ellsworth decided to remove Jackson’s flag from the Marshall House hotel. With a small party, including Corporal Francis Brownell of Troy, New York, Ellsworth climbed to the roof and cut down the flag. During their descent Ellsworth and his party encountered Jackson, who was armed with a shotgun. Gunfire ensued, leaving both the hotel owner Jackson and the charismatic Ellsworth dead. The Marshall House incident became national news and plunged the entire country into mourning – the North for Ellsworth, the South for Jackson. The Marshall House flag accompanied Ellsworth's body home to New York State. Relics connected to Ellsworth’s death became prized possessions, including pieces cut, or “souvenired,” from the flag.
The Marshall House flag, in the collection of the New York State Military Museum, has been conserved at the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s textile laboratory at Peebles Island in Waterford, New York. As part of the New York State Battle Flag Preservation Project, the preservation and display of the Marshall House Flag has made possible with generous support from the Coby Foundation.