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Re-tracing The Lightning of John Hunt Morgan

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  • Walt
    Someone has recently mentioned that Confederate General John Hunt Morgan s telegrapher, Canadian born George A. Lightning Ellsworth may have been a graduate
    Message 1 of 6 , Oct 30, 2007
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      Someone has recently mentioned that Confederate General John Hunt
      Morgan's telegrapher, Canadian born George A. "Lightning" Ellsworth
      may have been a graduate of the Samuel F.B. Morse Telegraph Institute,
      located in Syracuse, NY.

      Might anyone have access to more Ellsworth information which might
      shed light on this possibility?

      According to the 1900 Confederate Veteran. Vol. VIII, page 35, (in the
      Last Roll reporting the passing of this notable operator) it was said
      that George came from Canada to Washington DC as a boy and served
      under Saml. F.B. Morse. No birth date was noted. Ellsworth moved to
      Houston Tex. in 1860 and made his entry in to the history books
      shortly thereafter.

      According to James A. Ramage, writing in Rebel Raider: The Life of
      John Hunt Morgan:

      "Ellsworth would "milk the wires" of intelligence and use a ground
      wire to cut towns from the circuit, then answer for them when other
      operators called. He disrupted [Union] communications and sowed
      confusion in all directions. Near Horse Cave, Kentucky, early in
      [Morgan's first Kentucky] raid, he tapped the line on the L&N Railroad
      during a thunderstorm. Sitting on the end of a [rail road] cross-tie,
      water up to the knees of his cavalry boots, he continued to operate
      while the thunder rolled and the lightning flashed, thus earning the
      nickname "Lightning Ellsworth"

      The London Times declared Ellsworth's intelligence gathering "... the
      first and most striking innovation in the war."

      Where might the records of the once renown Morse Institute be to-day?
      Syracuse Historical Society perhaps? How might we tap the history and
      break the code into George's earlier history?

      73,
      Walt
    • Carl Williams
      can t help with your question but would just like to remark that this scene alone makes Morgan s raid worthy of a great movie...
      Message 2 of 6 , Oct 30, 2007
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        can't help with your question but would just like to remark that this
        scene alone makes Morgan's raid worthy of a great movie...

        > "Ellsworth would "milk the wires" of intelligence and use a ground
        > wire to cut towns from the circuit, then answer for them when other
        > operators called. He disrupted [Union] communications and sowed
        > confusion in all directions. Near Horse Cave, Kentucky, early in
        > [Morgan's first Kentucky] raid, he tapped the line on the L&N Railroad
        > during a thunderstorm. Sitting on the end of a [rail road] cross-tie,
        > water up to the knees of his cavalry boots, he continued to operate
        > while the thunder rolled and the lightning flashed, thus earning the
        > nickname "Lightning Ellsworth"
      • Walt
        Tnx for the comment Carl. John Morgan s lightning slinger was quite a gem and even was song-inspiring. That being said... I think you are on to something. A
        Message 3 of 6 , Oct 31, 2007
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          Tnx for the comment Carl.

          John Morgan's lightning slinger was quite a gem and even was
          song-inspiring. That being said... I think you are on to something.
          A fleeting image in some future talking picture would not be out of
          the question.

          Didn't know if you and others were aware but in later years (circa
          1900), George Ellsworth was found dead at his instruments in the
          Antonio, Louisiana office with his finger still on the key. His last
          "30".

          Might anyone know where Lightning's headstone may stand radiant
          amongst the now silent majority? Inquiring brass pounders wanna know.

          Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
          73,
          Walt
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~``35``~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
          --- In civilwarwest@yahoogroups.com, "Carl Williams" <carlw4514@...>
          wrote:

          Can't help with your question but would just like to remark that this
          scene alone makes Morgan's raid worthy of a great movie...

          "Ellsworth would "milk the wires" of intelligence and use a ground
          wire to cut towns from the circuit, then answer for them when other
          operators called. He disrupted [Union] communications and sowed
          confusion in all directions. Near Horse Cave, Kentucky, early in
          [Morgan's first Kentucky] raid, he tapped the line on the L&N Railroad
          during a thunderstorm. Sitting on the end of a [rail road] cross-tie,
          water up to the knees of his cavalry boots, he continued to operate
          while the thunder rolled and the lightning flashed, thus earning the
          nickname "Lightning Ellsworth"
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~``30``~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        • drnancytodd
          ... My guess is that he would have been buried around Antonio where he died which is in West Baton Rouge, or New Orleans, which was where he evidently was
          Message 4 of 6 , Nov 1, 2007
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            --- In civilwarwest@yahoogroups.com, "Walt" <scentofhorse@...> wrote:

            > Might anyone know where Lightning's headstone may stand radiant
            > amongst the now silent majority? Inquiring brass pounders wanna know.
            >

            My guess is that he would have been buried around Antonio where he
            died which is in West Baton Rouge, or New Orleans, which was where he
            evidently was living according to census records.

            Nancy T


            Info about George A. Ellsworth & family

            http://www400.sos.louisiana.gov/cgibin?rqstyp=cpadtl&rqsdta=05992
            Louisiana Confederate Pension Applications Index Database
            Reel: CP1.46 -- Microdex 1 -- Sequence 10
            Target card: ELLSWORTH, MARY MULLEN
            Applicant Information & Name Variations:
            ELLSWORTH, MARY (MULLEN)
            Parish: ORLEANS -- Pages: 23

            ELLSWORTH, GEORGE A.
            State: KY
            Branch: CAVALRY
            Unit: DUKE'S 2ND REGIMENT, TELEGRAPH OPERATOR
            Company: CO. A

            Remarks:
            FILE CONTAINS AN INTERESTING ARTICLE IN REGARD
            TO TELEGRAPHERS IN THE CIVIL WAR AND ESPECIALLY
            THE SERVICE OF GEORGE A. ELLSWORTH AND HIS DEATH
            ON THE 29TH OF NOVEMBER 1898.

            ~~~~~

            1880 US Census, 16, New Orleans, Orleans, Louisiana [Census taken June
            22, 1880]
            http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Search/frameset_search.asp

            George ELLSWORTH, age 37, born CAN, occupation Telegraph Operator,
            parents born in Canada
            Mary ELLSWORTH, Wife, age 24, born VA, parents born Ireland.

            1880, Kirkwood, Saint Louis, Missouri [Census taken June 15, 1880]
            A. George Ellsworth, age 37, single, telegraph operator, born Canada,
            Father born NY, mother born CT

            These could very well be the same person. I've seen instances of
            people who were away from home when the census was taken who were
            recorded at both a home residence and a temporary residence.

            1900 United States Federal Census
            Name: Mary Ellsworth, widow
            Home in 1900: New Orleans Ward 15, Orleans, Louisiana
            Age: 39
            Estimated birth year: abt 1861
            Birthplace: Virginia
            Household Members:
            John Mullen 41, head of household
            Mary Ellsworth 39, sister of head, widow, born VA, parents born Ireland
            Bessie Ellsworth, 15, born Alabama, father born Canada, mother born
            Virginia

            1910 United States Federal Census
            Name: O j Vinet
            Age in 1910: 33
            Estimated birth year: abt 1877
            Birthplace: Louisiana
            Relation to Head of House: Head
            Father's Birth Place: Louisiana
            Mother's Birth Place: Louisiana
            Spouse's name: Ellsworth
            Home in 1910: New Orleans Ward 15, Orleans, Louisiana
            Marital Status: Married
            Household Members:
            Name Age
            O j Vinet 33
            Ellsworth Vinet 25
            John N Vinet 1 10/12

            1920 United States Federal Census
            Name: Mary Ellsworth
            Home in 1920: New Orleans Ward 15, Orleans, Louisiana
            Age: 64 years
            Estimated birth year: abt 1856
            Birthplace: Virginia
            Relation to Head of House: Mother-in-law
            Father's Birth Place: Ireland
            Mother's Birth Place: Ireland
            Marital Status: Widow
            Household Members:
            Orezine J Vinet 40
            Bessie Vinet 35
            John N Vinet 11
            Alice Vinet 8
            George E Vinet 5
            Alton J Vinet 1
            Mary Ellsworth 64

            From Ancestry.com
            Mary Mullen Ellsworth d. March 1939, New Orleans

            Social Security Death Index [children of Bessie Ellsworth Vinet]
            http://ssdi.genealogy.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/ssdi.cgi/ssdi.cgi
            JOHN VINET 09 Sep 1908 Jul 1958 Issued Louisiana
            JOHN N VINET JR 19 Feb 1940 29 Aug 1999 Issued Louisiana
            GEORGE VINET 07 Jan 1915 Jan 1981 LAST RESIDENCE: 10308 (Staten
            Island, Richmond, NY) Long-time or retired railroad workers
            ALTON VINET 10 Jan 1918 Feb 1978 LAST RESIDENCE: 33952 (Port
            Charlotte, Charlotte, FL) Issued Louisiana
          • Walt
            Thanks much Nancy for all of your census info assistance. This is just in from Dave Gaddy, historian of the Signal Corps Association (1860-1865) of what he has
            Message 5 of 6 , Nov 1, 2007
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              Thanks much Nancy for all of your census info assistance.

              This is just in from Dave Gaddy, historian of the Signal Corps
              Association (1860-1865) of what he has on George A. "Lightning"
              Ellsworth. I have also phoned signal re-enactor Chuck Lee of Baton
              Rouge in hopes that he will work with the city's historical society to
              locate George's grave and have also alerted Jim Wilson,
              Editor-in-Chief of the Morse Telegraph Club's "Dots and Dashes" to
              these stirrings.

              Notes From Dave...

              From my notes: B. 24 July 1843 in on the north side of East Lake,
              Prince Edward county, Canada. At age 11 [1854] taken by father to
              Whitby, Ontarion, cty, 30 mi. from Toronto. At 14 [1857] in Illinois
              as night tep op Peoria Junction (later Chenoa), Chicago, Alton, and
              St. Louis. St. Louis at 15-16, about two years; Galveston, TX at age
              17, 9 Sep 1860. Houston, TX (at age 18?) enlists in "Bayou City
              Guards," which became Co. A, 5th Texas Infantry.

              In the old "Signal Cipher," Vol. 6, No. 10, Oxt 1992, is a quote from
              "Civil War Times," XXII, No. 6. Oct 1983, pp. 22-27, which cites
              training at SFB Morse's tel school. (Did Morse also have a school in
              Chicago at the appropriate time?)

              Impression I have is that he was a "knight of the road," an itinerant
              operator, and that the war years were a lark for him. (He was with the
              CS covert operators in Canada for a time.) Resumed his nomadic life
              after the war. In the 1880 US census, he was listed as a boarder and
              tel op, age 37, b. Canada, parents b. NY and Conn, living in Kirkwood,
              St. Louis, MO 15 June 1880. Attended Nashville Confed reunion 1897.
              Died "at his key" c1899 working as tel op for Western Union at
              Antonio, LA, West Baton Rouge Parish. Obit in Confed Vet.

              Can't confirm the Morse School training. For a kid of 14, seems more
              likely he learned "side-saddle" with experienced op, but then... .

              I've found no indication of marriage or family. Only picture I've seen
              is that terrible one in "Confed Vet," [1900] obviously late in life

              You prob have, in our Archive, a copy of my article, "The Canadian
              Confederate Wire-Tapper," printed in "Colloquy", newsletter of the
              former Security Affairs Support Association, Vol. 8, No. 2, Mar 1988,
              pp. 6-7.
              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
              Walt
              www.civilwarsignals.org
              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~``35``~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
              --- In civilwarwest@yahoogroups.com, "drnancytodd" <drnancytodd@...>
              wrote:

              My guess is that he [Geo. A. Ellsworth] would have been buried around
              Antonio where he died which is in West Baton Rouge, or New Orleans,
              which was where he evidently was living according to census records.

              Nancy T

              info about George A. Ellsworth & family

              http://www400.sos.louisiana.gov/cgibin?rqstyp=cpadtl&rqsdta=05992
              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~``snip``~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            • drnancytodd
              Walt, Thanks for posting the information you received. Fascinating! Given the Louisiana pension info sure does look like George was married even while being a
              Message 6 of 6 , Nov 1, 2007
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                Walt,

                Thanks for posting the information you received. Fascinating! Given
                the Louisiana pension info sure does look like George was married even
                while being a "knight of the road." Please keep us posted. I'm curious
                now about this gentleman.

                One of my other interests is genealogy and I found a couple of
                Ellsworth posts you might find helpful.

                This one was posted by a descendant of O. J. Vinet and his wife
                Elizabeth Ellsworth Vinet, daughter of George and Mary. If you click
                on the Glen Vinet link it will reveal his email address. He might know
                something.
                http://genforum.genealogy.com/vinet/messages/34.html

                This one was posted by someone looking for graves of Texas civil war
                soldiers, including George. No one replied to his query but he might
                have found something anyway.
                http://boards.rootsweb.com/localities.northam.usa.states.louisiana.parishes.orleans/3049/mb.ashx


                Nancy T
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