James W. Jackson

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James Jackson shooting Col. Ellsworth
Marshall House, Alexandria, Virginia - place where Elmer Ellsworth was shot to death. (photo 1861)

James W. Jackson (ca. 1824–May 24, 1861) was an ardent secessionist and the proprietor of the Marshall House, an inn located in the City of Alexandria during the time of the American Civil War.

During the month that Virginia voters contemplated whether to follow the recommendation of the Virginia Secession Convention, President Lincoln in the White House noticed that a large Confederate flag flew from a building in Alexandria, across the Potomac River.[1] On May 24, 1861, the day after Virginia voters ratified the secession recommendation, federal troops crossed the Potomac and captured Alexandria. One federal regiment was the 11th New York Zouave, led by Col. Elmer Ellsworth, who had known Lincoln in Illinois and also noticed the Confederate flag while visiting Lincoln in the White House. When passing the Marshall House, Ellsworth noticed the offending flag still flew, so went inside, climbed the stairs, and removed it from the flagpole. As he returned downstairs with the flag, the proprietor Jackson appeared and shot him dead with an English-made double-barrel shotgun[2] Then Francis E. Brownell of Ellsworth's regiment shot Jackson dead.

Both men became martyrs for their respective causes.[3]

Jackson was buried in the Fairfax city cemetery.[4] In 1862, an account of his death was published in Richmond.[5] In 1863, Union officials established a contraband camp (for former slaves) on or adjacent to or land owned by Jackson's widow in Lewinsville.[6] In 1999, sociologist James W. Loewen noted that the monument erected by the Sons of Confederate Veterans on the Marshall House decades later only mentioned Jackson's death, and failed to mention Ellsworth at all.[7] The controversial plaque still remained in 2013.[8]


  1. ^ Goodheart, Adam (2011). 1861: The Civil War Awakening. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, p. 280
  2. ^ "James W. Jackson's shotgun". Smithsonian Institution. 2004. Retrieved 3 September 2013. 
  3. ^ "Alexandria in the Civil War". The Historical Marker Database. 2013. Retrieved 3 September 2013. 
  4. ^ https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/10801280#
  5. ^ available at https://archive.org/stream/lifeofjameswjack00rich/lifeofjameswjack00rich_djvu.txt
  6. ^ http://dclawyeronthecivilwar.blogspot.com/2013/09/in-search-of-contraband-camps-of-mclean.html
  7. ^ Loewen, James W. (1999). Lies Across America: What Our Historic Markers and Monuments Get Wrong. New York: The New Press.
  8. ^ https://wtop.com/news/2013/02/curious-plaque-tells-forgotten-story/slide/1