George Falconer & Albert Ellithorpe


George Falconer & Albert Ellithorpe

George Falconer was born on July 15, 1843 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. By 1860, he lived on a farm in Sebastian County with his stepfather and mother. Falconer enlisted in Col. J. J. Clarkson’s Confederate Cavalry for one year on April 1, 1862.  He supplied his own horse and $25 worth of equipment. His diary entries are short and written in the third person, but note a staggering number of miles covered on his expedition into the Cherokee Nation with Stand Watie. On June 27, 1862, Falconer wrote that a Union prisoner had been captured at Bentonville, AR, and reports indicated that Federal forces were marching towards their encampment. Unfortunately for Falconer, June 27 was his last entry. He was captured on July 3, 1862 during the Battle of Locust Grove. There, he lost his sorrel horse, double-barreled shotgun and diary.

The tables turned – We will open the journal on the other side of the question
A C Ellithorpe Mag 1st Ind Regt.

Maj. Albert Ellithorpe claimed the diary from the battlefield, and recorded his actions with the Indian Home Guards, 1st Kansas Infantry from July 1862 through March 1863. A successful carpenter and businessmen from Chicago, Ellithorpe joined the Army of the Frontier with the outbreak of war. He traveled to Washington D.C., and presented his plan to the War Department to organize regiments of loyal Native-American refugees in South Kansas. He was commissioned a first lieutenant and given permission to implement the plan. Within a week he had mustered a full regiment of Creek, Cherokee and Seminole Indians.2

Throughout the diary Ellithorpe commented on the quality of his men. On July 14, 1862, he led a scouting patrol of two hundred and fifty men and approached a small Native-American village in Indian Territory. Reports indicated Confederate troops were camped at the village; however, the surrounding terrain and vegetation prevented Ellithorpe from identifying the strength of the enemy’s position.

I finaly resolved upon the following plan. I diltailed 30 men of the most daring to approach as follows – Placing themselves one hundred yardes apart & on a line with the river they advanced to the bank cautiously, with instructions to remain there untill dark as pickets so disposing of themselves as not to be observed from the oposite side – after dark I advanced my whole force cautiously, leaving a rear picket & guard to the center of the advance line of pickets, then pushed the pickets across the river to the oposite bank with instructions not to fire the first gun, that I might know positively of the presence of the enemy. The advance was cautiously made & for over half an hour not a sound was herd, here I saw the value of the Indian as a daring scout…
Albert Ellithope – July 14, 1862

Due to the stealth of the party, Ellithorpe and his men completely surprised the Texan and Native-American Confederate soldiers camped in the village. Several rebels were killed and many wounded. Ellithorpe reported, “My men behaved nobly & not one was injured.”3

Ellithorpe actively pursued and engaged enemy forces whenever possible. He frequently sent two-thirds of his men on scouting missions to ascertain the location and intentions of surrounding Rebels. He hunted bushwhackers without mercy, leaving their bodies hanging from trees as a warning to others. In February 1863, Ellithorpe engaged Thomas Livingston’s bushwhackers in Missouri.  Faulty ammunition, however, forced the Union soldiers to withdraw from the skirmish. A veteran of Locust Grove, Cane Hill, Prairie Grove and several smaller engagements, Ellithorpe seemed to seek combat, but his descriptions of actual fighting are comparatively brief.

Off the battlefield, Ellithorpe was placed in command of several grist mills in northwest Arkansas. His responsibility was to protect, repair and maintain the mills for production – tasks that played into his strengths as a carpenter and proprietor of several carriage and wagon manufactories in Chicago. Mills could produce much needed supplies to the army, and were vital to military operations. During the War, the railroad stopped at Rolla, MO. Supplies destined for the Ozarks were transported by wagon across southwest Missouri and into Arkansas, and were a prime target for bushwhackers and enemy raids. Therefore, whoever controlled the mills possessed a great logistical and strategic advantage. The mills, however, still required grain from the countryside to produce goods. Ellithorpe paid Union civilians for their corn and wheat, but confiscated it from Rebel civilians. He wrote, “[The Rebels] deserve to loose all to punish them for their treason.”4

Ellithorpe, however, was not without remorse for the conditions many Union civilians faced. He often noted the large number of refugees leaving the area. “The numerous families mooving out are suffering very much most of them have no kind of shelter to ward off the storms. children ar crying with wet hunger & cold – the rain is so terrific that fires cannot be burnt.”5 Many Union refugees came to the Army for protection, food and shelter which the Army could not afford. The Army urged refugees north to congregate around established Union strongholds; such as, Fort Scott, Kansas. Ellithorpe’s company and others escorted civilians to these strongholds, protecting them from bands of marauders and bushwhackers.

Ellithorpe had a strong sense of military protocol and integrity. In his diary, he commented on various officers, including their incompetence as soldiers and character flaws. In fall of 1862, Lt. Col. Stephen H. Wattles was charged with stealing military pay from his men, many of which were Native-Americans. Ellithorpe engaged in a political and judicial battle with Wattles. He pursued charges against Wattles, who begged Ellithorpe for leniency. Wattles promised to repay the money and resign from the Army if Ellithorpe dropped the charges. He reluctantly agreed only to find Wattles reneging on the terms. As Ellithorpe once again pursued criminal charges, he unsuspectingly became engaged in a political struggle. Soon, Ellithorpe was overlooked for promotions and ordered to complete lowly and mundane military tasks to occupy his time and insult him. His diary expresses his frustration with the Army and the politics of military life.

Col Philips resorts to every little thing that a comanding officer has the power to – to anoy me, every technicality of regulation he enforces on me While he lets others pass quietly & without these pitted arrogances – I will however show him that two can play at this game…
Albert Ellithope – January 27, 1863

Ellithorpe’s struggles with military politics eventually reached Gen. James Blunt, and he was ordered to Fort Scott for a meeting on February 8. He reached Fort Scott on the 20th and waited for Blunt to travel south from Leavenworth. Ellithorpe was prepared to resign from the military, but felt Blunt might order him to serve in other theaters of the war. Ellithorpe knew he would either be ordered to St. Louis for duty, or released and sent home to Chicago. He waited at Fort Scott until March 10, when he received orders to report to Leavenworth. Ellithorpe met with Blunt on March 17, and there he finally received his orders.

I shall start for Chicago in the morning I have succeded in getting all the papers from the genl that I could ask I close this Journal untill I take the field again…6

Ellithorpe returned to his wife, Maria, and became a very successful businessman and inventor. He created the Ellithorpe air-brake and Ellithorpe air-cushion; two appliances that greatly reduced the risk of riding in an elevator. The air-break used compressed air to slow the elevator’s descent to a few feet at a time. The same principle was applied to the Westinghouse brake for train cars riding at a high rate of speed. The air-cushion simply caught the falling elevator at the bottom of the shaft. Ellithorpe became the general superintendent of the Ellithorpe Air-Break Company, which manufactured elevators and both of his inventions. He placed the first air-cushion on the Chicago Chamber of Commerce building’s elevator in July 1879.7 On July 24, the Chicago Tribune reported on a live demonstration of Ellithorpe’s inventions.

On yesterday afternoon, the large elevator in the Chamber of Commerce fell from the upper floor to the bottom of the elevator passage. It contained at the time F. T. Ellithorpe, son of the inventor, and C. F. Hathaway, neither of whom was injured or even jarred. One of them held a glass of water, none of which was spilled. On the floor of the cab was a basket of eggs and glassware, but not an egg or a tumbler was broken. The occasion of the fall was the testing of a device, of Colonel A. C. Ellithorpe of this city, for preventing elevator accidents. At the second test the elevator was loaded with five thousand pounds of pig iron, the elevator itself weighing four thousand pounds, which was hoisted to the upper floor and again allowed to drop – the eggs lying loose upon the floor among the pigs of iron and glassware, were unbroken. It seems as if the deadly elevator had been robbed of its terrors.8

Ellithorpe provided numerous live demonstrations to prove the value of his inventions. He was even known to ride in the cab as it flew hundreds of feet down an elevator shaft placing his life in the hands of his creations. Illinois state law incorporated the use of Ellithorpe’s safety devices on July 28, 1883. Ellithorpe had four children with Maria, and he died on February 19, 1907. He is buried in Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago.

The life of George Falconer after the Battle of Locust Grove is less well-known. He was most likely exchanged in September of 1862, and he later served in Gordon’s Arkansas Cavalry Regiment. After the war, he married Lucy Beavers in 1874 in Fort Scott. By 1880 he was a farmer in Marion, AR with two children and two servants, and died on November 1, 1890. His widow filed for a pension in 1925 from Jefferson County, AR.9 Falconer and Ellithorpe lead distinctively different lives, but they will be forever entwined through a series of chaotic events that unfolded on a battlefield in July 1862 and preserved in a common diary.

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  1. George Falconer and Albert Ellithorpe. Diary. 1862-1863. WICR 30115. Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Museum, Republic, Missouri, 41.
  2. A. T. Andreas, History of Chicago: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time vol. III, (Chicago: A. T. Andreas, Publishing, 1886), 499.
  3. Falconer and Ellithorpe, 22.
  4. Falconer and Ellithorpe, 77.
  5. Falconer and Ellithorpe, 102.
  6. Falconer and Ellithorpe, 109.
  7. Andreas, History of Chicago, 498-499.
  8. Andreas, History of Chicago, 498.
  9. David Haimerl, Clarkson’s Battalion C.S.A.: a Brief History and Roster, (Independence, MO: Two Trails Publishing, 2005), 133.