First American embalmed was first Union officer killed in Civil War
Tuesday, September 7th 1999, 12:00 am
News On 6
(Mechanicville, New York-AP) -- Civil War buffs may know that
Colonel Elmer Ellsworth was the first Union officer killed in the
But what most don't know is that the protege of Abraham Lincoln
was also the first person in America to be embalmed.
Until the Civil War, many Americans were against embalming,
mostly on religious grounds. But those views soon changed after
Ellsworth was killed in May 1861 while taking down a rebel flag
that could be seen from Lincoln's White House bedroom.
Ellsworth's body had to be preserved for the long journey to his
resting place in Mechanicville, New York.
The man who embalmed Ellsworth, Doctor Thomas Holmes, is
considered the "father of embalming." The practice soon caught on
as Civil War casualties mounted and families sought to have the
bodies of their loved ones returned.