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George "Lightning" Ellsworth
[[Image:File:George Ellsworth.jpg|center|200px|border]]George Ellsworth
Personal Information
Place of Birth: {{{place of birth}}}
Place of Death: {{{place of death}}}
Nickname: "Lightning"
Birth Name: {{{birth name}}}
Other Information
Allegiance: Canada
Confederate States of America
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Rank: Private
Service number : {{{servicenumber}}}
Unit: 2nd Kentucky Cavalry
Battles: American Civil War
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Other work: {{{otherwork}}}

George "Lightning" Ellsworth was a Canadian telegrapher who served in the Confederate army during the American Civil War, specifically with the cavalry forces under Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan. His use of the telegraph to spread disinformation to Union forces was declared by the The Times as the greatest innovation to come out of the war.

Ellsworth was enamored of the telegraph soon after it was invented, and travelled from his native Canada to Washington, D.C., in order to study in Samuel Morse's school. Before the war, Ellsworth took a job in Lexington, Kentucky, where he first met Morgan. In 1860 he moved to Houston, Texas. When the war started, Morgan had the idea of using the telegraph to send disinformation, and he knew he wanted Ellsworth for the job, so Morgan sent for him. Ellsworth joined Morgan and his 2nd Kentucky Cavalry at Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Ellsworth was described as having droopy eyelids, a high forehead, an aquiline nose with a bridge bump, and a "disdainful, cynical, devil-may-care" eye expression. He was noted for having astringent humor. Among his positive qualities was resourcefulness and being a swift runner. As a telegrapher, he excelled due to being able to read extremely quick Morse Codes, having developed the ability to imitate other telegraphers (telegraphers tend to have a distinctive style or "fist"), and that he knew the sending style of several Union telegraphers based in Kentucky and Tennessee.[1]

He gained the name "Lightning" during Morgan's first Kentucky Raid. He sat on a railroad crosstie in knee-high water by the L&N Railroad near Horse Cave, Kentucky, tapping away on a telegraph during a thunderstorm. This earned him the nickname "Lightning" Ellsworth.[2]

Ellsworth was with Morgan on his great raid, and was able to escape by swimming across the Ohio River with his portable telegraph, aided by an army mule, during the Battle of Buffington Island. He was with Morgan on Morgan's last Kentucky Raid in 1864, and was later captured in Cynthiana, Kentucky, in June 1864 and promptly escaped. Thomas Hines later found him in either Windsor or Toronto, Canada, and had Ellsworth help him on an attempt to free Confederate POWs.

After the war, Ellsworth served under Thomas Edison in Cincinnati, Ohio, but reportedly found a telegraph office too quiet for his liking. According to Edison, Ellsworth died in the panhandle of Texas, after becoming a "bad'" gun man'".[3]

See also[]


  1. Brown, Dee Alexander. The Bold Cavaliers. (1959) p.80
  2. Ramage, James. Rebel Raider: the Life of John Hunt Morgan. p.95
  3. Edison His Life and Inventions - Dyer