The day after Virginia ratified the decision to secede from the Union, Ellsworth and his troops entered Alexandria, Virginia. There was an 8x14 foot Confederate flag being flown over an inn. The flag was big enough to be seen through a spyglass from the White House. Ellsworth felt getting that flag down would help avoid any problems.
When he approached the inn with four soldiers with him, the innkeeper, a strong proponent of slavery, shot Ellsworth at point blank range, killing him instantly. Since Ellsworth was a personal friend of Lincoln, his body lay in state in the White House.
Corporal Francis Brownell, who had killed the innkeeper for shooting Ellsworth, was eventually awarded the Medal of Honor.