Download FREE briefings. Have an account? Please log in. Text Size: A A A

Confederate-Occupied Territory: Alexandria, Virginia

Civil War

Confederate-Occupied Territory: Alexandria, Virginia

Alexandria, the Northern Virginia city on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. was the first, and longest held, Confederate city during the Civil War.

Alexandria, the Northern Virginia city on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. was the first, and longest held, Confederate city during the Civil War.

by Kevin Hymel

Under bright moonlight, Union troops marched into Alexandria, Virginia, on May 24, 1861, one day after Virginia seceded from the Union. Alarmed by military drills during the day and campfires at night, President Abraham Lincoln had become concerned that Confederates were massing in the outlying suburbs to attack Washington. The fact that he could see a Confederate flag snapping in the wind above the city only heightened the president’s anxiety.
[text_ad]

It was an almost peaceful invasion. While the Confederates boarded trains for a clean escape, Union troops methodically occupied the railroad depot, telegraph office, and any other buildings of importance. That’s when first blood was drawn. Colonel Elmer Ellsworth of the 11th New York Fire Zouaves spotted the offending Rebel flag hanging above the Marshall House Hotel. After cutting down the flag, Ellsworth was shot in the chest by hotel owner James Jackson. Jackson then leveled his weapon at Zouave Francis E. Brownell, but Brownell fired first, then bayoneted Jackson in the torso, killing him instantly. Ellsworth would die later that day.

A Four-Year Occupation

The shootout in the Marshall Hotel was Alexandria’s only frontline combat. For the next four years, the city became a major Union supply base for the soldiers in blue. Private homes and public buildings became offices, military headquarters, and hospitals, while Union engineers built forts and protective barricades around the city. On their off hours, troops toured like vacationers, visiting George Washington’s pew at Christ Protestant Episcopal Church, examining the manacles and chains of the local slave pen on Duke Street, and tearing away parts of walls and floors at the now-infamous Marshall Hotel for souvenirs.

The city was less pleasant for the locals. When city officials refused to let Union Colonel Orlando Wilcox use their stables, he announced martial law. No one was allowed to congregate on the streets, buy liquor, or go outside after 9 pm.

A particularly incendiary incident occurred on February 9, 1862, when Union soldiers interrupted a worship service at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and dragged off the interim minister, Dr. K.J. Stewart, at gunpoint. Union authorities had demanded that all local church services include a prayer for the health of the president of the United States. Stewart declined to do so and was seized by a U.S. captain and six soldiers while still kneeling at prayer. The soldiers force-marched Stewart to the 8th Illinois regimental guardhouse (he was later freed) and closed the church. St. Paul’s became a Union military hospital for the duration of the war. The Alexandria Gazette, after reporting the incident in great detail, was burned to the ground the next day.

And that’s how life went on for the next five years in what would become the South’s longest Union-occupied city.

Add Your Comments

One Comment

  1. Posted June 21, 2014 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Hi there to all, since I am really eager of reading
    this webpage’s post to be updated regularly. It consists of fastidious material.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *



Issue Previews

Bushwhackers, Jayhawks, and Red Legs: Missouri’s Guerrilla War

Bushwhackers, Jayhawks, and Red Legs: Missouri’s Guerrilla War

By the time the Civil War began, opposing forces in Bleeding Kansas and Missouri had been killing each other for five years. And were very good at it.

Killing Squad: Nazi Germany’s Einsatzgruppen

Killing Squad: Nazi Germany’s Einsatzgruppen

The Nazi Einsatzgruppen began the World War II’s most closely guarded operation: the annihilation of the Jews.

Vietnam War Weapons: The AC-47 Gunship

Vietnam War Weapons: The AC-47 Gunship

The AC-47 gunship proved the concept of the aerial gunship as a close support weapon in the skies over Vietnam.

The Battle of Waynesboro: Jubal Early’s Last Stand

The Battle of Waynesboro: Jubal Early’s Last Stand

His army reduced to shambles, Confederate General Jubal Early waited uneasily at Waynesboro, Virginia, to do battle one last time with Phil Sheridan.

facebook gplus twitter youtube rss

Enter Your Log In Credentials

Forgot your Password?

×
.