Jackson & Ellsworth -- Local Civil War Martyrs
The fortunes of James W. Jackson, a southerner from Alexandria, and Elmer E. Ellsworth, a Union Army Colonel clashed in Alexandria on 24 May 1861. On this day, the Union Army invaded northern Virginia, shortly after the state voted to secede from the Union. Northern troops from New York, including Col Ellsworth entered Alexandria, and quickly occupied the town. In the center of town at the Marshall House (where the Hotel Monaco stands today) a brave James Jackson was flying the Confederate flag. Ellsworth entered the Marshall House and removed the flag, only to be confronted and shot by Jackson, the inn's owner. Ellsworth died at the scene and Jackson was executed a short time later. Col Ellsworth was the first Union officer killed in the war, and his name became a rallying cry for the northern military. Jackson too became a martyr for the southern cause, as he represented a man trying to defend his home from Northern invaders.
Today there is a plaque at Union Station in Alexandria that describes the Ellsworth and Jackson's role in this incident. There is also a plaque honoring Jackson at the Hotel Monaco; the hotel also has a restaurant called Jackson 20 that is supposedly named after the president, but the coincidence is interesting. Fort Ellsworth, which stood on Shuter's Hill at the present site of the George Washington National Masonic Monument, was named after Ellsworth.
The plaque at the Monaco hotel is dedicated to Jackson, and it celebrates his defense of the South. It reads: "The Marshall House stood upon this site, and within the building on the early morning of May 24, 1861 James W. Jackson was killed by Federal Soldiers while defending his property and personal rights, as stated in the verdict of coroners jury. He was the first Martyr to the cause of Southern Independence. The Justice of History does not allow his name to be forgotten. Not in the excitement of battle, but coolly, and for a great principle, he laid down his life, an example to all, in defence [sic] of his home and the sacred soil of his native state Virgina."
Another plaque in Alexandria presents Ellsworth as the hero. The "Alexandria in the Civil War" plaque at Alexandria's Union Stations reads: "'Alexandria is ours,' declared Col. Orlando Wilcox of the 1st Michigan Vol. Inf. as his regiment captured the city on the morning of May 24, 1861. When Virginia's vote of secession became effective, Union forces immediately crossed the Potomac River and occupied the Virginia shore. Due to its strategic location on the Potomac River just south of Washington, D.C., Alexandria became a prime Union occupation target.
During the capture of Alexandria, James W. Jackson, an ardent secessionist and the proprietor of Marshall House, fatally shot Union Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth as he removed a Confederate flag from the top of the hotel. In retaliation, a member of Ellsworth's 11th New York Zouave regiment killed Jackson. Both men became martyrs for their respective causes.
Alexandria's transformation from small southern town to military district took its toll on the city. Two-thirds of the population fled. Large private homes, churches and other public buildings were 'requisitioned' to support the military occupation. The city became headquarters for the U.S. Military Railroad and one of the largest Union army hospital centers in the East. One of the first national cemeteries, established by an order of President Abraham Lincoln in February 1862, is located on Wilkes Street.
Alexandria would remain under Union control through late 1865, distinguishing it as the longest occupied territory of the Civil War. Today, many of the buildings that survived the four-year military occupation remain standing."
On December 21st, 2001, the...
On December 21st, 2001, the Olympic Torch passed through on its way to Salt Lake City, Utah. There were lots of people gathered at Market Square to see it--here it is as it went by my vantage point on a wall.
Pacers Running Store & Running Club - Old Town
Pacers is a nice little running store on King Street about half way between the Metro and the Waterfront. Even better they have a running club that meets here, several days a week, I think on Tuesday and Thursday at 7pm as well as Saturday at 8ish am.
They sell a little of everything that you'd expect your neighborhood running store to sell, from a wide variety of shoes and orthotics to clothes, energy bars, strollers and more.
Pacers has locations in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax and Silver Spring, MD.
Fort Ward - Braddock Road
On the edge of Alexandria lies Fort Wart, one of dozens of Civil War forts that formed a ring around the city of Washington to protect the capitol of the nation. It was built in in 1861, and while many of the area's forts have been lost to development, 90 percent of the original earthworks remain, and one of the bastions has been completely restored with replica guns. The most famous part of the fort is the white wooden gate that was also rebuilt in the 1960s. This is said to be the best preserved of all of the DC forts, and it is the only fort with a museum.
While Fort Ward was never attacked, Alexandria did play a key role in the war. The first Union soldier to die in the war was killed at the Marshall House in Old Town Alexandria, at the site of the current Hotel Monaco.
If you visit the fort today you can walk along the reconstructed earthworks and entrenchments that were rebuilt in 1961 for the fort's 100th anniversary. There is also a replica of an officers' quarters, as well as a small museum. Behind the museum, along the edge of the fort is a camping area.
Note, even though the fort's address is 4301 West Braddock Road, it is a long way from the Braddock Road Metro. In fact, it is actually located right along I-395 between Exit 4 and Exit 5.
Fort Stevens was the only Washington DC area fort to face battle in the Civil War. It was constructed during the Civil War to defend Washington DC's northern approaches. In 1864, with the Army of Northern Virginia taking a pounding at Richmond, General Robert E. Lee decided to invade the north for the third and final time (the first culminated with the battle of Antietam, MD, and the second ended in disaster at Gettysburg, PA). A 20,000 man unit, under command of General Jubal Early invaded Maryland and defeated a Union force under General Lew Wallace at the battle of Monocacy Creek in Frederick, MD. Early then moved to Washington DC and attacked at Fort Stevens, just miles from the White House. On July 12, 1864, a day-long battle took place at Fort Stevens, with the Union victorious, ending the Confederate advance. During the battle, President Lincoln arrived at the Fort and watched the action, making him the only US President to ever be present at a battle and under fire while in office. Fort Stevens is located at 13th and Quackenbos Streets, NW. There is not much at the site, except for some partially reconstructed walls and a few cannon. It is a nice park for a walk or a picnic.
Old Presbyterian Mtg House Cemetery - Old Town
The Old Presbyterian Meeting House Cemetery is hidden behind the Old Presbyterian Meeting House and it has a variety of burial sites of famous local residents and comrades of George Washington. It has been said that “It is probable that very few of the persons buried here were unknown to Washington, and certainly many were his personal friends.”
The most notable grave is the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier. This is a small elevated slab with an engraved memorial to a Revolutionary War soldier who was discovered buried near this site. The remains are of a man in the Continental Army whose coffin was uncovered during excavations for the foundations of nearby St. Mary’s Catholic Church in 1826. The remains were reburied here with a monument and plaque in 1929.
This historic cemetery also contains the grave of Dr James Craik, friend of George Washington and onetime Chief Physician and Surgeon of the Continental Army. John Carlyle is also buried here.