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Alexandria Prepares For War

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Alexandria is planning a May 2011 kickoff for the sesquicentennial that will feature a reenactment of the death of Colonel Elmer Ellworth, pictured here in an 1862 engraving.
The Library of Congress
Alexandria is planning a May 2011 kickoff for the sesquicentennial that will feature a reenactment of the death of Colonel Elmer Ellworth, pictured here in an 1862 engraving.

By Michael Pope

In many ways, the Civil War is still an open wound in Virginia, the capital of the old Confederacy. Witness the trouble Governor Bob McDonnell found himself in when he declared last month Confederate History month. That's one of the many reasons why the director of the Office of Historic Alexandria, Lance Mallamo, says it's important that the story isn't one-sided.

"There was some criticism at the time that the centennial celebration in Virginia was really a time to celebrate or commemorate the Confederate heritage of the state," says Mallamo.

So Alexandria's sesquicentennial events will include a dramatic re-enactment of the Union invasion of the city. Leaders plan to tell the story from the perspective of the blue with the gray and the slave. Audrey Davis is the curator of the Alexandria Black History Museum.

"Any historical topic comes with its own baggage, and it's always difficult to interpret," says Davis. "Sometimes even when there are mistakes made, you can turn those around to make them something that's a, I hate to use the overused term teachable moment, but you can use them."

City leaders hope to use the moments to help people understand the human side of the war in Alexandria, the capital of Union-occupied Virginia.

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