Alexandria Prepares for War

Joan Marcus

In many ways, the Civil War is still an open wound in Virginia, the capital of the old Confederacy.

Witness the trouble Gov. 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, said 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," Mallamo said.

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.

"Any historical topic comes with its own baggage, and it's always difficult to interpret," said Audrey Davis, the curator of the Alexandria Black History Museum. "Sometimes even when there are mistakes made, you can turn those around to make them something that's ah, 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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