City strategizes upcoming Civil War anniversary

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As Union soldiers overtook Alexandria in May of 1861, Marshall House inn owner and secessionist James Jackson shot and killed Union Col. Elmer Ellsworth as he descended the hotel stairs. 

Northern troops promptly shot and killed Jackson. The casualties were the first Northern and Southern deaths of the Civil War, according to Alexandria historians. 

The sesquicentennial of that day is upon the city, and the Office of Historic Alexandria is in the midst of planning a four-year commemoration highlighting the citys unique role in the War Between the States. On Tuesday the department presented its plan of attack to Council.

Its a very, very interesting story, said OHA director Lance Mallamo. In a nutshell, its amazing to me that Alexandria, in a six-month period, went from voting to preserve the union in 1860 and by 1861 the city voted nine to one in support of supporting secession. 

Tagged Alexandria: Witness to War and Reunion, the celebration will focus on the experiences of soldiers, civilians, slaves and freed men during the citys occupation. Mallamos goal is to appeal to the citys diverse population, including immigrants from countries like Ethiopia and Vietnam, which can relate to such cataclysmic events in the not-so-distant past.

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