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Go Behind the Scenes of the Civil War

Want to go behind the scenes of the Civil War? Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association (ACVA) has just initiated a new self-guided tour of Civil War sites within the city.

"There are 70 sites within the city that are of particular significance to Alexandria's role in the war," said Jeremy J. Harvey, ACVA director of marketing and heritage tourism. "This tour gives a more complete picture of the war. It emphasizes the people elements, not just the battles."

The new tour is being promoted in conjunction with the re-release of Ken Burns' "The Civil War" on PBS affiliate stations Sept. 22-26. A brochure titled "Alexandria in the Civil War," highlighting seven of the sites, is now available at the Ramsey House Visitors Center on King Street; the Lyceum, 201 S. Washington St.; and Fort Ward, 4301 W. Braddock Road.

"To cover the 1-mile route takes a little over an hour," Harvey estimated. In addition to the sites within walking distance from the center, there is also Fort Ward and the other defenses of Washington.

"This will enable visitors to experience what went on behind the scenes during the Civil War and how the War affected the lives of Alexandria citizens," said Laura Overstreet, ACVA deputy director.

Alexandria was a critical location during the conflict and the site of the first casualties. On May 24, 1861, Union Col. Elmer Ellsworth was killed in Alexandria as he attempted to remove a Confederate flag flying from the roof of the Marshall House hotel. He was shot by the hotel proprietor, James W. Jackson, who, in turn, was shot by one of Ellsworth's troops.

A PLAQUE commemorating that event is now affixed to the Holiday Inn Select of King Street, which stands on the site of the former Marshall House hotel. Other elements of the tour explained in the brochure are as follows:

* The Alexandria waterfront, where Ellsworth's forces landed to commence the four-year occupation of the city;

* The Mansion House Hospital site. More than 30 businesses and residences were converted to hospital sites during the war;

* Christ Church;

* The Confederate Memorial Statute, "Appomattox," at the intersection of South Washington and Prince streets;

* The residence of the military governor, Gen. William Montgomery, at 209 S. St. Asaph St.;

* The Prince Street Prison.

ALEXANDRIA IS PART of Virginia Civil War Trails, a statewide system of five trails covering more than 200 sites of that conflict. In 1999, Alexandria became the first city to join, making it the anchor for the Northern Virginia Crossroads of Conflict Trail.

For the second airing of the Burns series, Virginia Tourism Corp. (VTC) and Virginia Civil War Trails are underwriting the sponsorships in key visitor markets. They are inviting other businesses and organizations to join them. It is estimated that more than two million households throughout those markets will view the rerun.

VTC research has revealed that "Alexandria is a major destination for the Civil War traveler." It has also discovered that "Civil War travelers tend to stay longer than leisure travelers as a whole" and "Civil War car-route visitors consistently outspent the regular leisure traveler."

In addition to the brochure, there are also maps available covering a variety of Civil War routes and sites. Overstreet noted that additional information is available on ACVA's Web site, FunSide.com.