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Council Escapes History Buffs

For certain I thought Alexandria's City Council would be inundated with protestors and history lovers, most especially from the likes of Sons of Confederate Veterans, VMI graduates flashing their class rings with the stars and bars and possibly a band playing "Dixie" or "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny."

They escaped.

Missing also was Willard Scott, famous city native, beloved NBC weatherman and history buff of the War of Northern Aggression.

It would not have been surprising if some history professor brought up the old saying, repeated by numerous writers, “Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.” We always do.

So what's the battle?

A couple of weeks ago news broke that Councilman Justin Wilson, of historical Del Ray, the city's sin capital a century ago, introduced a bill that some old-timers thought would banish naming city streets for Confederate generals who many consider heroes.

Second reading on Mr. Wilson's proposal is scheduled this Saturday (Jan. 25).

Along with the no naming, council will also eliminate an old ordinance preventing lewd co-habitation in the city. No squawks on this.

"I figured we'd get all kinds of calls on the cohabitation code but not a complaint," Wilson told me.

"I also figured we'd get lots of calls about the street naming but we received only one," he said. It’s unlikely the city will be naming any more streets after any one, CSA or not. The city is built out; no room for any more streets.

Seems like lots of time is being spent re-writing history in Alexandria. The city was occupied by Union Troops during the North and South unpleasantness. Heck, Burke and Herbert Bank and Trust, the nation's oldest bank, handled the money of both the Union and Confederacy. Good business.

A few years ago a treasure trove of the Robert E. Lee family artifacts were uncovered in the basement of the bank. This was shared with the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond.

There are streets named for General Lee, General Beauregard, Stonewall Jackson, J.E.B Stuart (high school, too), all from the CSA, then there's Union Street downtown in Old Town, and a street named for Col. Elmer Ellsworth in the city's West End near historic Virginia Theological Seminary.

Non-history buffs may want to know about Ellsworth. He was, 24, a friend of Abraham Lincoln, and the first Union officer killed. A plaque commemorates his demise in downtown. Lincoln cried.

Those who'd like to rewrite Old Dominion history should consider Robert Skimin's 1988 novel, “Gray Victory.” The premise is simple. The war ended in a truce with the Union accepting the CSA. Lincoln was not assassinated, was succeeded by George B. McClellan and the peace recognized the South’s Independence. Everyone was back in love.

Well, novels are fiction, so is “Gray Victory.”

If by some chance names are needed soon, there are some good ones to consider — Mills Godwin, Douglas Wilder, John Dalton, Henry Howell, John Warner and Randolph Sengel. Good Virginians and worthy. They never forgot the Commonwealth's past.