Confederate Statue on S. Washington Street, Old Town
But there are other, more hidden signs, that tourists and residents walk past every day without ever taking notice. Before eating at Jackson 20 the other day, I paused to snap a picture of a marker affixed to the Hotel Monaco on King Street. The hotel is located on the site of the Marshall House, where on May 24, 1861 Union Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth of the 11th New York "Fire Zouaves" was shot to death by innkeeper James Jackson after having torn down the Stars and Bars flying from the roof. Jackson in turn was killed on the spot by one of Ellsworth's men. In the immediate aftermath of Ellsworth's death, the young colonel and friend of Lincoln became a martyr for the Northern cause. The South exalted Jackson as a defender of property rights in the face of Yankee aggression.
The marker on the Hotel Monaco, placed by the Sons and Daughters of Confederate Veterans, salutes Jackson as "the first martyr to the cause of Southern independence." (The date the marker was affixed is uncertain, although it has survived the change in ownership from Holiday Inn to Hotel Monaco.) I shouldn't have been surprised to find this memorial, but I was. Even an incident like the murder of Ellsworth survived the war to stir passions and drive Southerners to honor the alleged "heroics" of an innkeeper who used excessive and deadly force to deal with the removal of a simple flag.
Killing of Ellsworth and the Marshall House as depicted in an 1861 edition of Harper's Weekly
Marker commemorating the death of James Jackson at the corner of King and Pitt Streets
The problems with the Lost Cause mythology are numerous and are well documented in the literature of Civil War memory. At the same time, the placement of such markers and monuments in the aftermath of the Civil War helped the United States to begin the process of reconciling, however ironic that may seem. Within a reunited nation, Southerners were allowed to honor their "Lost Cause," veterans, and war dead. The North would look the other way and erect its own monuments. Unfortunately and tragically, the African American experience, and civil rights for freed slaves and their descendants, were neglected in a rush to "bind up the nation's wounds." It would take over a hundred years to truly bind those wounds, and even then, they are sometimes still very close to the surface.
So, what to do with these markers and monuments? After all, these tributes are part of history, and when properly explained and placed in context, they tell a powerful story of how previous generations of Americans remembered and dealt with civil conflict. They also stand in some instances to honor war dead, even if the soldiers died for the wrong reasons. Rather than remove such vestiges of a past that some would rather condemn and forget, these monuments and markers of the Lost Cause should be viewed critically next to sites that represent other aspects of the Civil War-era experience in Alexandria. The Freedom House Museum, located in a former slave pen on Duke Street, features exhibits on slavery in Alexandria and beyond. The City of Alexandria runs the Alexandria Black History Museum, and the Alexandria National Cemetery contains the graves of over 200 U.S. Colored Troops who gave their lives in service to the Union. (See here, here, and here). Fort Ward Museum, on the outskirts of Old Town, explains what life was like for Union soldiers stationed in one of the numerous forts in Northern Virginia guarding the area around Washington. Alexandria can tell a story about all Americans affected by the Civil War. All that we need to do is look, listen, and reflect.