Sunday, February 19, 2012

Washington's Brithday, February 22, 1862

This weekend, as we are bombarded by television and newspapers ads of Washington and Honest Abe touting presidential savings on cars and dishwashers, I want to reflect on how Washington's birthday was observed 150 years ago in the midst of the Civil War. As I noted in a previous post, both Northern and Southern leaders sought to link their respective causes with the legacy of George Washington.  These efforts can best be seen in the February 22, 1862 observances of Washington's birthday observances in the Union and Confederate capitals. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

The 1st US Colored Troops at Roosevelt Island

Theodore Roosevelt Island,  a small island located in the Potomac River between Rosslyn, VA and the Georgetown waterfront, is maintained by the National Park Service in honor of our nation's 26th president. However, during the Civil War, the 80 acre island, then known as Mason's Island or Analostan Island, served as a training camp for the 1st United States Colored Troops (1st USCT), an infantry regiment of African American soldiers recruited in the District of Colombia in 1863.  The island was occupied by Union troops at the outset of the war and used for various purposes.

Photograph of the 1st U.S. Colored Troops in camp circa 1863.  The regiment's white officers can be seen in the foreground.  (Library of Congress)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Methodist Church Hospital in Alexandria, VA

As the number of Union wounded and ill mounted, Alexandria's public building, churches, and even private homes were pressed into service as military hospitals.  At least twenty of Alexandria's largest buildings were transformed into hospitals during the war.  In January  1861, the U.S. Government took possession of Alexandria's Methodist Episcopal South church on Washington Street for use as a hospital. Like most other Alexandria churches, the Southern Methodist congregation was considered to be "secesh," so Union authorities had no qualms about seizing it. 
Photo of the Methodist Church on South Washington Street in Alexandria when it was being used as a U.S. Military Hospital, circa 1862.  The cornerstone was laid on September 12, 1840 and the building was completed in 1852.