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Alexandria, Virginia
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Town Nicknames: Home Town Of George Washington, Historic Home Town Of General George Washington


The City of Alexandria, first known as Belle Haven, was named in honor of John Alexander, who in the last quarter of the 17th century had bought the land on which the city now stands from Robert Howison; the first settlement here was made in 1695. Alexandria was laid out in 1749 and was incorporated in 1779.

A portion of the City of Alexandria shares with all of today's Arlington County the distinction of having been originally in Virginia, ceded to the U.S. Government to form the District of Columbia in 1790, and later retroceded to Virginia by the federal government in 1846, when the District was reduced in size to exclude the portion south of the Potomac River. The City of Alexandria was re-chartered in 1852.

The City of Alexandria became independent of Alexandria County in 1870. The remaining portion of Alexandria County changed its name to Arlington County in 1920, ending years of confusion.

In 1930, Alexandria annexed the Town of Potomac. That town, adjacent to Potomac Yard, had been laid out beginning in the late 19th century and incorporated in 1908.

Revolutionary War

In 1755 General Edward Braddock organized his fatal expedition against Fort Duquesne at Alexandria, and here, in April of the same year, the governors of Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland met to determine upon concerted action against the French in America.

In March 1785, commissioners from Virginia and Maryland met here to discuss the commercial relations of the two states, finishing their business at Mount Vernon on the 28th with an agreement for freedom of trade and freedom of navigation of the Potomac. The Maryland legislature in ratifying this agreement on November 22 proposed a conference among representatives from all the states to consider the adoption of definite commercial regulations. This led to the calling of the Annapolis Convention of 1786, which in turn led to the calling of the Federal Convention of 1787.

In 1790, Alexandria was included in the area chosen by George Washington to become the District of Columbia. During the War of 1812, Alexandria surrendered to a British fleet in 1814 without a fight. As agreed in the terms of surrender the British looted stores and warehouses of mainly flour, tobacco, cotton, wine and sugar.

From 1828 to 1836 Alexandria was home to the Franklin & Armfield Slave Market, one of the largest slave trading companies in the country. By the 1830s, they were sending more than 1,000 slaves annually from Alexandria to their Natchez, Mississippi and New Orleans markets to help meet the demand for slaves in Mississippi and surrounding states. [3] Later owned by Price, Birch & Co. the slave pen became a jail under Union (American Civil War) occupation[4].

Return to Virginia

Over time, a movement grew to separate Alexandria from the District of Columbia. As competition grew with the port of Georgetown and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal favored the north side of the Potomac, the city's economy stagnated. In addition, many in Alexandria hoped to benefit from land sales and increased business from the federal government, but it had no need for the land south of the river. In addition, its residents had lost representation and the right to vote at any level of government. Alexandria was also an important port and market in the slave trade there was increasing talk of abolition of slavery in the national capital, and the economy would suffer greatly if slavery was outlawed. At the same time, there was an active abolition movement in Virginia, and the state's General Assembly was closely divided on the question of slavery (resulting in the formation of West Virginia eighteen years later by the most anti-slavery counties) and Alexandria and Alexandria County would provide two new pro-slavery representatives. After a referendum, voters petitioned Congress and Virginia to return the area to Virginia. The area was retroceded to Virginia by on July 9, 1846.

American Civil War

At the opening of the American Civil War, the city was occupied by Federal troops until the end of the war, making it the longest held city during the war.

The union Fort Ward, built for the defense of Washington, DC, was located within the boundaries of modern Alexandria.

Great excitement throughout the North was caused by the killing (May 24, 1861) of Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth (1837-1861) by Captain James W. Jackson, a hotel proprietor, from whose building Ellsworth had removed a Confederate flag. After the establishment of the state of West Virginia in 1863, and until the close of the war, Alexandria was the seat of what was known as the "Alexandria Government." Also, buildings at Virginia Theological Seminary and at Episcopal High School served as hospitals for union troops. Bullets, belt clips, and other artifacts from the civil war have been found in the area today. - Wikipedia Article Alexandria, Virginia


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