From the Office of Historic Alexandria
Alexandria, VA – Given the fact that Alexandria was founded before the United States, it’s little surprise that our city has so many memorials dedicated to veterans. Even leaving out the memorials to General Braddock and to those who fought for the Confederacy, Alexandria has at least seven memorials, parks, and plazas dedicated to Alexandrians who served in the United States military. The memorials range in location, appearance, and timeframe, but in this year of social distancing, might the Office of Historic Alexandria suggest visiting one or more this Veteran’s Day?
Rather than start in Old Town, let’s begin our tour in Potomac West, at the Captain Rocky Versace Plaza and Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Commonwealth and Groves Avenues, in front of the Mount Vernon Recreation Center. The City dedicated the plaza to the memory of Capt. Humberto “Rocky” Versace who graduated from the US Military Academy in 1959. He was captured by the Viet Cong in 1963 and executed in 1965. The memorial commemorates Capt. Versace as well as the other 66 service members from Alexandria who lost their lives or just never returned from the Vietnam conflict.
There are two memorials to Alexandrians who fought and died in World War I. The City refurbished and rededicated both in 2018, during the 100th Anniversary of the end of the Great War. One plaque is at Alexandria Union Station, in front of the In Memory of Alexandria War Dead Monument; the other plaque is at the American Legion Post 24 on Cameron Street. The new plaque expanded the list of names to include two African Americans from Alexandria who lost their lives, Christopher Cloxon and William Thomas.
The Memorial Fountain is on North Royal Street, not far from the American Legion plaque. Rededicated in 1967 by the Mount Vernon Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the fountain uses a cannon probably dating to the 18th-Century although which conflict it dates to has been under dispute. The fountain’s three tiers were designed to hydrate birds, humans, and horses, but the prospect of water contamination made it unpopular in the 19th century as a water source.
We have two memorials pertinent to followers of African American Civil War History. One is at the (Alexandria) National Cemetery where some 230 US Colored Troops were interred after 440 patients at L’Overture Hospital on Duke Street signed a petition that they deserved to be buried next to their fellow US military brethren, rather than in the Freedmen’s Cemetery on Washington and Church Street. That petition is one of the earliest known petitions for equal rights in the military.
A sign on the grounds of Fort Ward Park describes the contributions of African Americans to the Union cause. The marker also notes how the children of African American Civil War Veterans built The Fort and Seminary communities following the war.
Two other memorials are more holistic, dedicated to all deceased Alexandrians who fought in any war. In 1979 the City dedicated Veteran’s Memorial Walkway at the corner of South Columbus and Wilkes Streets. And James Marx All Veteran’s Park was dedicated in 1994 for veterans of all wars. The park is located on North Pickett Street, just north of the intersection with Duke Street.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but we hope that our suggestions give readers ideas about where they can pay their respects to those Alexandrians who fought for our country. May your Veteran’s Day be blessed!