“Shall I arrest Colonel Taylor?” Confusion in Alexandria, May 1861

In the first days of May 1861, with the opening salvos of the United States Civil War from the bombardment of Fort Sumter scarcely faded, Confederate forces stationed at Alexandria, Virginia, directly across the river from the Union capital, waited nervously for the next move. Flush with zealous patriotism, the new nation’s leadership in Richmond was adamant that not an inch of sacred Southern soil be yielded without a heavy price in blood. It was easier said than done.