Thursday, May 5, 2011

Alexandria Abandoned

Alexandria and Washington
By now the panic of a few weeks ago for the defense of Washington had subsided somewhat as the new volunteer regiments began to arrive at the capital. But the Confederates were still occupying Alexandria just across the river, and the Confederate flags flying over the houses were visible from the capitol. General Winfield Scott began to plan to cross into Virginia and capture Alexandria to give more breathing room in his defense of the capitol. However, on May 5th the Confederates left Alexandria of their own accord without him even advancing.

The Confederate commander in Alexandria was Lt. Col. A. S. Taylor. He was commanded by his superior, General Cooke, to make a "gallant and fighting retreat" if he was attacked by superior forces.1 He had about 650 troops, but they were inexperienced and badly armed. His men were also spread throughout the town, as most of them were from the area. He received a message which said that Federals would cross the river on the 6th or 7th, and therefore he abandoned the city without informing his superiors.

Cooke attempted to put Taylor under arrest for disobeying orders. While he may not have had enough forces to hold Alexandria, he should not have retreated without asking his commander. It appears that Taylor left the infantry and became a Captain in the Confederate Marine Corps.

1. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 2, p. 24


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