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Did you know: Alexandria briefly served as a capital of Virginia during the Civil War?

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church during the Civil War (photo via City of Alexandria)

Little fun fact about Alexandria: last week marked the 160th anniversary of Alexandria becoming the capital of Alexandria — kind of.

The Office of Historic Alexandria’s weekly newsletter noted that June 20, 1863, marked the start of Alexandria serving as the capital of “the Restored Government of Virginia.”

Francis Harrison Piermont served as governor, recognizing the abolition of slavery and the creation of West Virginia. The capital had been in Wheeling, but when West Virginia split from Virginia, the capital was moved to Alexandria from 1863-1865 before returning to Richmond after the war’s end.

The full write-up from This Week In Historic Alexandria is below:

On June 20, 1863, Alexandria became the capital of the Restored Government of Virginia with Francis Harrison Pierpont serving as governor.  Under Pierpont, a new Virginia constitution was issued in 1864 recognizing the abolition of slavery and creation of West Virginia. At the start of the Civil War, counties in northwestern Virginia opposed secession.  These counties had advocated for separate statehood long before the war started, but the U.S. Constitution would forbid states from being created with the borders of existing states without approval of that state’s legislature.  However, once the war began, the federal government recognized the City of Wheeling as the capital of the Restored Government, and within two years the new State of West Virginia was approved. At that time the Restored Government of Virginia moved from the new state to a new capital at Alexandria.  When the war ended in 1865, the Virginia state capital moved again to Richmond, which had acted as the capital of the Confederacy during the war years.

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