The laudable idea, conceived a year or two ago, of erecting a suitable monument to perpetuate to the memory of those of the historic Seventeenth Virginia regiment who yielded up their lives during the four years’ civil war, and which soon evolved into a fixed purpose, culminated today in the unveiling at the intersection of Prince and Washington streets of a memorial in their honor which would do credit to any city. The interest manifested in the erection of the monument had from the start been earnest, and while no intemperate zeal had been apparent, the originators and these engaged in the perfection of the work have evinced a determination and an indefatigable energy which augured its entire success from the first inception of the project. The various stages in the work have been chronicled in the Gazette from time to time; hence their repetition now is unnecessary : but as the day for the unveiling drew on almost the entire community enlisted in the enterprise, and the monument for some time has been the main theme of conversation.
The joyful anticipation of the scenes of today has been more than realized, and at the conclusion of the ceremonies connected with the unveiling the vast assemblage parted from what will henceforth be considered a sacred spot both edified and instructed. The addresses of the renowned speakers were pathetic and entrancing, at times sending electrical thrills through the audience, as was evinced by the hurrahs and applause which so often rent the air.
The occasion far exceeded anything in the way of parades or open meetings ever seen in Alexandria, the city from daybreak having put on its holiday attire. The population was soon doubled by large influx of visitors and former residents from every point of the compass, and the streets presented an animated appearance. In addition to the extraordinarily large number landed by cars aud boats, parties from the neighboring Country in carriages and all sorts of vehicle poured into the streets from early morn, and by noon the neighborhood of the statue was packed by a huge mass of humanity. The weather was about as pleasant as could have been wished for — bright sunshine with the temperature low enough to render one comfortable.
There has been an interval of over three decades since a statue was erected through public spirit by Alexandrians, the last having been the beautiful and imposing shaft in Ivy Hill cemetery, reared, like the one displayed to the public today, to the memory of men who died in the faithful discharge of their duty — not, however, amid the clash of war, but in quenching the flame — men who had responded to the midnight alarm, and been buried under falling debris. May their memory, too, be ever green.
Children and grandchildren of the fallen heroes of the old Seventeenth mingled today in the assemblage around the monument which will henceforth perpetuate the memory of men who so nobly responded to the call of their native State while in the concourse the number who remembered or witnessed the hasty departure of the Alexandria companies from the same spot just twenty-eight years ago was by no means insignificant. There hasty partings had taken place — some, alas! final ones. In not a few instances the departure of loved ones was so hurried and abrupt that there was no time for parental adieux or blessings. Out of nearly four hundred who made their hasty exit, and of the number who later left for “Dixie,” ninety-seven were destined to return no more, and though over a quarter of a century has elapsed since they fell in the defence of their principles, Time, the soother of all our sorrows, has but partially blunted tbe edge of the poignant grief at the time experienced, and their memory still lives while their self-sacrificing spirit will continue to animate future generations — hereabouts, at least.
War to a large percentage of the present generation is only known through history; they were either unborn or two young to have witnessed the terrible fruits of carnage or to have realized the self abnegation of men who voluntarily shouldered their muskets in defense of what is sincerely believed sacred, and many there were who, while they stood around that monument today lapsed into a thoughtful mood, when the panorama of the scene of the four years’ conflict passed through their minds.
The point at which the monument has been placed is conceded to be the most central and at the same time the most appropriate in the city. As stated above, it was from this place that the Alexandria companies took their departure to join fortunes with their Southern brethren, and though several other localities have been suggested, the corner of Prince and Washington streets has ever been looked upon as the most suitable spot on which to place the memorial to the fallen heroes. The altitude and widih of the latter thoroughfare rendering the monument more conspiclous from a distance than would have been the case had it been placed in any other section of the city. Crowds remained in close proximity to the monument all the morning, and as noon drew on, the time at which the procession formed, the streets in the neighborhood became almost impassible, while windows, porches, door steps and front and side yards of neighboring houses were filled to repletion.
Alexandria Gazette, May 24, 1889