A few blocks up King Street from their landing site, the commander of the New York Fire Zouaves, Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth, sortied with a small detachment to retrieve a large Confederate flag displayed on the roof of a local hotel that had been visible from the White House.
While descending from the roof, Ellsworth was killed by Confederate Capt. James W. Jackson, the hotel proprietor. One of the soldiers in Ellsworth’s party shot Jackson immediately thereafter.
Colonel Ellsworth was from Illinois and was a frequent visitor to the White House, where his death was much lamented.
Ellsworth was publicized as a Union martyr, its first officer killed in the Civil War.
Alexandria remained under military occupation until the end of the Civil War, a ring of forts built there to defend Washington.
Over the course of the war, Alexandria was transformed by the Union occupiers into a major supply depot and transport and hospital center, all under Army control.
Meanwhile, far to the South, Confederate troops held Ship Island in the Mississippi Sound, taken over just after Mississippi seceded.
Named by French explorers, Ship Island became an important port of French Louisiana. Many colonists took their first steps on American soil here on what has come to be called the “Plymouth Rock” of the Gulf Coast.
The Confederates built up the incomplete fort with timbers and sand bags.
The fort was part of the Third System of 42 installations built beginning in 1816 to guard principal harbors, rivers and naval yards.
Prior to the Battle of New Orleans in 1814, some 10,000 British troops and 60 ships amassed in the deep-water anchorage off Ship Island to mount the unsuccessful attempt to capture the city.
In July 1861, the Union ship Massachusetts engaged in a 20-minute exchange with several Confederate cannons before withdrawing.
In September, the Confederacy burned the lighthouse there and abandoned the island. Union soldiers occupied it, finished building the fort and named it Massachusetts after their flagship.
In 1862, a Union invasion fleet used Ship Island as a staging area so Adm. David Farragut could damn the torpedoes and capture Mobile, Ala., and New Orleans.
Throughout the war, Union ships stopped for repairs and supplies. A hospital, barracks, mess hall and bakery were among nearly 40 buildings that sheltered as many as 18,000 Union troops.
During the war, 27 Union infantry regiments saw service on Ship Island. In addition to these regiments, six batteries of light artillery and a battalion of cavalry spent time on the sandy outpost.
Union troop strength on Ship Island peaked in April 1862 when more than 15,000 men assembled for the final assault on New Orleans.
On January 12, 1863, seven companies from a new regiment of African Americans, the 2nd Louisiana Native Guards, arrived for garrison duty.
Life on Ship Island for soldiers during the Civil War was a boring, uncomfortable, and often deadly experience.
In fact, 232 Union soldiers died and were buried on Ship Island during the war.
They were mainly from New England -- Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut, with a few boys from New York, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin mixed in. A dozen or more black men from Louisiana who served for almost three years on that desolate stretch of sand complete the list.
Hurricane Camille in 1969 cut Ship Island in half, forming East and West Ship islands. The 35-foot high storm surge of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 washed over and through the fort but failed to significantly undermine the structure.