When you think summer, you think fireworks, ice cream and the National Anthem sung at every baseball game. These things have ties to a war that’s usually one paragraph in history books – the War of 1812. Was it the Second War of Independence? Wasn’t that the one where Dolley saved the Washington portrait? During this “Star-Spangled Summer,” make it your mission to find out. Some background: While war was declared in 1812, it was not until 1814 that it reached Alexandria’s shores. On the morning of August 29th, 138 British guns were “but a few hundred yards from the wharves, and the houses so situated that they might have been laid in ashes in a few minutes.” The British promised not to destroy the town if citizens surrendered all naval stores and merchandise intended for export. City officials agreed and, though labelled cowards by many, the town’s leaders saved Alexandria from destruction, preserving much of what we know as “Old Town” today. And while the British filled their ships full of loot, it gave Baltimore precious time to prepare its defenses.
A 19th-century cartoon mocking Alexandrians for surrendering. Courtesy of the Office of Historic Alexandria
So enter your Star-Spangled Summer! There are activities for everyone: a bike tour, mobile scavenger hunt, exhibits, a 5K race, an Old Town walking tour, movies – even your favorite tavernkeeper tweeting! Local businesses have gotten the 1812 fever (check out their cool window clings), and perhaps we can convince the Dairy Godmother to make Dolley’s favorite ice cream flavor – oyster!
All of this culminates August 30-31, 2014 during the “Signature Event Weekend,” where visitors can honor war veterans at two special ceremonies, talk with “1814 residents,” take a boat ride thanks to the Alexandria Seaport Foundation, listen to the USN Sea Chanters & US Navy Band and watch the Old Guard Fife & Drum Corp (among many other awesome things).
Image from the Office of Historic Alexandria
But don’t drop your defenses – the British are coming back, this time on friendlier terms. Mayor Euille and City Council have issued a “challenge” to the Royal Navy through the British Embassy, which will not be fought with cannons or swords, but with oars and rope. Throughout the weekend, cheer on Alexandria at three events: a yacht race up the Potomac; a cricket match; and a tug of war, anchored by our very own Alexandria firefighters.
So we hope you have a great Star-Spangled Summer full of fun bursting in air.
For a full schedule of events, click here.
This post was written by Liz Williams, from the Office of Historic Alexandria.
Header image by Red Brick Town