Across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., is Alexandria, Virginia. Occupied by United States forces since May 24, 1861, the town is the former home of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee–currently engaged in a daring invasion of Maryland–whose estate is used by the Union as a military command post. Many other buildings in town have also been converted into facilities useful to the U.S. military effort, including the Alexandria Baptist Church.
The church is now a Union hospital, caring for wounded soldiers from both the North and the South. The families of Confederate soldiers are allowed to visit their wounded, as hospital nurse Clarissa Jones notes in a letter she pens this day.
… We have 9 Sesesh prisoners in the Church opposite to which we belong, being under the same officers, etc. Certain females come daily with grapes, peaches & the like to give to them [Confederate POW patients] alone — that is not allowable, for all the good things sent to the institution are equally divided, and this we explain, but not to their satisfaction. They become terribly worked up and in a majority of cases go off with their contributions. They do not understand what it is to be lady-like in their conversation or behavior. We have a flag over the door now to keep them out; they have a holy horror of the article and even to attend to their own sick will hardly subject themselves to the degradation of coming under it …
Source: Excerpt from Nurse Clarissa Jones’ September 12, 1862 letter, as well as photo, from “Witness to War and Reunion,” by the Alexandria city government (link)