Alexandria is an independent Virginia city, not affiliated with any county. With the Potomac River on the east, it is surrounded on land by Arlington and Fairfax counties. Washington DC is about six miles north.
The site of Alexandria was largely included in a grant of land to Captain Robert Howsing in 1669. Shortly afterwards, he sold it to John Alexander. When the town was established in 1749, it was named for John Alexander. The surveyor,John West, was purportedly assisted by the then-19-year-old George Washington.
In 1789, Alexandria was part of the original 10-mile-square District of Columbia. It remained under federal jurisdiction until 1847, when it was returned to Virginia. Alexandria was chartered as a city in 1852.
During the Civil War, Alexandria was used by Union Forces to supply troops on the front and to transport wounded soldiers back to hospitals. Several forts were built as part of the defense of Washington, DC. Fort Ward Park now contains a reconstruction of one of those forts. Alexandria served as the capital of the Restored Government of Virginia from 1863 to 1865.
Alexandria's waterfront Torpedo Factory produced munitions during both the first and second world wars. After its closing as a military facility, it was renovated and redeveloped and is now the heart of a lively waterfront district.