PBS’ first American drama in a decade, MERCY STREET, is inspired by real events of Civil War Alexandria. Fans of the show are invited to explore the real sites and stories that inspired the show. Uncover the real people behind the characters on the show, the realities of Civil War medicine, changing roles for women, and the breakthrough experience of enslaved African Americans claiming their freedom.

MERCY STREET season one took place in the spring of 1862 just outside of Washington, D.C. in Alexandria, a border town between North and South and the longest Union-occupied city of the war.  Ruled under martial law, Alexandria was the central melting pot of the region, filled with civilians, female volunteers, doctors, wounded soldiers from both sides, free blacks, enslaved and contraband (escaped enslaved people living behind Union lines) African-Americans, speculators and spies. MERCY STREET follows the lives of all of these characters, who collide at Mansion House, the Green family’s luxury hotel, which has been taken over and transformed into a Union Army hospital. Catch up on season 1 by viewing on Amazon Prime or PBS.org.

MERCY STREET season two picks up directly from the dramatic events at the end of the season one finale, continuing to explore the growing chaos within Alexandria, the complicated interpersonal dynamics of Dr. Foster, Nurse Mary and the Mansion House staff, the increasingly precarious position of the Green family and the changing world of the burgeoning African-American population. The season will introduce a number of new elements, taking viewers closer to the fight and into the halls of Confederate power, all set against the intensifying war, starting with the Seven Days’ Battle and culminating with Antietam. Catch up on season 2 by viewing on Amazon Prime or PBS.org. DVDs are also for sale in the Alexandria Visitor Center, The Lyceum: Alexandria’s History Museum and other historic sites in Alexandria.

 
Preview of MERCY STREET Season 2

Mercy Street Inspired Experiences

The Real Mansion House From PBS’ MERCY STREET In real life, the idea for MERCY STREET also began with the Mansion House, today known as the Carlyle House. Learn More ›
Top 4 MERCY STREET Inspired Sites to Visit Explore the sites where the stories in the PBS MERCY STREET drama actually happened. Visit the Sites ›
MERCY STREET-inspired Guided Tours Alexandria has some extraordinary MERCY STREET inspired tours for those who prefer an in-depth and personalized experience. Learn More ›
Self-Guided Tour Fans of MERCY STREET can venture out on their own on this self-guided walking tour and immerse themselves in the real sites and stories of Civil War… Take the Tour ›
Videos: Behind-the-Scenes with the MERCY STREET Cast Watch interviews with the cast of MERCY STREET talk about the show and visiting the real sites that inspired the PBS drama. View Videos ›

Civil War Era Medicine and Hospitals

The Union Army occupied Alexandria from the first days of the Civil War to the last, transforming homes, churches and public buildings into military hospitals to accommodate the flood of wounded and diseased soldiers. By the end of the war, more than 30 Federal hospitals and 6,500 sick beds were located in Alexandria. Today, visitors to Alexandria can see where Union doctors shopped for supplies at Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum and explore former Civil War hospitals at historic sites.

Medicine and Mercy in Alexandria: The Real Apothecary Fans of Mercy Street can explore the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum, which feels more like a time-machine, where the real-life Green family… Learn More ›
Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum Since 1792, Alexandria patrons from Martha Washington to Robert E. Lee relied on tonics dispensed from the Apothecary. Learn More ›
Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum

The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary was able to operate and remain open during occupied Alexandria. The Green Family and Union hospital staff shopped here to purchase everything from Laudanum to Cologne.

 


 

African American Experience

During the Civil War, thousands of African Americans escaping slavery sought refuge behind Union lines in Alexandria. The fugitives found freedom in Alexandria, but also a city under siege. Still, despite rampant disease and deprivation, by the end of the war they had fought for their own liberation and built communities and lives afresh. Learn about the legacy of Alexandria’s contraband community and the amazing story of their lost and rediscovered burial ground at the Alexandria Black History Museum, Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial, the Archaeology Museum and other historic sites.

Discover the Historic Figures Who Forged Freedom in… Get a glimpse into the varying statuses and struggles of the real African-Americans depicted in PBS' Mercy Street at Alexandria sites. Explore ›
Top 4 African American History Experiences in Alexandria Find empowering stories of African Americans in our top 4 Mercy Street inspired experiences Be Inspired ›
Before the Spirits are Swept Away This exhibition features over 20 paintings, including large scale works, of former slave dwellings that dot the landscape across the region and state… Learn More ›
Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial

Between 1864 and 1869, the Contrabands and Freedmen’s Cemetery served as the burial place for about 1,800 African Americans who fled to Union-occupied Alexandria to escape from bondage.


 

Women and the Civil War

Mary Phinney von Olnhausen arrived in Alexandria in August 1862 and was assigned to the Mansion House Hospital, the city's largest military hospital. Most of the women assigned to hospitals at this time had little or no experience with nursing, but they wanted to serve their country and do something to help ease the enormous suffering from disease and battlefield wounds during the conflict.  They often taught themselves nursing under adverse circumstances, including active hostility from the surgeons they worked with, and helped to create a profession that did not exist before the war.

The Real Women Who Inspired PBS’ MERCY STREET Take a deeper look into the lives of the the real women who inspired the MERCY STREET characters. Learn More ›