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Thu Dec 12, 2019, 08:30 AM

How Arlington National Cemetery Came to Be

From https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-arlington-national-cemetery-came-to-be-145147007/#u5lOCt5mdaMa1DEM.99

How Arlington National Cemetery Came to Be
The fight over Robert E. Lee’s beloved home—seized by the U.S. government during the Civil War—went on for decades

image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/MiHA50hdekt7Oi_yzLHRwI-ODrA=/800x600/filters:no_upscale()/

Arlington Cemetery
Starting in 1864, Arlington National Cemetery was transformed into a military cemetery. (Bruce Dale)



By Robert M. Poole
SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE | SUBSCRIBE
NOVEMBER 2009

One afternoon in May 1861, a young Union Army officer went rushing into the mansion that commanded the hills across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. "You must pack up all you value immediately and send it off in the morning," Lt. Orton Williams told Mary Custis Lee, wife of Robert E. Lee, who was away mobilizing Virginia's military forces as the country hurtled toward the bloodiest war in its history.

Mary Lee dreaded the thought of abandoning Arlington, the 1,100-acre estate she had inherited from her father, George Washington Parke Custis, upon his death in 1857. Custis, the grandson of Martha Washington, had been adopted by George Washington when Custis' father died in 1781. Beginning in 1802, as the new nation's capital took form across the river, Custis started building Arlington, his showplace mansion. Probably modeled after the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens, the columned house floated among the Virginia hills as if it had been there forever, peering down upon the half-finished capital at its feet. When Custis died, Arlington passed to Mary Lee, his only surviving child, who had grown up, married and raised seven children and buried her parents there. In correspondence, her husband referred to the place as "our dear home," the spot "where my attachments are more strongly placed than at any other place in the world." If possible, his wife felt an even stronger attachment to the property.

[...]

This left few options for the federal government, which was now technically trespassing on private property. It could abandon an Army fort on the grounds, roust the residents of Freedmen's Village, disinter almost 20,000 graves and vacate the property. Or it could buy the estate from Custis Lee—if he was willing to sell it.

He was. Both sides agreed on a price of $150,000, the property's fair market value. Congress quickly appropriated the funds. Lee signed papers conveying the title on March 31, 1883, which placed federal ownership of Arlington beyond dispute. The man who formally accepted title to the property for the government was none other than Robert Todd Lincoln, secretary of war and son of the president so often bedeviled by Custis Lee's father. If the sons of such adversaries could bury past arguments, perhaps there was hope for national reunion.

[...]


Adapted from On Hallowed Ground, by Robert M. Poole. © 2009 Robert M. Poole. Published by Walker & Company. Reproduced with permission.


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Reply How Arlington National Cemetery Came to Be (Original post)
sl8 Dec 12 OP
ProudMNDemocrat Dec 12 #1
Dennis Donovan Dec 12 #2
CaptYossarian Dec 12 #3

Response to sl8 (Original post)

Thu Dec 12, 2019, 08:33 AM

1. Hallowed ground.

I have been there. Arlington House looms down the hill from the Eternal flame where JFK lays.

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Response to sl8 (Original post)

Thu Dec 12, 2019, 08:49 AM

2. It was a huge finger-in-the-eye to Lee

Turning the estate into a cemetery made it completely unsuitable for living or farming. Sorry Bob, you picked the wrong side (in both fight and history) when you became a traitor.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #2)

Thu Dec 12, 2019, 03:04 PM

3. Your word traitor made me think.

Does any other country on the planet have monuments to honor its traitors like the U.S. does? Or are our citizens in the southern half just sore losers?

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