Histopolis features a different cemetery, town, county or other place every day on the Place-of-The-Day.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Although Arlington National Cemetery is a national cemetery, it is one of two cemeteries maintained by the Department of the Army, not the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration.
"George Washington Parke Custis acquired the land that now is Arlington National Cemetery in 1802, and began construction of Arlington House. The estate was passed down to Custis' and his wife's (Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis) only surviving adult child Mary Anna Custis Lee who was married to Robert E. Lee, a West Point graduate and United States Army officer. When Fort Sumter was forced to surrender at the beginning of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln offered Lee the command of the federal army. Lee demurred, wanting to see if his native Virginia would decide to secede.
"When Virginia announced its decision, Lee resigned his commission and took command of the armed forces of the Commonwealth of Virginia, later becoming commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. He quickly established himself as an able commander, defeating a series of Union generals, until his final defeat and surrender at the McLean House. Because of this decision and subsequent performance, Lee was regarded as disloyal by most Union officers. The decision was made to appropriate a portion of Arlington as a graveyard for mostly Union dead.
"American military cemeteries developed from the duty of commanders on the frontier and in battle to care for their casualties. When Civil War casualties overflowed hospitals and burial grounds near Washington, D.C., Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs proposed in 1864 that 200 acres (0.81 km2) of the Robert E. Lee family property at Arlington be taken for a cemetery.
"The government had acquired Arlington at tax sale in 1864 for $26,800. Mrs. Lee had not appeared in person, but rather had sent an agent, attempting to timely pay the $92.07 in property taxes assessed the estate. The government turned away her agent, refusing to accept the tendered payment. In 1877, Custis Lee, heir under his grandfather's will passing the estate in trust to his mother, sued the United States claiming ownership of Arlington. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Lee's favor in 1882, deciding that Arlington had been confiscated without due process, Congress returned the estate to him. The next year Custis Lee sold it back to the government for $150,000 at a signing ceremony with Robert Todd Lincoln, Secretary of War.
"Military burials were previously done at the United States Soldiers' National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., but space was filling up. "We pray for those who lost their lives.", Meigs wrote, "The grounds about the mansion are admirably adapted to such a use." Burials had in fact begun at Arlington before the ink was even blotted on Meigs's proposal.
"The southern portion of the land now occupied by the cemetery was used during and after the Civil War as a settlement for freed slaves. More than 1,100 freed slaves were given land at Freedman's Village by the government, where they farmed and lived during and after the Civil War. They were turned out in 1890 when the estate was repurchased by the government and dedicated as a military installation.
"President Herbert Hoover conducted the first national Memorial Day ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery, on May 30, 1929"
Note: The first Place-of-the-Day was in September 2010