Saturday, June 15, 2013
June 15 - Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery was established on June 15, 1864, by Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, who commanded the Union Army garrison at Arlington House, which had been the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's wife, Mary Anna Custis Lee. She was a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington by Martha’s first marriage. By late 1863, other cemeteries in the Capital region had been filled with Civil War dead. Land was needed, and seizure of Arlington was not only geographically sensible, but also politically pleasing: it would permanently deny Robert E. Lee use of his home. To ensure the mansion would forever be uninhabitable for the Lees, Meigs ordered graves to be placed as close to the house as possible. In 1866 he built a large stone burial vault in Lee’s rose garden, to hold the remains of more than 2,000 soldiers killed on battlefields near Washington. Nearly 4,000 former slaves are buried at Arlington, which today is the only national cemetery to hold servicemembers from every war in U.S. history.