Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Arlington National Cemetery

During my recent trip to Washington DC, we made a stop at Arlington National Cemetery. As always, it's both somber and inspiring.

Since I've made so many trips to this area, my souvenier buying days are over. I did, of course, make the obligatory stop at the gift shop. This time I bought books. One I picked up is called, "In Honored Glory". It's all about Arlington.

The land was originally owned by the adopted son of George Washington, George Washington Parke Custis. The land eventually passed to his granddaughter, Mary Anna Randolph, who married Robert E. Lee. When R.E. Lee left Arlington to join the Confederate Troops, the federal government sensing the strategic importance of the Arlington plantation captured it. During the Civil War, a property tax of $92.07 was assessed on the plantation with the requirement that the tax be paid by the owner personally. Mrs. Lee was unable to appear to pay the tax, so the property was confiscated and sold at auction to The United States government for $26,800.

The government had been looking for suitable burial grounds for the Civil War casualties and chose Arlington. The first military funeral was for Private William Christman of the 67th Pennsylvania Infantry who had spent the majority of his two month military career in Lincoln Hospital with peritonitis.

The Quartermaster General of the Army, Montgomery Meigs was charged with the administration of federal cemeteries, but he was angry with what he felt was Lee's treasonable behavior so he requested and received 200 acres in the immediate vicinity of the mansion to be used as a national cemetery. Soon 65 burials took place on the property, including some in Mrs. Lee's rose garden.

There are many more interesting stories in this book which lists the names of some of those buried in Arlington. Some of them are - Oliver Wendell Holmes, General John J. Pershing, General Douglas MacArthur, George C. Marshall, General Jimmy Doolittle, Audie Murphy. There were also some surprises - Joe Louis, Lee Marvin, Pierre L'Enfant. Marlo Batista who was an Italian prisoner of war is also buried there.

There are monuments and memorials for Challenger, Pan Am 103, Pentagon Victims on 9/11. There is a memorial to the War of 1812 Unknowns and a group burial for 2,111 Unknowns.

This was a very interest trip and I'm so glad I bought this book. I've learned so much about Arlington. It makes me want to learn even more. I'm sure I'll write more when I finish the book.

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