The History of Arlington National Cemetery

The History of Arlington National Cemetery

The Arlington National Cemetery was established in 1864 as the need for graves for fallen soldiers reached its peak during the Civil War. The soldiers in charge of burying the dead requisitioned Arlington Estate’s grounds to create a new cemetery to ease the pressure on the United States Soldiers Cemetery and the Alexandria Cemetery.

The land had belonged to the Curtis family, distant step grandchildren of George Washington. The land soon became packed with living soldiers to take the estate from the family for the use of the US government. This former home of Robert E. Lee was never returned to the family and instead became the property of the government at auction. The price paid for the home and surrounding land was $26,800 which would come in at around $400K in today’s economy.

The home wasn’t destined to stay with the government for very long however, as the Supreme Court ruled that the land had been unfairly taken from the family. The surviving heir, Curtis Lee, was awarded the property but promptly sold it to the government once more for in increased fee.

Since then, the house and grounds are designated for the casualties of war and has been expanded since then. Soldiers from WWII, the Vietnam War and the Korean War are all buried in this cemetery and surviving veterans also request to be buried here with fallen friends.

The very first soldier buried here was William Henry Christman, a private interred in 1864. Soldiers were also reburied here from overfull cemeteries in surrounding areas so the soldiers here go back to a time long before the Civil War.

There are also presidents buried within the grounds including the much loved President Taft. There are also three Kennedy brothers buried here with John F. Kennedy’s gravesite being one of the most visited areas.

Burials still take place here, with around 30 services per week day and about 8 on each Saturday. This hallowed ground sees many veterans being laid to rest and any veteran can request a burial site in this cemetery.

Arlington House is also situated here and this home is an architectural wonder in terms of design and structure. The Greek style columns and interior make this stand out from the crowd and this building has stood since 1803. In 2007, this house underwent an extreme refurbishment worth nearly $7million to restore it to its former glory.

Although this area has somewhat of a respectful atmosphere, it’s still an amazing place to learn about military history. The sacrifices made by those laid to rest here can really be appreciated when taking in the gardens and home. Visitors often feel like they’ve taken a step back in time as they traverse the home and the peace and stillness of the grounds cannot be overemphasised. If you want to visit this area while being guided by experienced tour guides, then book one of the Arlington National Cemetery tours with Gray Line for an unmatched experience.