On May 23rd we posted a blog about Arlington National Cemetery's unique beginning, as well as its ties with several famous people linked to President George Washington. (See that blog to catch up in case you missed it.)
At the end of that post Artlington was a farm belonging to the Robert E. Lee family.
We continue here.
Then the Civil War began. Due to Lee’s ties to Washington, he was offered command of the Union army. He turned it down. Winfield Scott, General in Chief of the Army, said, “Lee, you have made the greatest mistake of your life, but I feared it would be so.”
As you know, Lee went to Richmond to become commander of the Confederacy or the “Rebels” as they liked to call themselves.
With Lee gone, the United States Army occupied Arlington as a military post, an integral spot for defending our nation’s capital. Then as Washington cemeteries began filling up Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, saw Arlington as an ideal burial ground for fallen Union soldiers. It also was a slap in the face of Lee, a traitor in Stanton’s view, as acres of his farmland were opened for graves of his enemies.
Robert E. Lee never returned to his beloved Arlington, but there was another strange twist of fate. His son, George Washington Custis Lee (a confederate officer known as Custis) had inherited the family farm. When he returned from the war he pursued a lawsuit all the way to the Supreme Court and won rights to General Lee’s property. There was a glitch, however; what to do with all those graves?
Fortunately, Lee sold it to the United States government for $150,000. The then-Secretary of War who accepted the deed was-- Robert Todd Lincoln, son of our sixteenth president.
A strange twist of fate secured a most beautiful spot to honor fallen heroes of American wars.
They paid the ultimate price—their lives. It is only fitting that we honor them for that.
As a foreign military leader observed when visiting Arlington, “Now I know why your soldiers fight so hard. You take better care of your dead than we do our living.”
Taken from imprimis.hillsdale.edu/sacred-duty-soldiers-tour-arlington-national-cemetery/