The next morning we headed to the Metro station and another trip to Arlington National Cemetery – the beautiful weather from the night before which made our 12 mile walk pleasant had turned back to drizzly and cold.
Here are some facts you might not have known.
1. The Arlington Cemetery is actually built on the grounds of Robert E. Lee’s estate. The home was built by Lee’s father-in-law – the stepson of George Washington and the Lees had lived in it for 30 years. When Mary (who was confined to a wheelchair) sent a representative to pay her $92.00 taxes instead of paying them herself, the government took the property. To make sure that the Lees never again lived there, the Union built a cemetery around the house – as close to the mansion as possible. (You can visit the mansion, which we didn’t do this time, but Ken and I did when we were there.) Kind of mean, really. More than 2,000 unknown Civil War soldiers were buried on the Lee’s property.
2. In 1882, the Supreme Court said that the government had seized the land unlawfully and demanded that the government give it back to the Lees in the same state that they had taken it … which meant 17,000 graves would’ve needed to be dug up. Instead, Lee’s son sold it to the government for $150,000.
3. Soldiers from every American War are buried at Arlington.
4. Memorial Day was first celebrated at Arlington.
5. Future “unknown” soldiers are probably not going to happen since DNA testing has advanced to the extent that soldiers can be identified.
6. About 28 funerals happen there a day and flags are flown at half staff – from a half hour before the first funeral until a half hour after the last. Unique to Arlington – horses are used in the burials – including a riderless horse – a symbol of a fallen soldier.
7. 3,800 former slaves are buried in Arlington.
8. To be eligible for burial at Arlington, one must meet a long list of criteria – mostly, of course, having to do with the military. President Taft and President Kennedy are buried there as are Glenn Miller (band leader) and Abner Doubleday (the man behind baseball) – both Miller and Doubleday had military credentials. Partial remains of the Challenger astronauts are also buried in the cemetery.
The cemetery was packed with school field trips, so we couldn’t get as close as we would’ve liked to some of the graves/memorials.