Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery is one of more than 100 national cemeteries; however, it is the only one of two national cemeteries administered by the Army. The cemetery at the Soldiers' and Airmen's Home in Washington, D.C., also falls under the administration of Arlington National Cemetery. Nearly 4 million visitors pay their respects to over 250,000 fallen military heroes entombed at Arlington each year. Because of limited space, burials at Arlington National Cemetery are restricted to specific categories of honorably discharged U.S. service men and women.
The 612 acres of Arlington National Cemetery were once part of the 1,100-acre Arlington plantation owned by Mary Ann Randolph Custis, one of George Washington's relatives. She married Lt. Robert E. Lee on June 30, 1831, and lived at Arlington House for 30 years. Lee resigned his commission in 1861 when the war between the states seemed certain, and left the estate forever, rather than fight against his native Virginia. Federal troops crossed the Potomac not long after that, fortified the estate's ridges, and turned the home into the Army of the Potomac's headquarters. Arlington House and the estate were confiscated in May 1864 and sold to the federal government when the Lees failed to pay $92.07 in property taxes in person.
Union forces built three fortifications on the land, and 200 acres nearby were set aside as a national cemetery. Sixty-five soldiers were buried there on June 15, 1864, and by the end of the Civil War more than 16,000 headstones dotted Arlington plantation's rolling hills. In 1877, Lee's son took legal action against the United States for return of the property, claiming right of inheritance. The Supreme Court decided in his favor, and in 1883, he accepted the government's offer to buy the property for $150,000 as full compensation.
Soldiers from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 were reinterred at Arlington. A Freedman's Village established at the estate in June 1863 provided food, housing, medical care, employment training and education for more than 30 years for former slaves who migrated to the area. More than 3,800 blacks from Freedman's Village are buried at Arlington, their headstones noting their names and the word "civilian" or "citizen".
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