Arlington Cementery

How many of you have ever been to Arlington Cemetery? The location of this national shrine is located just over the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. There is a lot of h istory centered around this national cemetery, beginning with George Washington and continuing down to the present day.
As you know George Washington married a widow, Martha Custis, who had two minor children. The boy, John Custis, grew up at Mount Vernon and as a young man joined General Washington's staff as an aide. It has been said that General Washington suggested to young Custis that he buy the land along the Potomac that is now Arlington Cemetery. This was long before the city of Washi ngton was laid out across the river from the Custis estate. John Custis did not live to build a house for he contracted camp fever and died during the siege of Cornwallis and his British Army at Yorktown, Virginia.
This beautiful estate was willed to John Custis' son, George Washington Parke Custis, a grandson of Martha Custis Washington and an adopted grandson of General George Washington. George Washington Parke Custis built a mansion on the heights overlooking the Potomac in 1804. He plann ed to call his homestead Mount Washington but finally decided on the name of Arlington.
That same year George Washington Parke Custis married Mary Fitzhugh. From this marriage came Mary Ann Custis and here the Arlington story becomes more historic for Mary Ann Custis married a young officer in the Army by the name of Robert E. Lee. For thirty years this was the home of Robert E. Lee, but he was seldom there since he was on various assignments in the Army that took him to posts all across America an d to the War in Mexico where he distinguished himself and received much deserved promotions.
When the State of Virginia seceded from the Union and joined the Confederate States, General Lee resigned his commission in the U.S. Army and offered his services to the State of Virginia. When Lee left Arlington to report to Richmond, Virginia, he warned his wife and family that because Arlington was on high ground overlooking the city of Washington, it would no doubt be occupied by the U.S. Army. He advised them to move to the Custis family estate in Southern Virginia. This was in 1861. The Civil War erupted and immediately the Custis-Lee Mansion and the entire estate was occupied by Union soldiers and the mansion became the headquarters of Gen. McDowell, Commanding Officer of the Union Army of the Potomac.
The Quartermaster General of the Union armies recommended that two hundred acres of the Arlington estate be used as a national cemetery and the Secretary of the War issued the order to this effect and so on the first soldiers were buried in this revered location. The name of the first soldier to be buried in Arlington Cemetery was Private William Christman of Pennsylvania. Since that date thousands of soldiers from every war from the Revolutionary War to the war in Vietnam lie buried in this sacred place. The names represent every rank in the armed forces from Commander-in-Chief to buck privates in the rear rank. Two Presidents are buried in Arlington Cemetery: President Taft and President John Kennedy. The grave of President Kennedy is just down the slope in front of the Custis-Lee Mansion and Robert Kennedy is buried nearby. On President Kennedy's grave marker there burns an eternal flame. And millions of people come to view the place where the Kennedy brothers are laid to rest.
The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest decoration for bravery in military action. It is awarded for heroism over, above, and beyond the call o f regular duty of a soldier and Two hundred and thirty-four Medal of Honor recipients are buried here. General "Black Jack" Pershing is buried here and his grave is marked by a simple stone used for enlisted men. General Pershing requested this kind of marker and his wishes were granted. The most interesting and most striking memorial in Arlington are the tombs of the unknown soldiers, one from World War I, one from World War II and one from the Korean War. The inscriptions on the marble tombs are plain but million s have come to stand in awe and view the marble tombs where these three unknowns lie. No one knows who these unknowns are, from what background they came. All they know is they answered their country's call and made the supreme sacrifice so that the principles of America might not perish from the earth.
The 3rd Division "Old Guard" provides the guard detail that is on duty day and night every day of the year and the single sentry who marches "with measured tread" back and forth beside the tomb s is most impressive and the ceremony of changing the guard every hour on the hour is the most inspiring ceremony that I have ever witnessed.
The simple inscription on the tombs of the Unknown Soldiers is familiar to millions of Americans who have come here to pay their respects to our honored dead. The inscription reads as follows: "Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God."
There are other interesting memorials in the cemetery. There is a space set aside for Confederate dead. Up until 1900, no Confederate soldiers were allowed to be buried there, but Congress passed a law granting a Confederate space in the cemetery and many Southern soldiers who had died in Washington's hospitals and prisons and who were buried in various burying grounds were removed and reburied in the Confederate section. Later, the United Daughters of the Confederacy built a beautiful memorial which now stands in the Confederate section.

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