Arlington National Cemetery, which is the final resting place of 250,000 American military personnel, government officials and their family members, has a surprising history. The land on which the cemetery was established was not originally earmarked for this purpose, instead Arlington was a plantation built by adopted family members of George Washington, in part to honor the man often called the father of our country as well as serve as a home for Washington’s adopted grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, son of Martha Washington’s son from her first marriage.
The history of the plantation took an interesting turn when Parke Custis’ daughter, Anna, married decorated American army officer, Robert E. Lee. The Arlington House served as their home from 1857 until the Civil War broke out and Lee aligned himself with Confederate forces. After Lee joined the Confederacy, the federal government confiscated Arlington when taxes weren’t paid. In 1864, it served as a garrison for Union troops, and the Brigadier General commanding Arlington established the cemetery to keep the house from ever being able to be lived in by the Lee family again. The first burial was for 1,800 soldiers killed in the Battle of Bull Run. From that day on, the Cemetery has served as a final resting place for American heroes.
Each branch of service is represented in Section 60, although the Army has suffered approximately two-thirds of the Iraq war losses.
Twenty-one percent of those lost in Iraq were in the National Guard or the Reserve.
Sixty percent of the soldiers buried in Section 60 never reached the age of 25.
More than 3,800 former slaves are buried in Section 27, their headstones designated with the word “Civilian” or “Citizen.”
“Taps” was written by General Alexander Butterfield in July of 1862. He wrote the song to help his men relax at the end of a long day.
When the U.S. flag covers a casket the Union Blue field is placed at the head and over the left shoulder.