About Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is both a military burial site and an iconic monument to fallen soldiers. Initially, the site of Arlington Cemetery began as a house – Arlington House – built in memory of President George Washington. The house, which still stands today, then became the property of Mary and Robert E. Lee.
During the American Civil War, Lee was asked to be a Union leader but refused, waiting to see how Virginia would side. When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, Lee became a commander of the Confederate army and fled from Arlington House shortly before the Union crossed the Potomac River and took the land around Washington. Eventually captured, Arlington House would become a Union army base.
In January 1864, the government legally purchased Arlington House and, later that year, desperately in need of space to bury the increasing number of war casualties, Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs designated Arlington a national cemetery – a function for which it had unofficially already been used. By the end of the conflict in 1865, Arlington housed the graves of over 5,000 soldiers.
Over the years, Arlington National Cemetery has come to represent a memorial to all US soldiers who have died for their country and is still an active cemetery. In fact, there are approximately 300,000 graves at Arlington National Cemetery, neatly aligned and each with a white headstone.
With its status as a nationally heritage site, Arlington National Cemetery has also formed the location of numerous monuments. Amongst these are The Arlington Memorial Amphitheatre, where memorials and funerals are held, the United States Marine Corps Memorial, an iconic statue depicting soldiers raising the American flag and the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.
Arlington National Cemetery is also the home of The Tomb of the Unknowns, a burial place for one unidentified soldier from each of World War I, World War II and the Korean War. There was a soldier from the Vietnam War, but he was later identified and moved.
Many famous Americans are buried at Arlington National Cemetery, from military heroes to astronauts and leaders such as President John F Kennedy. Those visiting Arlington National Cemetery can start at the visitor centre, where there are guide books, maps and exhibits. Arlington House itself is also open to the public, with a museum and guides chronicling this building’s unique history.