Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Arlington House - Home of Gen. Robert E. Lee

Arlington National Cemetery in Alexandria, Virginia, has become one of the most sacred sites in America, but long before the U.S. Army began burying its dead on this ground, Arlington was the home of Robert E. Lee. His beautiful columned home still crowns the height overlooking the rows of graves.

Arlington House, now preserved by the National Park Service as a memorial to General Lee, was originally built between 1802 and 1818 by George Washington Parke Custis to honor the memory of another famous American general, George Washington. Custis had been raised by George and Martha Washington after his natural father died the same year he was born.

Custis's daughter attracted the attention of a number of well-known suitors, among them future Texas President Sam Houston. The one who won her affections, however, was a young U.S. Army officer named Robert E. Lee. The two were married in the family parlor of Arlington House on June 30, 1831.

Arlington House then became the home of the Lee family and it was here that six of his seven children were born. It was also here that Lee came to consider his fate as the nation reached the verge of civil war. Lee penned his resignation from the army in a second floor bedroom.

When the war began, the Lee family was forced to flee Arlington never to return. Union soldiers occupied the house and soon began using a section of the grounds to bury their dead. The Union army's quartermaster general, Montgomery Meigs, became fixated with the idea of preventing Lee from ever again occupying the house overlooking the nation's capital. He ordered that war dead be buried in the very yards of the house. His plan worked and Arlington was never again occupied by General Lee. Instead, the grounds were turned into America's best known national cemetery.

To learn more about Arlington House, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/arlington.

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