Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Tax Sale And A Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery was officially created as a military cemetery June 15th 1864.

Arlington National Cemetery was established on the grounds of Arlington House. Arlington House was an estate owned by Confederate General Robert E Lee’s wife Mary Anna [Custis] Lee, the grand-daughter of Martha Washington. The Custis family bought the land where the cemetery is located in 1802 and began building Arlington House.

The United States government purchased Arlington House and its two hundred acres at a tax sale for $26,800 in 1864. Mrs. Lee sent an agent to pay the $92.07 property taxes that were due, but the government refused to take the payment which was not made in person. The United States Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Washington DC was rapidly filling with military burials, so United States Quartermaster General Montgomery C Meigs wrote of Arlington that the “grounds about the mansion are admirably adapted to such a use." United State Secretary of War Edwin M Stanton officially had the land set aside as a military cemetery June 15th 1864. Burials were begun on the ground of Arlington House before the ink had time to dry.

Custis Lee the son of Robert E Lee sued the United State for ownership of Arlington House in 1874, claiming the estate was held in trust for his mother. The United States Supreme Court ruled in Lee’s favor and Congress returned the land to him. The next year, 1875 Lee sold the property back to the government for $150,000 at a ceremony with Robert Todd Lincoln. President Herbert Hoover held the first official National Memorial Day May 30th 1929 in Arlington National Cemetery.

This is a must read web site for information about the Arlington National Cemetery

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