Camels and the Spread of Slavery

No kidding folks this one by Al Mackey takes the cake.

According to his blog post at the Southern Slaveowners, not the ones in the North mind you but just the Southerners, wanted to use camels to spread slavery to California. Yep that is what he says —- “Although Davis was nearly laughed out of the Senate, his proposal was realized in 1855. Serving as secretary of war under president Franklin Pierce, Davis oversaw the import of roughly two hundred camels from North Africa and the Middle East for use in expeditions by the US Army and, he hoped, for both labor and trade. Despite some success, the camel corps was abandoned by 1860 after Congress refused further funding, due in part to escalating tensions that would be unleashed by the Civil War the following year. More than a historical oddity, the camel corps is a testament to the imperial designs of Southern slaveholders.”

Now lets check his dates he gives us a date of 1855 for Jefferson Davis and his camel experiment. Now I could be wrong but at this date I do believe that slavery was legal in the United States. Anyone disagree? Davis nearly laughed out of the Senate? Not gonna waste my time looking that statement up. As Mackey did point out the use of camels was approved and funds provided.

Moving on Mackey says the camel corps was abandoned in 1860 due to escalating tensions. Lets see if that is true— Going to the Official Records, this statement is just not true. We all know the war started in 1861, correct? In a863 some two years after the start of the war I find this–


Camp Drum, Cal., May 21, 1863.

Lieutenant Colonel R. C. DRUM,

Assistant Adjutant-General, U. S. Army:

SIR: I inlcose herewith letters – in relation to camels; private of the Second Cavalry at this post without authority; * and, for transmittal thgrough your headquarters to the Secretary of War, recommending this post be called Fort Drum. Better express the honor intended to the individual after whom it was named, and be in accordance with military phraseology. I trust it will receive the general’s approval.

Colonel Forman is in Los Angeles visiting; I therefore send my papers direct.

I have the honor to be, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Major, First Cavalry California Volunteers, Commanding.

War of the Rebellion: Serial 106 Page 0451 Chapter LXII. CORRESPONDENCE – UNION AND CONFEDERATE.

As I see it folks, I have proven that again, Mackey is just not telling the truth about the use of camels. I find about 60 entries in these records related to camels. I am not going to post each one of them nor am I going to read each and every one. I am going to post this one which may be the reason the use of camels was stopped— Edited for length—

[Inclosure Numbers 1.] HEADQUARTERS, Camp Drum, Cal., May 21, 1863.

Lieutenant Colonel R. C. DRUM,

Asst. Adjt. General, U. S. Army, Hdqrs. Dept. of the Pacific:

——- The Government employes here not being favorably disposed toward camesl, will, I think, be deemed a satisfactory explanation of the recommendation for a change to Mojave to promote the interests of the service. With a view to their service. With a view to their being sent there, I talked to Captain Fitch in regard to their treatment, care, and exercise to properly prepare them for successful service. Like any other animal they must be perfected by a through and systematic course of training and good care, to make quick time on long trips.
War of the Rebellion: Serial 106 Page 0451 Chapter LXII. CORRESPONDENCE – UNION AND CONFEDERATE.

continuing— I have noticed that Government employes regard service with camels extremely unpleasant. In appearance camels are extremely ugly, in gait very rough, in herding inclined to wander, and with their long strides they make haste slowly, keeping their herders on the go; they offer no facilitaties for stealing. Their successful employment will require good judgment, energy, and constant care. Of their success, with proper care and training, I have no doubt. Captain Fitch will employ none of his company. I would respectfully recommend that Captain Fitch be furnished with all the information in the possession of the department in regard to care and service of camels and the service they have rendered in this country.

I have the honor to be, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Major, First Cavalry California Volunteers, Commanding.

War of the Rebellion: Serial 106 Page 0452 OPERATIONS ON THE PACIFIC COAST. Chapter LXII.

I found another entry that camels were being used as late as December of 1863, so that would suggest that camels were used in California until the end of the war. I did a bit of serching and I found this entry at The U.S. Army’s “Camel Corps” Experiment

On 26 February 1864, the thirty-seven camels from California were sold for $1,945, or $52.56 per camel. The surviving forty-four camels from Camp Verde were finally recovered at the end of the war. On 6 March 1866, they too were put on the auction block, bringing $1,364, or $31 per camel. The Army’s Quartermaster-General, MG Montgomery Meigs, approved the sale, stating his hopes that civilian enterprises might more successfully develop use of the camel and expressing his sincere regrets that the experiment had ended in failure.

Well that seems to put to bed those lies and Mackey fails again to prove that the use of camels was abid by Southerners to expand slavery. Moving on to the comment– by bccnp1 · November 23, 2021 – 5:15 pm · Reply→ or Rob. You talk about the manufacturing lies and misinformation that the issue was slavery. Well in your reply you did get one thing right “My knowledge of these subjects concerning that period of American history is minimal compared to those of you who have studied, received degrees in history, and spent a significant part of your life investigating that period.”

Well partner it is not so late that you can learn like the rest of us. You have to make the first move however and that is get away from Mackey and his lies, hate and bigorty.

Confederate Thanksgiving 1862

Jefferson Davis declared Thanksgiving before Lincoln in 1862. Here is the proclamation and order and the source.

President Jefferson Davis’s Thanksgiving Proclamation


“WHEREAS, it hath pleased Almighty God, the Sovereign Disposer of events, to protect and defend us hitherto in our conflicts with our enemies as to be unto them a shield.

And whereas, with grateful thanks we recognize His hand and acknowledge that not unto us, but unto Him, belongeth the victory, and in humble dependence upon His almighty strength, and trusting in the justness of our purpose, we appeal to Him that He may set at naught the efforts of our enemies, and humble them to confusion and shame.

Now therefore, I, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, in view of impending conflict, do hereby set apart Friday, the 15th day of November, as a day of national humiliation and prayer, and do hereby invite the reverend clergy and the people of these Confederate States to repair on that day to their homes and usual places of public worship, and to implore blessing of Almighty God upon our people, that he may give us victory over our enemies, preserve our homes and altars from pollution, and secure to us the restoration of peace and prosperity.

Given under hand and seal of the Confederate States at Richmond, this the 31st day of October, year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty one. By the President, JEFFERSON DAVIS”.


No. 6. Munfordville, Ky., September 17, 1862.

I. The general commanding congratulates his army on the crowning success of their extraordinary campaign which this day has witnessed. He is most happy and proud to acknowledge his indebtedness to his gallant troops for their patient submission under the privations of an arduous march and the fortitude with which they have endured its hardships. They have overcome all obstacles without a murmur, even when in the prosecution of seemingly unnecessary labor, and have well sustained by their conduct the unsullied reputation of the Army of the Mississippi. With such confidence and report as has been so far exhibited nearly all things become possible. The capture of this position, with its garrison of 4,000 men, with all their artillery, arms, munitions, and stores, without the loss of a man, crowns and completes the separate campaign of this army. We have in conjunction with the Army of Kentucky, redeemed Tennessee and Kentucky, but our labors are not over. A powerful foe is assembling on our front and we must prepare to strike him a sudden and decisive blow. A short time only can there fore be given for repose, when we must resume our march to still more brilliant victories. The general commanding asks of his army only a continuance of the same confidence and regard for discipline in order to insure the most complete success.

II. To-morrow, September 18, having been specially set aside by our President to be observed as a day of thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God for the manifold blessings recently vouchsafed to us and to our cause, the general commanding earnestly recommends to the army to devote the day of rest allotted to them to the observance of this sacred duty. Acknowledging our dependence at all times upon a merciful Providence, it is meet that we should not only render thanks for the general success of our cause and of this campaign, but should particularly manifest our gratitude for a bloodless victory instead of a success purchased with the destruction of life and property.


General, Commanding.


No.-. Near Munfordville, Ky., September 17, 1862.

(Source: OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 16, Part 2 page(s) 841-842)

General Grant Did Stop the POW Exchange

For Andersonville.

Al Mackey is so wrapped up in his bigorty and hate for anything Confederate he is unable to comprehend the basic historical facts. Of course when you just tend to take any article or post off of the web without verifying the facts yourself you are just showing– well to put it plainly — ignorance. Such is the case with Mackey’s blog post at

Mackey gives us the source of this post as Myth: Grant Stopped the Prisoner Exchange You can read the article yourself at Myth: Grant Stopped the Prisoner Exchange but essentially it says that the myth is Grant stooped the poisoner exchange between the North and South. Well I agree that is true– to a degree.

BUT and there is always a but. The website in itself is in error. First of all this park is for ANDERSONVILLE and the monument is for Henry Wirz. It has nothing to do with the overall exchange of prisoners or the cancelation of that process.

Now we see this website uses a US Grant quotation from the Wirz monument as proof he stopped the POW exchange. This inscription IS NOT referring to the policy of POW exchange but simply of the exchange of POWs at ANDERSONVILLE. And yes it is absolutely true Grant and Sherman failed to free the prisoners when they had a chance.

If one wants to read how the from the Official Records what Grant had to say about this you can start reading here War of the Rebellion: Serial 120 Page 0603 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – UNION AND CONFEDERATE. Note this sentence– “From this is will appear that the Confederate authorities are anxious to effect an exchange of officers and men, rank for rank, or equivalent, to embrace all the prisoners the Confederacy have now on hand”

So we see that the Confederates were willing to make an exchange as of Aug of 1864. Now reading to
War of the Rebellion: Serial 120 Page 0607 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – UNION AND CONFEDERATE. we find the Grant letter which is the quote listed by Mackey and the Andersonville website. It is plain to see that this is not referring to the policy of POW exchange in itself but as I have said before only ANDERSONVILLE. It is also proof that Grant DID indeed stop this exchange.

But wait I have a twofer– Sherman in his memoirs at CHAPTER XIX. CAPTURE OF ATLANTA. AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER, 1864
Soon after our reaching Atlanta, General Hood had sent in by a flag of truce a proposition, offering a general exchange of prisoners, saying that he was authorized to make such an exchange by the Richmond authorities, out of the vast number of our men then held captive at Andersonville, the same whom General Stoneman had hoped to rescue at the time of his raid. Some of these prisoners had already escaped and got in, had described the pitiable condition of the remainder, and, although I felt a sympathy for their hardships and sufferings as deeply as any man could, yet as nearly all the prisoners who had been captured by us during the campaign had been sent, as fast as taken, to the usual depots North, they were then beyond my control. There were still about two thousand, mostly captured at Jonesboro, who had been sent back by cars, but had not passed Chattanooga. These I ordered back, and offered General Hood to exchange them for Stoneman, Buell, and such of my own army as would make up the equivalent; but I would not exchange for his prisoners generally, because I knew these would have to be sent to their own regiments, away from my army, whereas all we could give him could at once be put to duty in his immediate army. Quite an angry correspondence grew up between us, which was published at the time in the newspapers, but it is not to be found in any book of which I have present knowledge, and therefore is given here, as illustrative of the events referred to, and of the feelings of the actors in the game of war at that particular crisis, together with certain other original letters of Generals Grant and Halleck, never hitherto published.

So now folks you see the website is wrong, Mackey is wrong and this is exactly what happens when you are blinded by hate and bigotry.

To add a bit more to this post I went to this website Wirz Monument – Andersonville, Ga. because I couldn’t read the inscription on the Wirz monument– I see nothing on the monument stating Grant stopped the POW exchange between the US and the Confederacy. To me the inscription refers to Wirz and Andersonville, how anyone can assume anything different is beyond me.

Caught Him again

Gonna make this one short and quick. I see no sense in checking all of Mackeys tales when the very first one I checked turned out to be not true.

From Al Mackey’s blog at

He makes the statement below—

“We’re continuing with a look at the accuracy of Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: A Narrative. Once again, let me stress that I regularly recommend Foote’s trilogy, which I regard as a work of art, as a good overview of the war. However, it shouldn’t be used as a source. Of course, anyone who claims Foote is anything but perfect will be instantly attacked by Foote’s fans, who will either mischaracterize that person’s claims or simply not even read them and make assumptions about them.”

Also on page 171 he claims former Vice President John C. Breckinridge “had been elected to the Senate, where his opposition to the Administration’s war policy resulted in an order for his arrest.” his is another erroneous statement. William C. “Jack” Davis wrote an excellent biography of Breckinridge. He says there were rumors Breckinridge might be arrested. In one case on friend of Breckenridge’s claimed to have overheard three unknown men talking to each other about arresting him. [William C. Davis, Breckinridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol, p. 283]

Well is it true or not? Why exactly should we believe Mackey, or Davis for that matter? I simply did a quick search of the web and found this right off the bat. Truthfully Mackey could have done the same thing

What I found—-

John C. Breckinridge
by William C. Davis

Biography of John C. Breckinridge

By the summer of 1861 Breckinridge’s position was becoming increasingly untenable. In the public eye his speeches against the administration and his expressions of sympathy for Confederate soldiers wounded in the Battle of Bull Run, convinced more and more that he was a traitor in spite of his protestations of loyalty to the Union. Back in Kentucky a struggle raged between Union and Confederate sympathizers for control of the state, and on September 18 the state legislature finally sided with the North. At once the political arrests began, and the next day Breckinridge’s political foes persuaded Union military authorities that he was too dangerous to run free in the state. Advised of the order for his arrest, Breckinridge made the choice he had been avoiding. As between languishing in prison as a political prisoner for doing nothing more than speaking out as was his right as a Senator and an American, he would cross the line into the Confederacy. It was a decision he ever after regretted being forced to make.

Let it be noted that no page number is noted only the title and author. Now what I find really interesting is this is page is from: Copyright 2010-2021, Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech

I ask you is that Mackey’s hangout? Why didn’t he try to use his own homegrown sources to verify his and Davis’s statement?

Now not being one to believe a statement that is not accurately sourced, I did a bit more looking. Found this w2hich appears to the an official government site—

After the special session, Breckinridge returned to Kentucky to try to keep his state neutral. He spoke at a number of peace rallies, proclaiming that, if Kentucky took up arms against the Confederacy, then someone else must represent the state in the Senate. Despite his efforts, pro-Union forces won the state legislative elections. When another large peace rally was scheduled for September 21, the legislature sent a regiment to break up the meeting and arrest Breckinridge. Forewarned, he packed his bag and fled to Virginia. He could no longer find any neutral ground to stand upon, no way to endorse both the Union and the southern way of life. Forced to choose sides, Breckinridge joined his friends in the Confederacy. In Richmond he volunteered for military service, exchanging, as he said, his “term of six years in the Senate of the United States for the musket of a soldier.” On December 4, 1861, the Senate by a 36 to 0 vote expelled the Kentucky senator, declaring that Breckinridge, “the traitor,” had “joined the enemies of his country.”

Now reading this passage it is not exactly clear who wants to arrest Breckenridge, but then neither is Mackey’s source, therefore I can only conclude Mackey is wrong and that is good enough for me.

Another Challenge Issued and Most Likely Ignored

Reading Nick Sacco’s blog at

He makes the statement below–
“With the preponderance of the Lost Cause and popular beliefs that the war had little to do with slavery, a discussion of the ways people chose to remember the Civil War–and how soldiers like Shaw may have shaped these discussions, even if they chose not to write about politics in their own recollections–could have been beneficial.”

To Mr. Sacco I say, as I have many times to many people, Mr. Sacco if you truly believe the start of the war was about freeing the slaves suppose you prove it? Post us some documents that support your argument, it is just simple.

For the reader who doesn’t understand why I do not respond to Mr. Sacco directly on his blog, well, he doesn’t let my responses stand.

Confederates are United States Veterans

Some argue that the Confederate forces were not ever United Veterans. That is with out doubt not true. Regardless of what you think on this Veterans day, honor those men and women of all races who fought a oppressive and overbearing government, the same as you would do for a Union Soldier. After all both sides fought for what they thought was right and what they believed in. No the start of the war had nothing to do with slavery.

View the image here—–

or here by clicking 425


72 STAT.] PUBLIC LAW 85-426-MAY 23, 1958 133

Public Law 85-424
AN ACT May 22, 1958
To Increase the lending authority of the Export-Import Bank of Washington, [S.3149]
and for other purposes.

Be it enacted hy the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress assembled. That the Export- 68 Stat. 678.
12 U S C 635d,
Import Bank Act of 1945, as amended, is amended— 635e.
(1) by striking out “$4,000,000,000.” from section 6 and insert-
ing in lieu thereof “$6,000,000,000.”; and
(2) by striking out “$5,000,000,000.” from section 7 and insert-
ing in lieu thereof “$7,000,000,000.”.
Approved May 22, 1958.

Public Law 85-425
AN ACT May 23, 1958
To increase the monthly rates of pension payable to widows and former widows [H.R. 35ri
of deceasetl veterans of the Spanish-American War, Civil War, Indian War,
and Mexican War, and provide i)enslons to widows of veterans who served
in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during
the Civil War.

Be it enacted hy the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Veterans’ Veterans’ w i d –
l:Jenefits Act of 1957 (Public Law 85-56) is amended: Pension in-
(1) I n section 431, strike out the figure “$52.50” and insert the c r 71 ease.
Stat. 106i, 107,
figure “$65”. 38 U S C 2431,
(2) In subsection 432 ( a ) , strike out the figure “$54.18” and insert
the figure “$65″, and strike out the figure ^’$67.73” and insert the
figure “$75’\
(3) Section 432 is amended by adding at the end thereof the
following new subsection:
“(e) For the purpose of this section, and section 433, the term
‘veteran’ includes a person who served in the military or naval forces
of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, and the
term ‘active, military or naval service’ includes active service in such
(4) I n section 433, strike out the figure ^’$48.77″ and insert the 2434. 38 U S C 2433,
figure “$73.13”.
(5) I n subsection 434 ( a ) , strike out the figure “$54.18” and insert
the figure “$65”, and strike out the figure “$67.73” and insert the
figure “$75”.
(6) In section 435, strike out the figure “$48.77” and insert the 38 u s e 2435.
figure “$73.13”.
(7) In subsection 436 ( a ) , strike out the figure “$54.18” and insert 7t stat. io8.
the figure “$65”, and strike out the figure “$67.73″ and insert the 243*7.” ^^^^’
figure “$75”.
(8) I n section 437, strike out the figure “$62.31” and insert the
figure “$73.13”.
(9) Immediately above section 411, insert the following: 7i stat. 105.


“SEC. 410. The Administrator shall pay to each person who served
in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America
during the Civil W a r a monthly pension in the same amounts and
subject to the same conditions as would have been applicable to such
184 PUBLIC LAW 85-426-MAY 27, 1958 [72 S T A T .

person under the laws in effect on December 31, 1957, if his service
m such forces had been service in the military or naval service of the
United States.”
Effective date. SEO, 2. This Act shall be effective from the first day of the second
calendar month following its enactment.
Approved May 28, 1958.

Public Law 85-426
May 27, 1958 AN A C T
^’ ‘ ^^^ ^ To establish a postal policy, to adjust postal rates, to adjust the compensation
of postal employees, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted hy the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America in Congress assembled^



Postal Policy SEC. 101. This title may be cited as the “Postal Policy Act of 1958”.
A c t OX 1 “So*


SEC. 102. The Congress hereby finds that—
(1) the postal establishment was created to unite more closely
the American people, to promote the general welfare, and to ad-
vance the national economy;
(2) the postal establishment has been extended and enlarged
through the years into a nationwide network of services and facil-
ities for the communication of intelligence, the dissemination of
information, the advancement of education and culture, and the
distribution of articles of commerce and industry. Furthermore,
the Congress has encouraged the use of these broadening services
and facilities through reasonable and, in many cases, special
postal rates;
(3) the development and expansion of these several elements of
postal service, under authorization by the Congress, have been the
impelling force in the origin and growth of many and varied busi-
ness, commercial, and industrial enterprises which contribute
materially to the national economy and the public welfare and
which depend upon the continuance of these elements of postal
(4) historically and as a matter of public policy there have
evolved, in the operations of the postal establishment authorized
by the Congress, certain recognized and accepted relationships
among the several classes of mail. I t is clear, from the continued
expansion of the postal service and from the continued encourage-
ment by the Congress of the most widespread use thereof, that
the postal establishment performs many functions and offers its
facilities to many users on a basis which can only be justified as
being in the interest of the national welfare;
(5) while the postal establishment, as all other Government
agencies, should be operated in an efficient manner, it clearly is
not a business enterprise conducted for profit or for raising gen-
eral funds, and it would be an unfair burden upon any particular
user or class of users of the mails to compel them to bear the

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Story of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers–

The Changing of the Guard—

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Learn about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Overlooking the nation’s capital from its serene 624-acre hilltop perch, Arlington National Cemetery is located on the resplendent west bank of the Potomac River. The hallowed ground serves as the final resting place for numerous presidents, Supreme Court justices, astronauts and other public servants, including more than 400,000 military personnel, veterans and their immediate families. This national landmark is the country’s largest and most important military cemetery. Still an active burial ground, it conducts over 25 funerals each weekday. The cemetery, Arlington Memorial Bridge, the Hemicycle and Arlington House make up the Arlington National Cemetery Historic District that was added to the National Historic Register in 2014.

View of a gravesite with beautiful trees at the Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery occupies land once owned by George Washington Parke Custis, the adopted grandson of Martha and George Washington. He built the Arlington House as a memorial to the nation’s first president. In 1857, the property was bequeathed to his daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis who had married Robert E. Lee 26 years earlier. With the secession of Virginia from the Union, the family evacuated the property. Federal troops incorporated the land into their defensive fortifications around Washington. Part of the property was used as a Freedman’s Village where former slaves received assistance after their liberation.

As the number of casualties climbed during the Civil War, the federal government needed additional cemetery space to inter the dead. To meet this demand, 200 acres of the plantation was set aside as a cemetery. In May 1864, Private William Christman was the first military casualty to be buried in the newly created graveyard. The following month, the War Department designated the space as a national cemetery. After the war, George Washington Custis Lee sued the federal government for return of the land, which he argued had been seized illegally. In 1882, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor and the federal government paid Lee $150,000 for the property, which is equivalent to $3.2 million in 2016. Further along the landmark’s timeline, President Herbert Hoover oversaw the first Memorial Day ceremony on May 30, 1929.

Guard of Tomb of Unknown Soldier
Despite the many distinguished and revered war heroes and two former U.S. Presidents buried there, there is nowhere within the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery that is more frequented by visitors than The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Located on a hill on high ground at almost the perfect geographic center of the cemetery, the tomb exemplifies valor and honor by remembering those who died committing brave and selfless acts with no one to bear witness to them. What is it about this place that so intrigues the many who visit it every year? What’s the story behind it and what does it take to become one of the select few to stand watch over it?

On August 3, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill into law whose purpose was to select and pay tribute to the fallen unknown soldiers of the Korean War and World War II (WWII) by interring them with honors in a specially designated area in Arlington National Cemetery. The idea of the tomb itself was initially inspired by the multitudes of unknown dead that had amassed by the end of World War I (WWI). It was in Great Britain, however, where the idea of honoring these forgotten warriors first took root in 1920. The following year, a burial ceremony was planned in the United States for an American unknown who died in Europe during the First World War. On Memorial Day, 1921, four unknowns were exhumed from an American cemetery in France. The four were placed in identical caskets and placed before a highly decorated WWI veteran tasked with selecting one of the caskets for burial in Arlington National Cemetery. That person was U.S. Army Sergeant Edward F. Younger.

After the ceremonial selection was made, the body was to lie in state in the Capitol rotunda until midnight on November 10, 1921. On the following day, Armistice Day, the casket was placed in a caisson and transported to Arlington National Cemetery. During the procession, the casket was escorted by members of the military, President Warren G. Harding, Vice President Coolidge, Chief Justice Taft, and the remaining justices of the Supreme Court. Members of the Cabinet, Senate, and House along with several hand-picked Generals were also on hand to witness the presenting of the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross to the unknown dead. Also honored were unknowns each from Great Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, and Romania which marked the only time these medals were issued to foreign combatants. Years later after the end of the Second World War, the selection process for the next unknown soldier from that war had to be postponed with the outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsula.

At the conclusion of the Korean War, four new candidates from that war were selected for burial at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. These four flag-draped coffins were placed in the stead of Master Sergeant Ned Lyle for the important task of selecting one for burial at Arlington. Eleven days later, the selection for the unknown from WWII was made aboard the U.S.S. Canberra by Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class William R. Charette. Unlike in previous selection processes, two were chosen in this case from both the European and Pacific theaters.

When the procession entered the cemetery grounds, a squadron of 20 fighter planes flew overhead with one plane missing from each formation to symbolize a fallen or missing brother-in-arms. The Marine Band played the National Anthem and a bugler sounded attention three times. After a long moment of silence, President Eisenhower placed a Medal of Honor on each casket. Many years later, in 1984, the final unknown soldier from the Vietnam War was laid to rest; however, because of advances in genetic science and DNA technology, the body was exhumed in 1998 and tested. The body was identified as that of Air Force 1st Lieutenant Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam in 1972. It was decided that the crypt that contained the remains of the Vietnam Unknown will remain vacant. The crypt cover has been replaced with one that has the inscription, “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”

The sarcophagus built above the tomb of the soldier who served in WWI sits in front of the three marble slabs that identify the crypts of the soldiers from WWII, Korea and Vietnam. It was constructed in 1931 out of seven large marble panels collectively weighing 79 tons. On one side, is a relief of three Greek figures each representing Peace, Valor, and Victory. On the other side, there are sculpted six inverted wreaths each representing a major campaign from WWI.

The U.S. Army regiment entrusted with tending to and guarding not just the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier but the coordination and execution of any and all burials that take place in Arlington National Cemetery falls to the 3rd Infantry, affectionately known as the ‘Old Guard.’ For those select few that answer the sacred call to become a Tomb Sentinel, it is a responsibility that is taken with the utmost grace. It is a role fraught with pomp and circumstance of the highest order. For those in training to become full-fledged Sentinels, the rigors are many. From 5-5:30 am, there is a daily inspection of living quarters after which the prospects themselves are evaluated. Uniforms are inspected with a fine tooth comb to ensure that the garment is immaculate down to the prescribed distances between medals and other parts of the uniform jacket. The regiment’s motto, it can be said, is taken from the Sentinel’s Creed: “My standard will remain perfection.”

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
If there is one reason, besides paying their respects and the historical significance of the place, that visitors from all over the world visit Arlington National Cemetery is to witness the iconic changing of the guard. Since April 6, 1948, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has been guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with zero exception. Every hour during winter and every half hour during the summer and daylight hours, one guard relieves another from their post in a ceremony with the precision of a Swiss watch. While on duty, the Tomb Sentinel marches 21 steps across a black mat passing the grave markers of each of the unknowns. He then turns 90-degrees and faces east for exactly 21 seconds.

Afterward, he then turns north for another 21 seconds which is followed by a crisp shoulder arms movement where the guard places his rifle on the shoulder nearest to the spectators to symbolize that he stands between the tomb and any outside threat. The guard then paces 21 steps to the north, turns, and repeats the entire process until he is relieved. When that moment arrives, the new guard makes his way to the plaza alongside a commanding officer who makes a formal announcement to the attendees that the changing of the guard ceremony is to commence. In another elaborate military ballet, the commanding officer inspects the new guard’s weapon and uniform with extreme scrutiny. If all is in order, the relieved guard calmly makes his way back to quarters as his replacement makes his way to the center of the plaza to begin his watch.

Arlington National Cemetery is not just a relic but a fully operational cemetery that performs an average of four funerals daily. These are also performed by the 3rd Infantry’s Caisson Platoon with the stoicism and respect that the Tomb Sentinels display in the carrying out of their duties. No matter your political beliefs or your feelings about how countries like the United States make the critical decision to sacrifice the lives of those in military service when they are sent to war in the name of an ideal or national security, a visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and Arlington National Cemetery as a whole, can be a life-changing event.

Arlington National Cemetery HouseArlington National Cemetery contains several well-known burial sites and memorials, including the resting places of President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline as well as his brothers Robert and Edward. Other notable sites include Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, boxing legend Joe Louis and Audie Murphy, the most highly decorated soldier from World War II. Charles L’Enfant, who designed the city of Washington, D.C., several Tuskegee airmen and the seven Space Shuttle Challenger astronauts are also interred here.

The official tour includes a stop at Arlington House, a Greek Revival-style mansion set on a hill overlooking the Potomac River. The permanent memorial to Robert E. Lee is appointed with period furnishings from the early 19th century. Completed in 1921 from Imperial Danby marble, the Memorial Amphitheater hosts state funerals and other special events during the year. The Temple of Fame, the Civil War Unknowns Monument and the Spanish-American War Nurses Memorial and several other large monuments and memorials are dispersed throughout the park. The Women in Military Service for America Memorial is adjacent to the park’s ceremonial entrance.

Memorial Amphitheater
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day by members of a special detail from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). The sentinel does not wear any rank insignia, which ensures that the guard is junior in rank to whoever is buried in the tomb. A Changing of the Guard Ceremony takes place every half-hour from April 1 to September 30 when the park is open. The guard is changed every hour from October 1 to March 31. The symbolic guard change is conducted in accordance with Army regulations.

The two major holidays formally observed at Arlington National Cemetery are Memorial Day and Veterans Day. On these two occasions, the president of the United States or another high-ranking dignitary will lay a memorial wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Just before Memorial Day, members of the Old Guard adorn the cemetery with over a quarter of a million small American flags. One flag is placed at each headstone as well as the bottom of each niche row. Known as “Flags In,” the decades-old ceremony is accomplished in four hours.

Each branch of the military service holds several memorial services and other events in the amphitheater throughout the year that are open to the public.

The best times to visit Arlington are during the March to May and September to November foliage seasons. The blooms of spring and the changing fall colors provide a dramatic backdrop to the marble and granite markers, monuments and memorials. Many people prefer to visit during the spring and fall because temperatures during these seasons are mild and there tends to be fewer crowds. Summer months are sultry and warm, and winter months are cold and snowy.

Old Town Trolley Tour to Arlington National Cemetery
When planning your visit, remember to bring comfortable walking shoes and sunscreen. For hydration, keep in mind bottled water is the only refreshment allowed inside the cemetery. Expect to spend at least two to three hours exploring the graves and notable points of interest. Restrooms, a bookstore and drinking fountains are available at the Visitor’s Center.

Although Arlington National Cemetery is a beautiful setting for leisurely outdoor walks, it is still an active cemetery with funerals taking place on a regular basis. As a result, visitors are asked to remain respectful at all times in light of the somber nature of the memorial park. Silence is requested in some portions of the cemetery and visitors must also be silent and standing during the Changing of the Guard Ceremony.

Via public transportation, the best way to access the cemetery is to exit the Arlington Cemetery stop on the Metrorail Blue Line. You can also reach this hallowed ground from Washington, D.C. by crossing the Arlington Memorial Bridge. The entrance to the burial ground is off George Washington Parkway, but driving is not permitted inside the park.

How Arlington National Cemetery Came to Be


How Arlington National Cemetery Came to Be
The fight over Robert E. Lee’s beloved home—seized by the U.S. government during the Civil War—went on for decades

Robert M. Poole
November 2009

One afternoon in May 1861, a young Union Army officer went rushing into the mansion that commanded the hills across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. “You must pack up all you value immediately and send it off in the morning,” Lt. Orton Williams told Mary Custis Lee, wife of Robert E. Lee, who was away mobilizing Virginia’s military forces as the country hurtled toward the bloodiest war in its history.

Mary Lee dreaded the thought of abandoning Arlington, the 1,100-acre estate she had inherited from her father, George Washington Parke Custis, upon his death in 1857. Custis, the grandson of Martha Washington, had been adopted by George Washington when Custis’ father died in 1781. Beginning in 1802, as the new nation’s capital took form across the river, Custis started building Arlington, his showplace mansion. Probably modeled after the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens, the columned house floated among the Virginia hills as if it had been there forever, peering down upon the half-finished capital at its feet. When Custis died, Arlington passed to Mary Lee, his only surviving child, who had grown up, married and raised seven children and buried her parents there. In correspondence, her husband referred to the place as “our dear home,” the spot “where my attachments are more strongly placed than at any other place in the world.” If possible, his wife felt an even stronger attachment to the property.

On April 12, 1861, Confederate troops had fired on the federal garrison at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, prompting a number of states from the Deep South to join in rebellion. President Abraham Lincoln, newly installed in the White House, called up 75,000 troops to defend the capital. As the spring unfolded, the forces drifted into Washington, set up camp in the unfinished Capitol building, patrolled the city’s thoroughfares and scrutinized the Virginia hills for signs of trouble. Although officially uncommitted to the Confederacy, Virginia was expected to join the revolt. When that happened, Union troops would have to take control of Arlington, where the heights offered a perfect platform for artillery—key to the defense or subjugation of the capital. Once the war began, Arlington was easily won. But then it became the prize in a legal and bureaucratic battle that would continue long after the guns fell silent at Appomattox in 1865. The federal government was still wrestling the Lee family for control of the property in 1882, by which time it had been transformed into Arlington National Cemetery, the nation’s most hallowed ground.

Orton Williams was not only Mary Lee’s cousin and a suitor of her daughter Agnes but also private secretary to General in Chief Winfield Scott of the Union Army.

Working in Scott’s office, he had no doubt heard about the Union Army’s plans for seizing Arlington, which accounts for his sudden appearance there. That May night, Mrs. Lee supervised some frantic packing by a few of the family’s 196 slaves, who boxed the family silver for transfer to Richmond, crated George Washington’s and G.W.P. Custis’ papers and secured General Lee’s files. After organizing her escape, Mary Lee tried to get some sleep, only to be awakened just after dawn by Williams: the Army’s advance upon Arlington had been delayed, he said, though it was inevitable. She lingered for several days, sitting for hours in her favorite roost, an arbor south of the mansion. “I never saw the country more beautiful, perfectly radiant,” she wrote to her husband. “The yellow jasmine in full bloom and perfuming the air; but a death like stillness prevails everywhere.”

The general, stranded at a desk in Richmond, feared for his wife’s safety. “I am very anxious about you,” he had written her on April 26. “You have to move, & make arrangements to go to some point of safety….War is inevitable & there is no telling when it will burst around you.”

By this time, he almost certainly knew that Arlington would be lost. A newly commissioned brigadier general in the Confederate Army, he had made no provision to hold it by force, choosing instead to concentrate his troops some 20 miles southwest, near a railroad junction at Manassas, Virginia. Meanwhile, Northern newspapers such as the New York Daily Tribune trained their big guns on him—labeling him a traitor for resigning his colonel’s commission in the Union Army to go south “in the footsteps of Benedict Arnold!”

The rhetoric grew only more heated with the weather. Former Army comrades who had admired Lee turned against him. None was more outspoken than Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, a fellow West Point graduate who had served amicably under Lee in the engineer corps but now considered him an insurgent. “No man who ever took the oath to support the Constitution as an officer of our army or navy…should escape without loss of all his goods & civil rights & expatriation,” Meigs wrote to his father. He urged that Lee as well as Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, who also had resigned from the federal Army to join the enemy, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis “should be put formally out of the way if possible by sentence of death [and] executed if caught.”

When Johnston resigned, Meigs had taken his job as quartermaster general, which required him to equip, feed and transport a rapidly growing Union Army—a task for which Meigs proved supremely suited. Vain, energetic, vindictive and exceptionally capable, he would back up his belligerent talk in the months and years ahead. His own mother conceded that the youthful Meigs had been “high tempered, unyielding, tyrannical…and very persevering in pursuit of anything he wants.” Fighting for control of Arlington, he would become one of Lee’s most implacable foes.

By mid-May, even Mary Lee had to concede that she could not avoid the impending conflict. “I would have greatly preferred remaining at home & having my children around me,” she wrote to one of her daughters, “but as it would greatly increase your Father’s anxiety I shall go.” She made an eerily accurate prediction: “I fear that this will be the scene of conflict & my beautiful home endeared by a thousand associations may become a field of carnage.”

She took a final turn in the garden, entrusted the keys to Selina Gray, a slave, and followed her husband’s path down the estate’s long, winding driveway. Like many others on both sides, she believed that the war would pass quickly.

On May 23, 1861, the voters of Virginia approved an ordinance of secession by a ratio of more than six to one. Within hours, columns of Union forces streamed through Washington and made for the Potomac. At precisely 2 a.m. on May 24, some 14,000 troops began crossing the river into Virginia. They advanced in the moonlight on steamers, on foot and on horseback, in swarms so thick that James Parks, a Lee family slave watching from Arlington, thought they looked “like bees a-coming.”

The undefended estate changed hands without a whimper. When the sun rose that morning, the place was teeming with men in blue. They established a tidy village of tents, stoked fires for breakfast and scuttled over the mansion’s broad portico with telegrams from the War Office. The surrounding hills were soon lumpy with breastworks, and massive oaks were felled to clear a line of fire for artillery. “All that the best military skill could suggest to strengthen the position has been done,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper reported, “and the whole line of defenses on Arlington Heights may be said to be completed and capable of being held against any attacking force.”

The attack never materialized, but the war’s impact was seen, felt and heard at Arlington in a thousand ways. Union forces denuded the estate’s forest and absconded with souvenirs from the mansion. They built cabins and set up a cavalry remount station by the river. The Army also took charge of the newly freed slaves who flocked into Washington after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. When the government was unable to accommodate the former slaves in the capital, where thousands fell sick and died, one of Meigs’ officers proposed that they be settled at Arlington, “on the lands recently abandoned by rebel leaders.” A sprawling Freedmen’s Village of 1,500 sprang to life on the estate, complete with new frame houses, schools, churches and farmlands on which former slaves grew food for the Union’s war effort. “One sees more than poetic justice in the fact that its rich lands, so long the domain of the great general of the rebellion, now afford labor and support to hundreds of enfranchised slaves,” a visiting journalist would report in the Washington Independent in January 1867.

As the war had heated up in June 1862, Congress passed a law that empowered commissioners to assess and collect taxes on real estate in “insurrectionary districts.” The statute was meant not only to raise revenue for the war, but also to punish turncoats like Lee. If the taxes were not paid in person, commissioners were authorized to sell the land.

Authorities levied a tax of $92.07 on the Lees’ estate that year. Mary Lee, stuck in Richmond because of the fighting and her deteriorating health, dispatched her cousin Philip R. Fendall to pay the bill. But when Fendall presented himself before the commissioners in Alexandria, they said they would accept money only from Mary Lee herself. Declaring the property in default, they put it up for sale.

The auction took place on January 11, 1864, a day so cold that blocks of ice stopped boat traffic on the Potomac. The sole bid came from the federal government, which offered $26,800, well under the estate’s assessed value of $34,100. According to the certificate of sale, Arlington’s new owner intended to reserve the property “for Government use, for war, military, charitable and educational purposes.”

Appropriating the homestead was perfectly in keeping with the views of Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, Gen. William T. Sherman and Montgomery Meigs, all of whom believed in waging total war to bring the rebellion to a speedy conclusion. “Make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it,” Sherman wrote.

The war, of course, dragged on far longer than anyone expected. By the spring of 1864, Washington’s temporary hospitals were overflowing with sick and dying soldiers, who began to fill local cemeteries just as General Lee and the Union commander, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, began their blistering Forty Days’ Campaign, exchanging blows from Virginia’s Wilderness to Petersburg. The fighting produced some 82,000 casualties in just over a month. Meigs cast about for a new graveyard to accommodate the rising tide of bodies. His eye fell upon Arlington.

The first soldier laid to rest there was Pvt. William Christman, 21, of the 67th Pennsylvania Infantry, who was buried in a plot on Arlington’s northeast corner on May 13, 1864. A farmer newly recruited into the Army, Christman never knew a day of combat. Like others who would join him at Arlington, he was felled by disease; he died of peritonitis in Washington’s Lincoln General Hospital on May 11. His body was committed to the earth with no flags flying, no bugles playing and no family or chaplain to see him off. A simple pine headboard, painted white with black lettering, identified his grave, like the markers for Pvt. William H. McKinney and other soldiers too poor to be embalmed and sent home for burial. The indigent dead soon filled the Lower Cemetery—a name that described both its physical and social status—across the lane from a graveyard for slaves and freedmen.

The next month, Meigs moved to make official what was already a matter of practice: “I recommend that…the land surrounding the Arlington Mansion, now understood to be the property of the United States, be appropriated as a National Military Cemetery, to be properly enclosed, laid out and carefully preserved for that purpose,” he wrote Stanton on June 15, 1864. Meigs proposed devoting 200 acres to the new graveyard. He also suggested that Christman and others recently interred in the Lower Cemetery should be unearthed and reburied closer to Lee’s hilltop home. “The grounds about the Mansion are admirably adapted to such a use,” he wrote.

Stanton endorsed the quartermaster’s recommendation the same day.

Loyalist newspapers applauded the birth of Arlington National Cemetery, one of 13 new graveyards created specifically for those dying in the Civil War. “This and the [Freedmen’s Village]…are righteous uses of the estate of the Rebel General Lee,” read the Washington Morning Chronicle.

Touring the new national cemetery on the day that Stanton signed his order, Meigs was incensed to see where the graves were being dug. “It was my intention to have begun the interments nearer the mansion,” he fumed, “but opposition on the part of officers stationed at Arlington, some of whom…did not like to have the dead buried near them, caused the interments to be begun” in the Lower Cemetery, where Christman and others were buried.

To enforce his orders—and to make Arlington uninhabitable for the Lees—Meigs evicted officers from the mansion, installed a military chaplain and a loyal lieutenant to oversee cemetery operations, and proceeded with new burials, encircling Mrs. Lee’s garden with the tombstones of prominent Union officers. The first of these was Capt. Albert H. Packard of the 31st Maine Infantry. Shot in the head during the Battle of the Second Wilderness, Packard had miraculously survived his journey from the Virginia front to Washington’s Columbian College Hospital, only to die there. On May 17, 1864, he was laid to rest where Mary Lee had enjoyed reading in warm weather, surrounded by the scent of honeysuckle and jasmine. By the end of 1864, some 40 officers’ graves had joined his.

Meigs added others as soon as conditions allowed. He dispatched crews to scour battlefields for unknown soldiers near Washington. Then he excavated a huge pit at the end of Mrs. Lee’s garden, filled it with the remains of 2,111 nameless soldiers and raised a sarcophagus in their honor. He understood that by seeding the garden with prominent Union officers and unknown patriots, he would make it politically difficult to disinter these heroes of the Republic at a later date.

The last autumn of the war produced thousands of new casualties, including Lt. John Rodgers Meigs, one of the quartermaster’s four sons. Lieutenant Meigs, 22, was shot on October 3, 1864, while on a scouting mission for Gen. Philip Sheridan in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. He was returned with solemn honors to Washington, where Lincoln, Stanton and other dignitaries joined his father for the funeral and burial in Georgetown. The loss of his “noble precious son” only deepened Meigs’ antipathy toward Robert E. Lee.

“The rebels are all murderers of my son and the sons of hundreds of thousands,” Meigs exploded when he learned of Lee’s surrender to Grant on April 9, 1865. “Justice seems not satisfied [if] they escape judicial trial & execution… by the government which they have betrayed [&] attacked & whose people loyal & disloyal they have slaughtered.” If Lee and other Confederates escaped punishment because of pardons or paroles, Meigs hoped that Congress would at least banish them from American soil.

Lee avoided the spectacle of a trial. Treason charges were filed against him but quietly dropped, almost certainly because his former adversary, Grant, interceded on Lee’s behalf with President Andrew Johnson. Settling in Lexington, Virginia, Lee took over as president of Washington College, a struggling little school deep in the Shenandoah Valley, and encouraged old comrades to work for peace.

The Lees would spend the postwar years trying to retake possession of their estate.

Mary Lee felt a growing outrage. “I cannot write with composure on my own cherished Arlington,” she wrote to a friend. The graves “are planted up to the very door without any regard to common decency….If justice & law are not utterly extinct in the U.S., I will have it back.”

Her husband, however, kept his ambitions for Arlington hidden from all but a few advisers and family members. “I have not taken any steps in the matter,” he cautioned a Washington lawyer who offered to take on the Arlington case for free, “under the belief that at present I could accomplish no good.” But he encouraged the lawyer to research the case quietly and to coordinate his efforts with Francis L. Smith, Lee’s trusted legal adviser in Alexandria. To his elder brother Smith Lee, who had served as an officer in the Confederate navy, the general admitted that he wanted to “regain the possession of A.” and particularly “to terminate the burial of the dead which can only be done by its restoration to the family.”

To gauge whether this was possible, Smith Lee made a clandestine visit to the old estate in the autumn or winter of 1865. He concluded that the place could be made habitable again if a wall was built to screen the graves from the mansion. But Smith Lee made the mistake of sharing his views with the cemetery superintendent, who dutifully shared them with Meigs, along with the mystery visitor’s identity.

While the Lees worked to reclaim Arlington, Meigs urged Edwin Stanton in early 1866 to make sure the government had sound title to the cemetery. The land had been consecrated by the remains buried there and could not be given back to the Lees, he insisted, striking a refrain he would repeat in the years ahead. Yet the Lees clung to the hope that Arlington might be returned to the family—if not to Mrs. Lee, then to one of their sons. The former general was quietly pursuing this objective when he met with his lawyers for the last time, in July 1870. “The prospect does not look promising,” he reported to Mary. The question of Arlington’s ownership was still unresolved when Lee died, at 63, in Lexington, on October 12, 1870.

His widow continued to obsess over the loss of her home. Within weeks, Mary Lee petitioned Congress to examine the federal claim to Arlington and estimate the costs of removing the bodies buried there.

Her proposal was bitterly protested on the Senate floor and defeated, 54 to 4. It was a disaster for Mary Lee, but the debate helped to elevate Arlington’s status: no longer a potter’s field created in the desperation of wartime, the cemetery was becoming something far grander, a place senators referred to as hallowed ground, a shrine for “the sacred dead,” “the patriot dead,” “the heroic dead” and “patriotic graves.”

The plantation the Lees had known became less recognizable each year. Many original residents of Freedmen’s Village stayed on after the war, raising children and grandchildren in the little houses the Army had built for them. Meigs stayed on, too, serving as quartermaster general for two decades, shaping the look of the cemetery. He raised a Greek-style Temple of Fame to George Washington and to distinguished Civil War generals by Mrs. Lee’s garden, established a wisteria-draped amphitheater large enough to accommodate 5,000 people for ceremonies and even prescribed new plantings for the garden’s borders (elephant ears and canna). He watched the officers’ section of the cemetery sprout enormous tombstones typical of the Gilded Age. And he erected a massive red arch at the cemetery’s entrance to honor Gen. George B. McClellan, one of the Civil War’s most popular—and least effective—officers. As was his habit, Meigs included his name on the arch; it was chiseled into the entrance column and lettered in gold. Today, it is one of the first things a visitor sees when approaching the cemetery from the east.

While Meigs built, Mary Lee managed a farewell visit to Arlington in June 1873. Accompanied by a friend, she rode in a carriage for three hours through a landscape utterly transformed, filled with old memories and new graves. “My visit produced one good effect,” she wrote later that week. “The change is so entire that I have not the yearning to go back there & shall be more content to resign all my right in it.” She died in Lexington five months later, at age 65.

With her death, her hopes for Arlington lived on in her eldest son, George Washington Custis Lee, known as Custis. For him, regaining the estate was a matter of both filial obligation and self-interest: he had no inheritance beyond the Arlington property.

On April 6, 1874, within months of his mother’s funeral, Custis went to Congress with a new petition. Avoiding her inflammatory suggestion that Arlington be cleared of graves, he asked instead for an admission that the property had been taken unlawfully and requested compensation for it. He argued that his mother’s good-faith attempt to pay the “insurrectionary tax” of $92.07 on Arlington was the same as if she had paid it.

While the petition languished for months in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Meigs worried that it would “interfere with the United States’ tenure of this National Cemetery—a result to be avoided by all just means.” He need not have worried. A few weeks later, the petition died quietly in committee, attended by no debate and scant notice.

Custis Lee might have given up then and there if not for signs that the hard feelings between North and South were beginning to soften. Rutherford B. Hayes, a Union veteran elected on the promise of healing scars from the Civil War, was sworn in as president in March 1877.

Hayes hardly had time to unpack his bags before Custis Lee revived the campaign for Arlington—this time in court.

Asserting ownership of the property, Lee asked the Circuit Court of Alexandria, Virginia, to evict all trespassers occupying it as a result of the 1864 auction. As soon as U.S. Attorney General Charles Devens heard about the suit, he asked that the case be shifted to federal court, where he felt the government would get a fairer hearing. In July 1877, the matter landed in the lap of Judge Robert W. Hughes of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Hughes, a lawyer and newspaper editor, had been appointed to the bench by President Grant.

After months of legal maneuvering and arguments, Hughes ordered a jury trial. Custis Lee’s team of lawyers was headed by Francis L. Smith, the Alexandrian who had strategized with Lee’s father years before. Their argument turned upon the legality of the 1864 tax sale. After a six-day trial, a jury found for Lee on January 30, 1879: by requiring the “insurrectionary tax” to be paid in person, the government had deprived Custis Lee of his property without due process of law. “The impolicy of such a provision of law is as obvious to me as its unconstitutionality,” Hughes wrote. “Its evil would be liable to fall not only upon disloyal but upon the most loyal citizens. A severe illness lasting only ninety or a hundred days would subject the owner of land to the irreclaimable loss of its possession.”

The government appealed the verdict to the Supreme Court—which ruled for Lee again. On December 4, 1882, Associate Justice Samuel Freeman Miller, a Kentucky native appointed by President Lincoln, wrote for the 5 to 4 majority, holding that the 1864 tax sale had been unconstitutional and was therefore invalid.

The Lees had retaken Arlington.

This left few options for the federal government, which was now technically trespassing on private property. It could abandon an Army fort on the grounds, roust the residents of Freedmen’s Village, disinter almost 20,000 graves and vacate the property. Or it could buy the estate from Custis Lee—if he was willing to sell it.

He was. Both sides agreed on a price of $150,000, the property’s fair market value. Congress quickly appropriated the funds. Lee signed papers conveying the title on March 31, 1883, which placed federal ownership of Arlington beyond dispute. The man who formally accepted title to the property for the government was none other than Robert Todd Lincoln, secretary of war and son of the president so often bedeviled by Custis Lee’s father. If the sons of such adversaries could bury past arguments, perhaps there was hope for national reunion.

The same year the Supreme Court ruled in Custis Lee’s favor, Montgomery Meigs, having reached the mandatory retirement age of 65, was forced out of the quartermaster’s job. He would remain active in Washington for another decade, designing and overseeing construction of the Pension Building, serving as a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution and as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He was a frequent visitor to Arlington, where he had buried his wife, Louisa, in 1879. The burials of other family members followed—among them his father, numerous in-laws and his son, John, reburied from Georgetown. Their graves, anchoring Row 1, Section 1 of the cemetery, far outnumbered those of any Lee relatives on the estate.

Meigs joined his family in January 1892, age 75, after a brief bout with the flu. He made the final journey from Washington in fine style, accompanied by an Army band, flying flags and an honor guard of 150 soldiers decked out in their best uniforms. His flag-draped caisson rattled across the river, up the long slope to Arlington and across the meadow of tombstones he had so assiduously cultivated. With muffled drums marking time and guidons snapping in the chill wind, the funeral procession passed Mary Lee’s garden and came to a halt on Meigs Drive. The rifles barked their last salute, “Taps” sounded over the tawny hills and soldiers eased Montgomery C. Meigs into the ground at the heart of the cemetery he created.

Adapted from On Hallowed Ground, by Robert M. Poole. © 2009 Robert M. Poole. Published by Walker & Company. Reproduced with permission.

Elvis Presley Helped Raise Funds for a Pearl Harbor Memorial: Here’s How

Saw a documentary on this last night and decided to check a few websites to see if in fact this was true. It does appear to be so. By the wy Elvis’s ancestry was a Confederate soldier. He was a bounty jumper but still he served.


UNSPECIFIED – JANUARY 01: (AUSTRALIA OUT) STUDIO Photo of Elvis PRESLEY, posed, studio, c.late 1950s (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)

When you think of Elvis Presley, you think of many things. His music, his dance moves, his good looks, his legacy, and his famous home.

What most people probably don’t think about – or maybe not even know about is the role he played in establishing a Pearl Harbor Memorial. This is the memorial created in honor of the USS Arizona. That famous ship sank as a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. That tragic and significant historical moment took place on Dec. 7, 1941.

According to, approximately 1,000 United States sailors died on the USS Arizona. Nine hundred of those soldiers remained inside the fallen ship.

The King of Rock and Roll and his manager were motivated to help raise funds for the monument because of Elvis Presley’s own military career. The star served in the United States Army beginning in 1958. His service came to an end in 1960. At 26 years old, Elvis was “about the average age of those boys entombed in the Arizona,” said his manager Colonel Tom Parker.

Parker learned that organizers of the memorial still needed funds for its creation. The idea for the USS Arizona Memorial was first shared in the 1950s. The cost was also estimated to be $500,000. However, by 1960, not even half of that amount had been collected.

It was Parker who came up with the idea that Elvis Presley should perform a benefit concert for the USS Arizona Memorial. And, of course, the King of Rock and Roll agreed. Not only did he share a connection due to his own military service, Presley was known for his willingness to help others.

Elvis Presley’s Benefit Concert for Pearl Harbor Memorial Drew a Crowd of Thousands
Unsurprisingly, Elvis Presley’s benefit concert for the USS Arizona Memorial.

Also, Parker did his part as manager and advertised the concert. He made sure that the King of Rock and Roll’s songs from a religious album played on the radio in Oahu. However, this turned out not to really be necessary.

On March 25, 1961, there were 4,000 fans there to watch Elvis perform many of his most popular songs. And, he wore one of his most famous items of clothing – his gold lamé suit jacket. He debuted this famous item of clothing in 1957.

The benefit concert took place at Block Arena. Interestingly, it would be the last time Elvis Presley would perform live for eight years. Unfortunately, no video recording was made of the benefit concert. Parker had wanted NBC to film a special. However, the Presley’s team and the network failed to come to an arrangement.

Want to learn more about the USS Arizona Memorial? You can by clicking here. The United States National Park Service operates the memorial.

New Jersey College Removes Revolutionary War Veteran’s Name From Alumni Building

A New Jersey college decided to rename an alumni building after a task force focusing on the university’s historical ties to slavery concluded the Revolutionary War veteran for whom the building was named had once owned slaves.

Rider University in New Jersey announced last month it planned to rename its Van Cleve Alumni Building following an assessment by the university’s Task Force on Rider and the History of Slavery. The decision comes as many institutions across the country have announced similar naming decisions and/or removed statues, such as the Robert E. Lee statue at the Marcus-David Peters circle in Richmond, Virginia, which is pictured above ahead of its removal on September 8, 2021.© Eze Amos/Getty Images Rider University in New Jersey announced last month it planned to rename its Van Cleve Alumni Building following an assessment by the university’s Task Force on Rider and the History of Slavery. The decision comes as many institutions across the country have announced similar naming decisions and/or removed statues, such as the Robert E. Lee statue at the Marcus-David Peters circle in Richmond, Virginia, which is pictured above ahead of its removal on September 8, 2021.

The Board of Trustees of Rider University, a private college located in Lawrenceville, made the decision last month to rename the building formerly known as Van Cleve Alumni House, named for Benjamin Van Cleve. A temporary sign was placed in front of the building, now simply called Alumni House, on October 21 until new permanent signs were ready to be put in place.

News of the university’s decision was previously reported by and The College Fix.

“We cannot continue to hold him up, even tacitly, as worthy of honor or emulation,” Rider University President Gregory Dell’Omo and Board of Trustees Chair John Guarino said in a joint letter to the university community.

Rider University last year launched its Task Force on Rider and the History of Slavery, which was created to assess the university and its “relationship and connection with slavery and enslaved people.” The task force was instructed to suggest based on its findings “a comprehensive response to the University to recognize and educate about this past.”

On the university’s website, the task force published a brief biography of Van Cleve, whose ties to the university began with its purchase of what used to be his property back in the 1950s.

Van Cleve, who was born in New Jersey in the late 1730s, fought in the Revolutionary War and later served in the New Jersey Assembly. Tax records the task force obtained showed Van Cleve was a slave owner in at least four years between 1770 and 1800.

“Van Cleve chose to champion the institution of slavery even as other citizens in New Jersey awoke to the cause of abolition and the horrors of human bondage,” the letter from Dell’Omo and Guarino said. “Judged by the standards of his time or ours, Van Cleve’s actions and attitudes have no place in the Rider community.”

The university said that while it was renaming the Van Cleve building, the decision was not an attempt to erase his ties to the school. In addition to changing the building’s name, the board of trustees agreed to support other task force recommendations, which the letter said: “include the creation of materials that memorialize those enslaved and educate around this history.”

Dell’Omo and Guarino described the name change as “an important step in our efforts to create a more equitable and inclusive learning community” at the university.

Rider University is one of many educational institutions that has changed the name of a building or its entire property over the last 18 months in response to a growing realization around the country about the number of institutions that were named after individuals who owned slaves or who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Newsweek reached out to the Rider University Board of Trustees for comment and will update this article with any response.