Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for over 400,000 service members and their families, but it wasn’t always. Before it was Arlington National Cemetery, it was Arlington House and grounds, founded by George Washington Parke Custis. He was the grandson of Martha Washington and the adopted grandson of George Washington. Parke Custis and his wife Mary only had one surviving child, a daughter named Mary Anna Randolph. She married Robert E. Lee, and they lived on the property for 30 years. They left in 1861 due to the outbreak of the Civil War. Lee was offered a high ranking position in the Union Army, but could not raise his sword against his home state of Virginia. He knew Union troops would position at the mansion; a strategic high ground overlooking the District.
Private William Henry Christman was the first service member interred on the grounds on May 13th, 1864. On June 15th, 1864 approximately 200 acres was designated as a national cemetery. It spans over 639 acres of rolling hills, beautiful landscapes, and seemingly endless rows of headstones.
This site is more than a cemetery – it is the history of our country and an enduring tribute to those who have served honorably and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Look upon the funerals with reverence, listen to the sound of taps in the distance, view the time-honored Changing of the Guard ceremony, watch a group lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, discover over thirty monuments and memorials, and thank a service member. At Arlington National Cemetery you are invited to Honor, Remember, and Explore.