With the end of the war, the Lees unsuccessfully sued to get their Arlington property from the Federal Government, although they were paid for the seizure, despite the graves of 12,000 Union soldiers. Determined to prevent the Lees from returning, Meigs sent crews to unearth Union graves around Virginia battlefields to keep the cemetery expanding, adding 2,000 more men, most of them unknowns. Meigs promoted the building of larger and larger monuments and memorials, turning the cemetery into the premier final resting place of soldiers.
Many generations of soldiers are laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery
The original 200 acres set aside for a cemetery has grown to 639 acres. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded there every day of the year, as it looks out over the more than 400,000 graves. About 400 Medal of Honor recipients are buried there, along with five 5-star Generals and two Presidents of the United States. Soldiers who die on active duty, retired military service members and certain family members are entitled for burial at the Arlington National Cemetery. There is a beautiful monument designed by Moses Ezekiel dedicated to the Confederate dead, and the Arlington mansion of Robert E. Lee still stands, and is in the process of preservation. Every American should visit Arlington and reflect on the sacrifices made to protect their liberties and their homes.
Volunteers place roses and carnations on the graves of fallen soldiers and their spouses in honor of Memorial Day
19th Century English Prime Minister William Gladstone made a trenchant observation regarding national burial practices:
“Show me the manner in which a nation or a community cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender sympathies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals.”
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery