GDG- If I ran the Cemetery

CWMHTours at CWMHTours at
Thu Jan 5 11:07:58 CST 2012

Take me with you, George!  I wanna go!
Your  Most Obedient Servant,

In a message dated 1/5/2012 11:37:45 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
georgeconnell at writes:

Esteemed  GDG Member Contributes:
I think this is a fine summary of what Arlington  was, is now, and how that 
change came about. With your permission I will use  it when I take people 

Well done.


On Jan  5, 2012, at 1:12, joadx1 at wrote:

> Esteemed GDG Member  Contributes:
> I think that Mr. MacNeill's passionate explanation of his  feelings about 
Arlington National Cemetery deserves a compassionate  response.  As someone 
who makes his living balancing the  historico-political claims of both the 
past and the present, I'd like to offer  a sketch of what I would say if I 
was a private tour guide at  Arlington.
> First, of course, I would introduce the place  (never take that sort of 
thing for granted), explaining that this is Arlington  National Cemetery, 
American "sacred ground" since the Civil War, established  as a final resting 
place for the men and women who fight the nation's  wars.
> I would also explain that there are other, non-military  burials in the 
cemetery and say a few words about the process by which those  happen and 
identify some of them.
> I would then turn to the  question of how the Cemetery came to be, and 
would begin by pointing to the  grand mansion.  I would explain that it was 
once the home of Robert E.  Lee, though owned by his wife, who was the great 
granddaughter of Martha  Washington, and thus a relation to George 
Washington.  I would then  explain that this was a plantation, worked for generations 
by slave labor,  which was seized by the forces of the Union Army when 
Robert E. Lee resigned  his commission in the United States Army and cast his lot 
with the  Confederacy, but that it only became a cemetery in 1864 when 
Quartermaster  General Montgomery C. Meigs, a Georgian who remained loyal to the 
United  States, chose it as a final resting place for the Union soldiers 
who had died  in the war, soldiers who included his own son.  I would note 
that he  probably did so to prevent the Lee's from ever getting the plantation 
back,  and would mention that they indeed tried to after the war, 
eventually, after  R.E. Lee
's death,
> receiving a cash settlement from the government,  but not the house or 
> This would only take a few  moments.  I would sum up that this was a 
place that combined some of that  which is both best and worst in American 
history: once a slave plantation, it  has become a place where Americans honor 
those who die for her with a fitting  resting place--and when that is not 
possible, with the Tomb of the Unknown  Soldier as a symbolic monument to their 
sacrifice.  I would also explain  that this is the great contradiction in 
American history: that America is at  once the place that sufficiently values 
the common man (as no feudal European  nation ever did) such that it 
established such a place as Arlington National  Cemetery to honor the ordinary men 
and women who die for her.  And  acknowledging that it was also once a slave 
plantation, I would note that it  wasn't one anymore, precisely because of 
the sacrifice, best described in  Lincoln's Gettysburg address, made by many 
of the men who were buried  here.
> I would then ask my clients what they would like to  see, and what 
details they would like to here further about, acknowledging  that no single brief 
tour could exhaust everything there was to learn and see  here.
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