Archive for the ‘Memorials’ Category

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United States Coast Guard Memorial

The United States Coast Guard was created by Congress on this date in 1790 at the request of Alexander Hamilton.  Originally known as the Revenue Marine, it is the oldest continuous seagoing service of the United States.  And for this anniversary of its creation, I visited the Coast Guard Memorial, which sits atop a hill near the southern edge of Arlington National Cemetery.

The Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the country’s seven uniformed services. It is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the U.S. military branches for having a maritime law enforcement function as well as a Federal regulatory agency function as part of its mission set.  It operates under the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime, and can be transferred to the Department of the Navy by the President at any time, or by Congress during times of war.

Two tragic episodes in Coast Guard history prompted the construction of this national memorial. On September 16, 1918, 19 members of the crew of the cutter Seneca volunteered for a rescue party to help salvage the British steamer, Wellington, which had been torpedoed by a German submarine. Eleven of those volunteers were lost when the Wellington exploded and sank. Only 10 days later, on Sept. 26, 1918, the cutter Tampa was sunk by an enemy submarine in the British Channel, and all 131 on board that ship were lost.  Both the Tampa and the Seneca had been ordered to operate as part of the Navy when the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1918.

The Coast Guard Memorial was designed by architect George Howe and sculptor Gaston Lachaise, and dedicated on May 23, 1928.  The memorial is set upon a rock foundation and contains a prominent pyramid design, intended to symbolize the spirit of the Coast Guard’s steadfastness.  Above the Coast Guard motto Semper Paratus (meaning “Always Ready”), is a bronze seagull with its wings uplifted.  The seagull symbolizes the tireless vigil that the Coast Guard maintains over the nation’s maritime territory.  The names of the vessels Seneca and Tampa and their crewmen, as well as all Coast Guard personnel who lost their lives during the First World War, are also inscribed on the sides of the monument.

National Police Week Tributes (Part 2)

I enjoy various aspects of how National Police Week and Peace Officers Memorial Day are recognized here in D.C.  Things such as The Annual Blue Mass at Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church and the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service provide a level of solemnity.  And the arrival of the Police Unity Tour, and seeing different National Police Week Vehicles on the streets of the city, are also highlights.  But perhaps the most meaningful and poignant aspect of the occasion is the leaving of mementos and tributes by visitors to The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

As I walked through the memorial and took in both the memorial and the tributes people have left there this week, I try to imagine the stories behind the items.  Some of the items are very official looking, and remind me of the honor due to the officer memorialized there, and the debt of gratitude owed to not only that person but all the others who are also inscribed on the walls of the memorial.  Examples of this include plaques, flags and patches.  Other items left at the walls are so personal and intimate in nature, such as photographs, letters and stuffed animals, that I feel almost like I’m intruding.  I was also particularly moved by the helmet for a police bike officer which someone had left, along with blue and white roses which had been laid on top of it.  Regardless of the official or personal nature of the tributes, all of the items left at the memorial add to the experience, and make visiting the memorial during this week especially worthwhile.

Finally, as this year’s National Police Week is coming to a conclusion, I’d like to encourage everyone to please take a moment to remember all of the Federal, state and local law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and protection of our nation, as well as the more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers currently serving throughout this country.

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         
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National Police Week Tributes

There are currently more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers serving in the United States, about 12 percent of whom are female.  These are the highest numbers ever.  And according to the preliminary FBI’s Uniform Crime Report from January 2015 to June 2016, an estimated 507,792 violent crimes occurred nationwide, an increase of 5.3%.  So with an increasing number of officers dealing with this much violence, which is also on the increase, the consequences can all too often be tragic.

Since the first known line-of-duty death in 1791, more than 20,000 U.S. law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice.  As of April of this year there were 21,183 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty whose names are engraved on the walls of The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.  This includes 768 officers from New York City, the police department that has lost more officers in the line of duty than any other. Texas has lost 1,706 officers, more than any other state. The state with the fewest deaths is Vermont, with 23.  In addition to local law enforcement officers, the total number also includes 1,117 Federal officers, as well as 689 correctional officers and 39 military law enforcement officers. These numbers include 309 female officers, six of whom were killed in 2016, including a local female police officer named Ashley Guindon, who was killed in February of last year on her first day on the job.

With this week being designated as National Police Week, and the corresponding activities going on here in D.C. during this time, there has been a significant increase in  the number of visitors to the memorial.  And many of the visitors include families of the fallen as well as fellow police officers who knew or had a close connection to the officers being honored at the memorial.  So with the increased number of visitors with direct connections to the fallen officers whose names are chiseled on the walls of the memorial, the number of tributes being left at the memorial increases during this week.

I wrote in this blog last year about Tributes Left at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, but because of the ever changing nature of the visitors to the memorial and the tributes which are left there, I visited the memorial again this year.  The following photos show some of the thousands of those tributes.  I find them interesting because some are official in nature, such as plaques, uniforms, or even car doors from police cruisers.  Others, however, are very personal.  These include family photos, letters from children, and even stuffed animals.  Cumulatively the tributes show the magnitude of the commitment and sacrifice of the fallen officers, who were more than just names on a wall.  They were people.  And these people truly deserve to be honored.

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         

         
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Note:  There was such and outpouring of respect, as evidenced by the number of tributes left at the memorial, that when I finished my visit I realized I had so many photos that it would be best to break it up into a couple of days.  So come back tomorrow for  part two of National Police Week Tributes.

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The General Andrew Jackson Statue

One of my goals for this blog has been to ride to and then write a post for each of the Presidential memorials in the greater D.C. metropolitan area. But in order to do this, it was first necessary to define what constitutes a Presidential memorial. Most Presidential memorials have a physical element which consists of a monument or a statue that is a permanent remembrance of the President it represents. This is evidenced by the city’s most well known ones, such as The Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial and The Jefferson Memorial.

However, some Presidential memorials have no physical presence at all. This type of memorial is referred to as a living memorial. An example of this would be The Harry S. Truman Scholarship, which is awarded to U.S. college students dedicated to public service and policy leadership. Although it has no physical presence, it is the sole national memorial permitted under Federal law to honor President Truman.

Once the definition was established, I was able to determine which memorials I would be able to ride to, and which ones had no physical presence, or were out of the local area and too far away to visit during one of my lunchtime bike rides. So far I have been able to identify 17 official Presidential memorials with a physical presence, as well as a number of other statues, buildings, streets, monuments and one airport which are named after a President but are considered unofficial because they were not authorized by Congress or were privately built. There are also two official Presidential memorials which have been approved and are currently in the planning stages.

On this bike ride I chose to go to one of the memorials that I have not already visited – The General Andrew Jackson Statue.  Located in the middle of Lafayette Square Park, the memorial to our nation’s seventh President is an iconic equestrian statue.

Commissioned in May of 1847,  just two years after his death, the Jackson memorial statue was designed and created by American sculptor Clark Mills.  Mills also created the statue called Freedom that now sits a top the dome of the United States Capitol Building.  The 15-ton statue of the man nicknamed “Old Hickory” was cast in bronze in 1852, making it the first bronze statue cast in America.  It also gained additional fame because it was the first equestrian statue in the world to be balanced solely on the horse’s hind legs.

The memorial statue depicts Jackson as a general, and for accuracy, Mills borrowed General Jackson’s uniform, saddle, and bridle from the Patent Office, where they were kept as relics. General Jackson sits atop his horse, with his sword sheaved on his left side and holding his hat in his right hand as his mount rears back.  An inscription on the side of the marble pedestal reads “Jackson” and “Our Federal Union It Must Be Preserved.”

The memorial also includes four cannons, positioned at the corners of the marble base, that Jackson had captured in battle that were considered historic trophies.  The pair of cannons on the north had been cast at the Royal Foundry of Barcelona in 1748 and were named for two Visigoth kings: El Witiza and El Egica.  The two on the south were cast in 1773 and were named for two Greek gods: El Apolo and El Aristeo. The statue and cannons were later enclosed by an iron fence.

Amid much fanfare, the statue was dedicated on January 8, 1853, with an elaborate parade preceding the dedication.  A distinguished group including General Winfield Scott, Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, and the mayor and city council of D.C. marched to the entrance of the White House, where they were greeted by President Millard Fillmore and his cabinet.  Through a crowd of more than twenty thousand, they then proceeded across the street to Lafayette Park for the dedication.  Senator Douglas gave an address on the military accomplishments of Jackson, and then introduced Mills.  However, Mills was so overcome with emotion that he could not speak and only pointed to the statue, which was then unveiled.

The Jackson memorial statue is one of the nation’s most recognizable sculptures, albeit one that might be easily overlooked given its setting among so many other statues and its proximity to the White House.  And although you have more likely than not seen it before in photos and on film, I highly recommend seeing it in person.  However, if you are unable to see the original statue here in D.C., there are other opportunities.  Mills went on to make replicas for New Orleans in 1856 and for Nashville in 1880. A fourth copy was cast in 1987 for outdoor display in Jacksonville, Florida.  For myself, I hope to be able to say one day that I have seen all four of them.

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[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

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Beirut Barracks Memorial

It was great early-spring weather for a bike ride today.  There was no longer any sign of the recent cold, rainy conditions that took away the cherry blossoms.  Instead, the skies were clear.  There was a slight breeze.  And the temperature was just warm enough to hint of summer’s approach.  So on this lunchtime bike ride I rode over to Arlington National Cemetery (MAP), and went for a long walk on the grounds.  And it was during this walk that I visited the Beirut Barracks Memorial.

The Beirut Barracks Memorial honors the 241 American servicemen, comprised of 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers, who were killed in the October 23, 1983 terrorist bombing of the Marines barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The bombing occurred during the Lebanese Civil War, when two truck bombs carrying what the FBI called the largest non-nuclear bomb in history, detonated by suicide bombers affiliated with a splinter group of the Iranian-and Syrian-supported Hezbollah organization, struck separate buildings housing United States and French military members of the Multinational Peacekeeping Force in Lebanon killing the U.S. servicemen, as well as 58 French peacekeepers, six civilians, and the two suicide attackers.

The memorial consists of a Lebanese cedar tree and a stone marker which reads, “‘Let Peace Take Root’  This cedar of Lebanon tree grows on living memory of the Americans killed in the Beirut terrorist attach and all victims of terrorism throughout the world.  Dedicated during the first memorial ceremony for these victims.  Given by: No Great Love. October 23, 1984.  A Time of Remembrance.”  And it is located in the green expanse of Arlington National’s Section 59, near the final resting place of some of the first Americans to shed blood in the fight against Middle East terrorism.  Twenty-one service members who lost their lives in the Beirut Barracks Bombing are also buried in Section 59 near the memorial.

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Red Cross Memorial Memorial to Workers Killed in Service in Vietnam

The first American Red Cross Field Directors were sent to South Vietnam in February of 1962.  The last Red Cross staff members to serve in country departed just over 11 years later, in March of 1973.  During the intervening years there were five men and women of the American Red Cross who died in Vietnam in service to the Armed Forces.  And on today’s bike ride, I went to see a small memorial to them, which is located on the grounds of The American National Red Cross Headquarters, which is located at 430 17th Street (MAP), just a few blocks from the White House.

The five Red Cross workers killed while serving in Vietnam were Vernon M. Lyons, Paul E. Samuels, Hannah E. Crews, Virginia E. Kirsch and Lucinda J. Richter.  But other than their names and the dates of their deaths which are inscribed on the memorial, there was no information  about who they were or how they were killed.  So I looked into it later, and this is what I found out.

Of  the five Red Cross workers killed, Vernon Lyons was the first.  One of 300 American Red Cross field directors, hospital personnel and recreation workers serving in the war zone at that time, he on August 29, 1967, when his jeep exploded a mine near Danang.  The 48-year old Lyons, who was from Wichita Falls, Texas, was serving as an assistant field director attached to the 1st Marine Division.

Paul Samuels was killed on January 25, 1968, at the Khe Sanh Combat base, in northwestern Quảng Trị Province, Republic of Vietnam, during the initial stages of the Tet Offensive.  At the time of his death, the 44-year old was serving as an American Red Cross field director.

Little information is available about Hannah Crews other than that she died in a jeep accident in Bien Hoa on October 2,1969.  Similarly,  the only information I could find on Lucinda Richter was that she died of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder,  in Cam Ranh Bay on February 9, 1971.

Virginia Kirsch, or Ginny as she was known to her friends, was perhaps one of the most tragic stories because she murdered by someone she went there to serve.  The 22-year old from Brookfield, Ohio, had been in Vietnam for only two weeks serving as one of 627 in-country recreation workers, affectionately referred to as Donut Dollies, when she was stabbed to death on August 16, 1970 in her billet at the headquarters of the 25th Infantry in Cu Chi, 20 miles northwest of Saigon.

An investigation determined that she was murdered by an Army soldier named Gregory W. Kozlowski, who was arrested and charged.  However, an Army Medical Review Board eventually issued a finding that Kozlowski was unable to determine right and wrong at the time of Ginny’s murder and that he was unable to cooperate intelligently in his own defense.  As a result, charges against him were dismissed and he was never prosecuted for Ginny’s murder, the first in the history of American Red Cross service overseas.

Because Lyons, Samuels, Crews, Richter and Kirsch were not in the military at the time of their deaths, their names are not inscribed on The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.  But their service and their lives are not forgotten.

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Note:  After the charges for killing Ginny Kirsch were dismissed, Kozlowski was discharged and placed on the Temporary Disabled Retired List and his medical records were transferred to the Veterans hospital at Wood, Wisconsin.  Twelve years later Kozlowski was arrested for the murder of a man in Milwaukee.  He was ultimately found, again, to be mentally ill and remanded to a series of mental health institutions within the State of Wisconsin.  However, after years of treatment and therapy, the psychiatric doctors deemed Kozlowski to no longer be a threat to either himself or others . In January of 2008, the Circuit Court granted Kozlowski a conditional release to a group home in Milwaukee. There has been no further information regarding his whereabouts since that date.

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In addition to the individual graves of those buried in Arlington National Cemetery, there are also a number of monuments and memorials.  The most well-known of which is the iconic Tomb of the Unknowns. But there are also dozens of other monuments and memorials to a variety of people, groups and events interspersed throughout the cemetery’s 624 acres. And on this lunchtime bike ride, I sought out and found the memorial to the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

The Space Shuttle Columbia was the first orbiter in NASA’s Space Shuttle fleet.  It launched for the first flight of the Space Shuttle Program on April 12, 1981, and provided over 22 years of service, successfully completing 27 missions before tragedy struck on February 1, 2003.

Near the end of its 28th mission, as it was travelling at a rate of approximately 8,000 miles per hour, the Columbia disintegrated as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere.  This created a debris field which encompassed hundreds of miles across Northeast Texas and into Louisiana.  The orbitor’s disintegration resulted in the deaths of all seven crew members aboard, whose remains were found along with the the nose cap in Sabine County, Texas.  The crew members killed on its final mission were: Rick Husband, the Commander; William C. McCool, the Pilot; Michael P. Anderson, Payload Commander/Mission Specialist 3; David M. Brown, Mission Specialist 1; Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist 2; Laurel Clark, Mission Specialist 4; and Ilan Ramon, Payload Specialist 1.   Nearly 84,000 pieces of debris from the orbitor were also found.  They are stored in the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center.

Less than two months after the disaster, President George W. Bush signed into law the “Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2003”. The “Columbia Orbiter Memorial Act” is contained in that supplemental appropriations act, which is now known as Public Law Number 108-11.  The Law authorized the Secretary of the Army, in consultation with NASA, to place the memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe, accompanied by over 400 family members, former astronauts, and friends dedicated the memorial on February 2, 2004.

I found the memorial by using a new app I recently downloaded to my phone.  It is called ANC Explorer, and it’s a free app available for download for both iPhone and Android smartphones.  ANC Explorer can also be launched using a traditional computer, and accessed at the cemetery using the free WiFi available at the Welcome Center and Administration Building.  The app is also available for public use on computer kiosks at the cemetery.

ANC Ecxplorer allows users to locate gravesites and other points of interest throughout the cemetery by providing step-by-step directions to these locations.  The app also allows users to view and save front-and-back photos of a marker or monument.  Further, the app provides emergency and event notifications, self-guided tours, and the ability to share your experiences and photos on popular social media sites. Users can also save favorite places in the new “My Content” feature to create their own custom walking tours.

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The Harry S. Truman Scholarship

There is a long tradition of creating presidential monuments and memorials to honor our country’s past presidents and perpetuate their legacies.  This is especially the case in our nation’s capital.  The most well-known local presidential memorials are the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials.  Some presidents even have more than one memorial to them here in D.C.  For example, Franklin Roosevelt’s original desk-sized memorial in front of the National Archives Building and the 7.5 acre FDR Memorial near the Tidal Basin, which are the smallest and largest presidential memorials in the city.

But on this bike ride I went to see one of the most unusual of all the presidential memorials – the one created for Harry S. Truman.  Or to be more accurate, I went to the house where the memorial resides.  Because instead of a statue, the official Federal memorial to our nation’s 33rd President is the Harry S. Truman Scholarship.  And under law, it is the only Federal memorial allowed to honor its namesake president.

The scholarship was created by Congress in 1975 as a living memorial to honor President Truman.  It is a highly competitive $30,000 Federal scholarship towards a graduate education, and is granted to approximately 55-65 U.S. college juniors each year for demonstrated leadership potential and a commitment to public service.

The scholarship is administered by The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, which is an independent Federal executive branch agency.  The foundation is headquartered in a brick rowhouse located at 712 Jackson Place, near Lafayette Square Park, in northwest D.C.’s Downtown neighborhood.  The building I saw on this ride was not all that interesting.  But learning all about the foundation and scholarship made up for that. 

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James A. Garfield Memorial

Despite serving in office for only 200 days, President James A. Garfield is, in my opinion, one of the most unique and interesting Presidents in history.  For this reason, and because it was on this day in 1881 that President Garfield succumbed to wounds inflicted by an assassin 80 days earlier, for this bike ride I chose to ride to the James A. Garfield Memorial.  It is located on the grounds of the United States Capitol Building in the circle at First Street and Maryland Avenue (MAP ) in the Downtown area of Southwest D.C.

Born in Orange Township, now Moreland Hills, near Cleveland, Ohio on November 19, 1831, James Abram Garfield was the last of the seven Presidents who were born in log cabins.  His father, Abram Garfield, was from Worcester, New York, and came to Ohio to woo his childhood sweetheart, Mehitabel Ballou.  When he got there and found out she was married already, he married her sister Eliza, instead.  His father died when he was still a baby, and he was raised by his widowed mother and elder brother, next door to their cousins, in virtual poverty.

Before eventually entering politics, Garfield first unsuccessfully tried his hand at being a frontier farmer.  Then, after completing his education, he worked teaching Greek and other classical languages for his alma mater in Ohio (now called Hiram College), where he met and eventually married one of his students, Lucretia Rudolph.  Together they had seven children, one of whom lived to be 102 and did not die until the 1970’s.  He also served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

While still serving in the Army in early 1862, Garfield began his political career.  He ran for the U.S. Congress in Ohio’s newly redrawn and heavily Republican 19th District, and won.  During his time in Congress, Garfield supported and voted for the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1866.  Also during his time in Congress, Garfield served on a specially-created Electoral Commission that decided the disputed outcome of the 1876 Presidential election, giving the presidency to his party’s candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes.

Then, while still serving as a Congressman in 1879, Garfield was elected by the Ohio Senate to replace John Sherman as U.S. Senator from Ohio because Senator Sherman resigned his seat to campaign for the presidency.  Garfield then went on, unexpectedly, to beat Sherman in the primaries and then win the 1880 presidential election.  As a result, there was a period of time, following the presidential election, where Garfield was a sitting congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senator-elect, and the U.S. President-elect, all at the same time.

Some other interesting aspects of Garfield include that he was the first primarily left-handed President, but he was also ambidextrous.  It is said you could ask him a question in English and he could simultaneously write the answer in Greek with one hand and in Latin with the other.  Also, as a minister in the Disciples of Christ Christian Church, Garfield is the only President to ever have been a preacher.  Also, as a former professor of languages, Garfield was the first President to campaign in multiple languages. He often spoke in German with German-Americans he encountered along the campaign trail.

On the morning of July 2, 1881, just four months into his presidency, President Garfield went to D.C.’s Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station, then located at the corner of Sixth Street and B Street, and the present site of the West Building of the National Gallery of Art.  He was there to catch a train on his way to a short vacation.  As he walked through the station toward the waiting train, a man named Charles Guiteau stepped behind the President and fired two shots.  Guiteau was an attorney and political office-seeker who was a relative stranger to the President and his administration in an era when Federal positions were doled out on a “who you know” basis. When his requests for an appointment were ignored, a furious Guiteau stalked the President, vowing revenge.

In comparison to the enormous amount of security now surrounding the President when he travels, it is incredible to think that when President Garfield was killed he was walking through a public train station with no bodyguard or security detail.  He was scheduled to travel alone, and was being seen off at the station by two of his sons and two friends.  One of those friends was Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of the first President to be assassinated.

Guiteau’s first bullet grazed Garfield’s arm.  The bullet second passed below the president’s pancreas and lodged near his spine, and could not be found by doctors.  Doctors made several unsuccessful attempts to remove the bullet while Garfield lay in his White House bedroom, awake and in pain.  Alexander Graham Bell, who was one of Garfield’s physicians, invented a metal detector to try to find the location of the bullet but the machine kept malfunctioning, apparently due to the metal framework of the bed Garfield lay in.  Because of the rarity of metal bed frames at the time, the cause of the malfunction was not discovered.

By early September, Garfield, who was recuperating at a seaside retreat in New Jersey, appeared to be recovering.  However, he took a turn for the worse and succumbed to his injuries.  He died 80 days after being shot.  Historical accounts vary as to the exact cause of Garfield’s death.  Some believe that his physicians’ treatments, which included the constant probing of the bullet wound with unsterile instruments, may have led to blood poisoning.  His treatment also included the administration of quinine, morphine, brandy and calomel, as well as feeding him through the rectum.  Many believe that the medical treatment he received eventually led to, or at least hastened, his demise. Autopsy reports at the time said that pressure from his internal wound had created an aneurism, which was the likely cause of death.  Garfield’s spine, which shows the hole created by the bullet, is kept as a historical artifact by the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

Garfield was the second President to be assassinated, after Abraham Lincoln in 1865.  At 200 days, Garfield’s presidency was the second shortest, behind William Henry Harrison’s presidency, of just 31 days.  Also, Garfield is the second youngest President to die in office, behind John F. Kennedy, who was 127 days younger that Garfield was at the time of their deaths.

This ride was an interesting one, much like Garfield himself was interesting.  And it was not a very long ride, but it was for a President who did not serve for very long in office, and did not live a very long life.  Garfield worked as a farmer, a janitor, a bell ringer, a carpenter, a canal boat driver, a college professor, a lawyer, and a preacher.  He was also a Brigadere General in the Army, a Congressman, a Senator and a U.S. President.  So I guess maybe it’s not about how long you live, but what you do while you’re alive that counts.  

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Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial

Arlington House, also known as the Robert E. Lee Memorial, and formerly named the Custis-Lee Mansion, is a 19th-century Greek revival style mansion located atop a rolling hill in what is now Arlington National Cemetery (MAP), in Arlington County, Virginia.  And on this lunchtime bike ride I ventured over the Arlington Memorial Bridge to Virginia to see and find out more about the historic house.

The mansion, overlooking the national capital city landscape across the Potomac River, has a long and storied past.  Construction began in 1802, but was not actually completed until 1818. It was owned by his adopted grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, son of John Parke Custis who himself was a child of Martha Washington by her first marriage, and a ward of President Washington.  It was originally intended as a living memorial to President George Washington. To design the estate Custis hired George Hadfield, an English architect who came to D.C. in 1785 to help construct the U.S. Capitol Building.

Custis began living in the house in 1802, in the north wing, which was the first part completed. Two years later he married Mary Lee Fitzhugh, and she moved in with him. Construction of the house continued around them for the first sixteen years of their marriage, and they lived in Arlington House for the rest of their lives .  They were buried together on the property after their deaths in 1857 and 1853, respectively.

Their only child, Mary Anna Randolph Custis, took ownership of the property upon her father’s death. She moved in and lived there with her childhood friend and distant cousin, who she had married years earlier. His name was Robert E. Lee. They would have seven children, six of whom were born at the estate.

Contrary to popular belief, Lee never actually owned the Arlington estate.  However, as Mary’s husband he did serve as custodian of the property, which by that time had fallen into disrepair. Although it would take several years, Lee returned the property and its holdings to good order by 1859. But that would only last a couple of years. It would not be long until Lee would leave Arlington Mansion, never to return again.

On May 24, 1861, just hours after the Commonwealth of Virginia ratified an ordinance of secession, thus joining the Confederate States of America, over 3,500 U.S. Army soldiers, commanded by General Irvin McDowell, streamed across the Potomac River into northern Virginia and captured the Arlington estate.  It would soon be seized by the U.S. government when Mrs. Lee failed to pay, in person, taxes levied against the estate.  It was then offered for public sale, at which time a tax commissioner purchased the property for “government use, for war, military, charitable and educational purposes.”

It wasn’t until 1864, when the increasing number of battle fatalities was outpacing the burial capacity of D.C. cemeteries, that 200 acres of Arlington plantation were set aside as a cemetery. Upon the authority of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, General Montgomery C. Meigs, Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army, appropriated the grounds for use as a military cemetery.  Meigs believed Lee committed treason in deciding to fight against the Union, and denying Lee use of the mansion after the war was politically advantageous.  So he decided that a large number of burials should occur close to Arlington House to render it unlivable should the Lee family ever attempt to return.  And he was successful.  The mansion never again served as the Lee family’s, or anyone else’s, home.

Throughout the war, the Arlington estate also provided assistance to the thousands of African-Americans slaves fleeing the South.  The U.S. government even dedicated a planned community for freed slaves on the southern portion of the property, which was named Freedman’s Village.  The government granted land to more than 1,100 freed slaves, where they farmed and lived until the turn of the 20th century.

Neither Robert E. Lee, nor his wife ever attempted to recover control of Arlington House. However, after Lee’s death in 1870, his son, George Washington Custis Lee, brought an action for ejectment in the Circuit Court of Alexandria (today Arlington County).  Custis Lee, as eldest son of the Lees, claimed the land was illegally confiscated and that, according to his grandfather’s will, he was the legal owner.  In December 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, returned the property to Custis Lee, stating that confiscation of the property lacked due process. The following year Congress purchased the property back from Lee.

In 1955, Congress enacted Public Law 84-107, a joint resolution that designated the manor as the “Custis-Lee Mansion”, and as a permanent memorial to Robert E. Lee. The resolution directed the United States Secretary of the Interior to erect on the premises a memorial plaque and to correct governmental records to bring them into compliance with the designation, “thus ensuring that the correct interpretation of its history would be applied”.  Gradually the house was furnished and interpreted to the period of Robert E. Lee as specified in the legislation.  In 1972, Congress enacted Public Law 92-333, an Act that amended the previous law to designate the manor as “Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial”.  It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in October of 1966, and is currently administered by the National Park Service.

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[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]

ArlingtonMansio01

The view from the front porch of Arlington House