OTD Arlington

May 12, 2022

May 13, 1864

As the Civil War rages, a young soldier is laid to rest on land already home to so many stories and so begins a new chapter of what we now know as Arlington National Cemetery.


  • Formerly “Arlington Estates.”
  • Arlington Estates honored Pres. George Washington. Washington’s step-grandson owned the property and left it to his daughter, who later married Robert E. Lee (General of the Confederate Army).
  • The Lees left Arlington as the Civil War began and the Union Army took over the property; they first built strategic forts there to defend Washington D.C. before eventually using it as a burial site. The U.S. Army still maintains its oversight.

The First Soldiers Buried

  • May 13, 1864: Pvt. William Henry Christman, who died of measles only weeks after volunteering to serve his home state of Pennsylvania.
  • Other notable burials that month: The first draftee (Pvt. William Reeves, 76th New York Infantry) and first battle casualty (Pvt. William Blatt, 49th Pennsylvania Infantry).
  • June 15, 1864: The U.S. Army, needing more burial space as the war’s death toll rises, declares the property a military cemetery. The war ends less than a year later, in April 1865.

Did You Know?

1863: A portion of Arlington, which had once been a plantation, becomes “Freedman’s Village” “a planned community for freed slaves.” The community of 1,500 people includes schools, a hospital, and churches. In 1900, the U.S. government closes the village and folds the land into the growing national cemetery.

1874: Robert E. Lee’s son sues the U.S. government for illegally seizing his family’s property and in 1882, he WINS. The federal government then purchases the property from the Lee family for the equivalent of $4 million.

Today the cemetery is known as the final resting place for 400,000+ service members and their eligible dependents from every U.S. war, ranging from the American Revolution to Iraq and Afghanistan including former U.S. presidents, astronauts, Supreme Court Justices and remains still unidentified. More than two dozen burials take place every weekday.

Arlington National Cemetery (NPS.gov)

by Jenna Lee,