Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is comprised of land that once belonged to George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of Martha Washington and step-grandson of George Washington. Custis spent his life commemorating Washington and built Arlington House on the 1,100-acre plantation as a memorial to the first president. In 1857, Custis willed the property to his daughter Mary Anna Randolph Custis, who in 1831 had married U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Robert E. Lee.

After the Lee family vacated the property at the onset of the Civil War in 1861, federal troops used the land as a camp and headquarters - beginning on May 24, 1861. In 1863, the government established Freedman’s Village on the estate as a way to assist slaves transitioning to freedom. The village provided housing, education, employment training, and medical care.

A property tax dispute, amounting to just over $92.01 cost the Lee family their home and in January 1864, the U.S. government purchased the property for $26,800 at public auction. After Mary Lee’s death, her son, George Washington Custis Lee sued in 1882 for the return of the property, winning his case in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. Lee then sold the property, which by this time contained the graves of over 6,000 Union soldiers, to the federal government for $150,000.

By the third year of the Civil War, the increasing number of fatalities was outpacing the burial capacity of Washington D.C. cemeteries. To meet this demand, 200 acres of Arlington plantation was set aside as a military cemetery. The first military burial took place on May 13, 1864, for Private William Christmas of Pennsylvania. On June 15, the War Department officially designated this burial space a national cemetery, thus creating Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia contains the remains of more than 400,000 people from the United States and 11 other countries, buried there since the 1960s.

The Tomb of the Unknowns is guarded 24/7 by the best, most qualified members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard. Nearly 5,000 unknown soldiers are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

There are almost 4,000 former slaves buried in Section 27, land that used to be known as Freedman’s Village, Arlington’s first free neighborhood.

Funerals are normally conducted six days a week, Monday through Saturday, Arlington averages 27 to 30 funerals, including interments and inurnments, each weekday.  And six to eight services on Saturdays. The flags in Arlington National Cemetery are flown at half-staff from a half hour before the first funeral until a half hour after the last funeral each day.

  • Date privatized - September 15, 2015
  • Size - 624 Acres
  • Miles of line - 2.5 miles
  • Number of facilities served - 15 facilities including:  Memorial Amphitheater – Tomb of the Unknowns, Custis – Lee Mansion, Kennedy Gravesite, Welcome Center
  • Number of People Supported - Over 4 million people visit Arlington National Cemetery annually