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 Posted: Mon Jun 17th, 2013 02:20 pm
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Texas Defender
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  The events leading to the transformation of the estate at Arlington into a national cemetery have previously been discussed on this forum. But this excellent article is a worthy addition to the board:

How Arlington National Cemetery Came to Be | History & Archaeology | Smithsoni

  The article explains how the estate was confiscated at the beginning of the war, and how it was used as an instrument of revenge by Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs (who was a logistical genius). General Meigs' enmity towards Robert E. Lee (And all other Virginians who served the CSA) was probably unmatched among Union generals.

  The estate was converted into a cemetery in 1864, but in the end, many years later, the Lee family prevailed in the Federal Judicial System, and recovered the ownership of the property. Custis Lee chose to take a cash settlement, rather than having the already 20,000 buried there removed. It was the right decision for the Lee family, as the money was needed to restore the family fortune. However, I can't help but wonder if Custis Lee would have relished having all traces of federal occupation removed from the estate.

  As for General Meigs, he later joined his family members, being buried in a very prominent place on the property. One has to wonder what his reaction was when the Lee family prevailed in the USSC.

  As an aside, Mrs. Lee's young cousin, William Orton Williams, who told her in May of 1861 that she would have to leave her beloved home, soon became a CSA officer. Along with a fellow officer (Also a cousin), he set out on a bizarre scheme, impersonating a Union officer. He was soon recognized, captured, tried as a spy, and hung.

Col William Orton Williams (1839 - 1863) - Find A Grave Memorial

Robert E. Lee (by Freeman) — Vol. III Chap. 12 The story is discussed in this chapter by Freeman.

Last edited on Mon Jun 17th, 2013 02:23 pm by Texas Defender



 Posted: Mon Jun 17th, 2013 09:49 pm
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Hellcat
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I'm gonna be honest here, TD, and say I haven't yet clicked a link. But do I remember correctly that the settlement was after Mrs. Lee' death?

On Custis Lee's potentially wanting all traces of the occupation gone I think that at the end of the war he might have wanted that. But by the time the settlement was completed I'd think that no matter how he would have felt that it probably no longer mattered beyond effectively being paid for the estate. You have to figure that the federal government had occupied the land for so long by the time of the settlement that there would likely always be a little anger over that and he probably also wouldn't want to be constantly reminded of that whenever he looked at Arlington House or the grounds.

What's most interesting is that she could have gotten the property back much sooner than her son go the payment for it. She did try paying the back taxes on it and the government refused to accept. That reminds me so much of Lee's citizenship papers going "missing" so he never regained his citizenship until over a hundred years after his death. I've never bought that whole missing bit, those papers were deliberately "misplaced" so as to punish him for his role in the war. And the refusal to accept the back taxes on the property was the same thing.



 Posted: Mon Jun 17th, 2013 10:18 pm
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Texas Defender
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Hellcat-

  Mrs. Lee died in 1873 and the court case wasn't finally resolved until very late in 1882.

  As for the tax- the Congress authorized a special tax on property within districts that were in: "Insurrection." A tax was levied on Arlington, and Mrs. Lee, who was ill at the time, sent a relative to pay it. He was turned away by the authorities, who said that Mrs. Lee had to appear in person to pay the tax. The tax wasn't paid, which led to an auction in 1864. The Federal Government was the only bidder.

  As for Custis Lee, he had little money and no inheritance other than Arlington. Taking a cash settlement was the only reasonable option for him, since the Government apparently paid the fair market value for the property in 1883.

George Washington Custis Lee - Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial



 Posted: Thu Jan 30th, 2014 07:48 pm
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Texas Defender wrote:
...  The article explains how the estate was confiscated at the beginning of the war, and how it was used as an instrument of revenge by Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs (who was a logistical genius). General Meigs' enmity towards Robert E. Lee (And all other Virginians who served the CSA) was probably unmatched among Union generals ...


He was a Southerner who despised secessionists, an American first. Not sure if it was a desire for revenge or simply poetic justice, but his decision to make Arlington the National Cemetery was seminal (a subdivision of condos today if he hadn't? -- thank our lucky stars!). For me, Arlington is still the most reverent place in the entire United States, it breathes history from every stone, the last will and testament for too many (aye, some of mine are there). If she does not bring a tear to your eye, or put a lump in your throat, well ...

Meigs knew it way back then. Despite all that occurred during the war, I'll bet you even R.E. Lee, with that deepest well of character and magnanimity, a true Southern gentleman, would be damned proud of her legacy.

Last edited on Thu Jan 30th, 2014 07:59 pm by wondering



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