Arlington National Cemetery: A Monument Fashioned From Hallowed Ground

    What is the largest monument in the United States? Many would argue without hesitation that Mount Rushmore holds that honor, whereas others might disagree in favor of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri. However, such a distinction could easily be granted to a memorial laid out in hallowed ground, rather than chiseled from rock or stone. Arlington National Cemetery, covering an expanse of 624 acres in Washington D. C., is a commemoration and last resting place to more than 300,000 fallen Americans who have given their lives to their country. Although most U. S. citizens are aware of this famous memorial burial ground, the vast majority are more than likely unaware of how it came to be and where the land came from.

Now considered a symbol of national patriotism and pride, the land encompassing Arlington National Cemetery at one time belonged to the family of a man vilified as a traitor and stripped of his citizenship – namely Robert E. Lee, the famous commander of the Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War. However, ownership of the land can actually be traced back even further to another Virginian – who also commanded soldiers in combat and eventually assumed the highest political office of the land. George Washington, who married the widowed Martha Dandridge Custis in 1759, originally owned the land that would be handed down through the years to Mary Anna Custis, the wife of Robert E. Lee. George and Martha Washington never had children of their own, but adopted Martha’s grandchildren by her prior marriage when their father (Martha’s son), John Parke Custis, died in the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. Hence, it was the step-grandson of Washington, George Washington Parke Custis, who inherited the land and built the estate where Lee and his wife were residing at the outbreak of Civil War in 1861. At the time, the expanse of land was known as the Custis-Lee Estate.

The Cemetery And The Custis-Lee Mansion
(Click For Larger Photo)

The new fate of the estate became evident immediately after the outbreak of civil war in 1861, as forces loyal to the North moved in and occupied the area, constructing defensive works against a possible assault on the capital by Southern militias. In June of 1862, a Congress devoid of political voices from secessionist states passed a law permitting the assessment and collection of taxes on property in “insurrectionary districts,” which included $92.07 levied on the Custis-Lee Estate. Mary Lee attempted to pay the tax through her cousin, but commissioners denied the attempt, confiscated the property, and eventually placed it up for auction in January of 1864. Sold to the federal government for a sum of $26,800, the property became the focal point of burials during the waning months of the war – a time that witnessed over 80,000 casualties per month. William Christman, a 21-year-old private in the 67th Pennsylvania Infantry, became the first soldier to be interred at the new burial ground when he died of peritonitis disease in Washington’s Lincoln General Hospital on May 11, 1864 – without seeing a day of combat. Officially designated a cemetery on June 15, 1864 by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, the former home of Robert and Mary Lee also served as refuge for liberated slaves who were freed in the wake of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Today more than 3,800 gravestones near the Marine Corps Memorial mark the burial spots of former slaves that resided at “Freedman’s Village” during and after the war.

The Old “McClellan” Gate Entrance To The Cemetery
(Click For larger Photo)

In 1871, the initiation of an entrance gate that would finally be completed in 1879 seemed to seal the   destiny of the estate as a burial ground, despite efforts by Mary Lee to regain ownership of her former home through a petition to Congress that died in committee with meager consideration. Built by the order of Brigadier General Montgomery Cunningham Meigs, Quartermaster General of the Army between 1861 and 1882, this gate would serve as the main entrance to the cemetery until January of 1932, when President Herbert Hoover officially opened the Memorial Entrance that is now used. With the death of Robert E. Lee in 1870, followed by Mary Lee in 1873, efforts to wrestle the Custis-Lee Estate from the hands of the federal government fell to their eldest son, Custis Lee, who filed suit against the United States, claiming the property had been wrongfully confiscated. In 1882, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the tax sale during the Civil War had been improper – thereby returning ownership to Custis Lee, who then sold it back to the government the very next year for a sum equivalent to over $3 million in today’s currency. General Meigs, who blamed Lee for the death of his son during the Civil War, and used the creation of the cemetery as a means of carrying out a vendetta against him, later received full burial rites in section one when he died at the age of 75 – but the Lees emerged as the real victors monetarily.

Brigadier General Montgomery Cunningham Meigs

Meigs’ burial occurred in one of 70 sections that have emerged over the years since the foundation of Arlington National Cemetery, and each section has been designated for a particular purpose, such as for Confederate soldiers, former slaves, and military nurses. Erected in 1938 to honor the nurses that perished in World War I, the Nurses Memorial received a rededication in 1971 for the purpose of recognizing all nurses that served and died in the Army, Navy or Air Force. Close by the Nurses Memorial, an amphitheater has existed since 1915 – and it eventually became the home for the Tomb of the Unknowns that honors nameless soldiers that perished in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Undoubtedly the most popular monument in the cemetery, millions of visitors each year stop to witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – a duty carried out 24 hours a day by soldiers of the 3rd United States Infantry since April 6, 1948. Occasionally referred to as the “Old Guard,” these sentinels pace 21 steps north and 21 steps south, 365 days per year, regardless of the prevailing weather.

The official website for Arlington National Cemetery lists 32 monuments and memorials that any sightseer would find interesting to visit, including the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy and the President William Howard Taft Monument. In June of 2002, the Army altered the rules that govern eligibility for burial in the nation’s most famous memorial burial ground, and stricter guidelines for the placement of new monuments now exist due to the dwindling availability of space. There are an average of 25 funerals that take place each day, including the surviving spouses and minor children of those already interred at the cemetery. Section 60 has received the most burials in recent years, since it is dedicated to those that have perished in Afghanistan and Iraq. Enjoy the video posted below if you would like, but we kindly request that you definitely click on the link below and sign the petition.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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The National Counterterrorism Center: What Is a Terrorist and How Do We Know Who They Are?

bomb  In reaction to the 911 attacks on New York City, President George W. Bush issued Presidential Executive Order 13354 on August 27, 2004, thereby creating the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). The precursor of this center was the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC), first announced by Bush as part of his 2003 State of the Union Address. Both of these counterterrorism centers came as a result of recommendations by the 911 Commission, which had arrived at the shocking conclusion that none of the measures adopted by the United States prior to the 911 tragedy had done anything to slow or stop the efforts of al Qaeda. Even more shocking was the assessment that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had failed to recognize the possibility of the attacks and acted unwisely and independent of each other.

nctc     Renaming the TTIC to the National Counterterrorism Center came as a result of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which also established the position of the Director of National Intelligence to oversee the new entity. At present, the NCTC has been under the supervision of five different men, with Matthew G. Olsen serving as the current director since August 16, 2011. The mission of the NCTC is to “lead our nation’s effort to combat terrorism at home and abroad by analyzing the threat, sharing that information with our partners, and integrating all instruments of national power to ensure unity of effort.” Through its efforts, the NCTC is charged with establishing a database entitled the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), which consists of a list of some 500,000 terror links – including the names of suspected terrorists. In essence, the NCTC sifts through, analyzes and integrates all intelligence information that pertains to the fight against terrorism, with the interesting exception of domestic terrorism. NCTC is therefore the principal organization concerned and charged with strategic efforts of counterterrorism in the United States.


Matthew G. Olsen – Present Director of NCTC

To be included on the TIDE database as a suspected terrorist, a person must meet at least one of the following qualifying criteria:

  1. Have committed or helped plan an act of international terrorism;
  2. Solicit funds for an act of international terrorism or terrorist organization;
  3. Gather information for potential targets for international terrorism;
  4. Solicit membership in/for an international terrorist organization;
  5. Provide material support for a terrorist organization (i.e. i.e. safe house, transportation, communications, funds, transfer of funds or other material financial benefit, false documentation or identification, weapons, explosives, or training);
  6. Be a member or represent a terrorist organization or state.

Each day, TIDE analysts review and enhance their records, based on the “nominations” they receive from contributing sources – and this information is exported to the FBI Terrorist Screening Center. This list is also a critical tool for Homeland Security in its efforts to secure and defend the United States from terrorist threats. Optimally, the desired result from the efforts of the NCTC is a more coordinated and informed response of the 16 government agencies that are charged with conducting intelligence activities. The following list of these agencies is available on Wikipedia:


Heat Maps of Global Terrorism Are Available By Clicking This Image

The interesting piece of information revealed here is the fact that NCTC is not concerned with acts of “domestic terrorism” – which includes any of the school shootings, such as the recent horrors that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut, and the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Do we consider any of the individuals that instigated these events to be “terrorists?” Please leave us your opinion on this subject by participating in the survey below.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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