The Washington Post

The Civil War graves and monuments at Arlington National Cemetery will soon be easier to find when a free smart phone app becomes available in October.

(Michael S. Williamson/THE WASHINGTON POST)

According to an article by Gary Sheftick in the Army News Service, the web based application will offer a virtual tour of the cemetery, list daily events such as wreath layings and help visitors find individual graves.

For those who do not have smart phones, the visitors center and other locations will make the service available as kiosks.

Arlington cemetery, originally the estate of Robert E. Lee and his wife Mary, is one of the most popular sites for tourists in the Washington area and of special interest to those who study the Civil War. When Lee resigned from the U.S. Army and then took command of the Virginia’s armed forces, his family fled their home because of its close proximity to the White House and the Capitol building. Within days, Union troops occupied the property.

Union Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs selected the Lee estate for a new burial ground in 1864 when two other cemeteries in the area were filled. It was ideal, with its acres of open land and view of Washington, but it also meant the estate would become unlivable for the Lees if ever they chose to return.

The following year, he ordered the unknown Union dead be collected within a 35-mile radius of the District and be buried in a vault placed close by the Lee house. Although it was not Meigs’s intention, Confederate dead were also brought to Arlington for the mass internment because many of the bodies had no uniforms to identify which side they supported. The inscription on the cenotaph simply says, “The Civil War Unknowns Monument.”

There is a section of the cemetery set aside for the Union dead as well as one that is less well known, a section just for Confederate dead. In 1898, President William McKinley spoke in favor of the U.S. government assuming responsibility for the graves of the Confederate dead. In 1900, the federal government agreed to reinter the Confederate buried in gravesites around Washington in Arlington cemetery. The move was seen as another step toward reconciliation of a still divided country.

Known as Section 16 , that part of the cemetery has a magnificent, 33-foot-tall sculpture by Moses Ezekiel, a Confederate veteran and widely recognized sculptor. A circular frieze of 32-life-sized figures depicts soldiers going off to war and their sad homecoming.

President Woodrow Wilson dedicated the memorial on June 14, 1914 and veterans of both the Union and the Confederacy placed wreaths on the graves of their former foes as a symbolic healing of the wounds of the war.


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