Who was the Confederate general that possessed Arlington Cemetery?

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By Kristy Tolley

Who was the Confederate General?

The Confederate General who possessed Arlington Cemetery was Robert E. Lee. He was a prominent military figure during the American Civil War and served as the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Despite his reputation as a skilled strategist and leader, Lee is often criticized for his allegiance to the Confederacy and his support of slavery.

Early Life and Military Career

Robert E. Lee was born on January 19, 1807, in Virginia. His father, "Light Horse" Harry Lee, was a Revolutionary War hero who served as a governor of Virginia. Lee attended the United States Military Academy at West Point and graduated in 1829. He served in the United States Army for over 30 years and was involved in various conflicts, including the Mexican-American War. During his military career, Lee gained a reputation as an excellent soldier, leader, and strategist.

Robert E. Lee and the Civil War

Robert E. Lee’s loyalty to Virginia led him to resign from the United States Army and join the Confederate Army after Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861. He served as the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and led his troops in many of the major battles of the Civil War, including the Seven Days Battle, the Second Battle of Bull Run, and the Battle of Fredericksburg. Despite his military successes, Lee was eventually forced to surrender to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

Occupation of Arlington Estate

During the Civil War, Robert E. Lee’s wife, Mary Anna Custis Lee, inherited the Arlington Estate from her father, George Washington Parke Custis. The estate was located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., and consisted of over 1,100 acres. When Virginia seceded from the Union, Union troops occupied the land, and the Lee family was forced to abandon the estate.

The Custis-Lee Family Connection

The Arlington Estate had a significant historical connection to the Custis and Lee families. George Washington Parke Custis was the grandson of Martha Washington, and the estate was originally built by his father-in-law, George Washington. Custis built the mansion as a tribute to Washington and filled it with his own collection of Washington memorabilia. After Custis’s death, the estate was inherited by his daughter, Mary Anna Custis Lee, who was married to Robert E. Lee.

Turning Point: Robert E. Lee’s Resignation

Robert E. Lee’s resignation from the United States Army and his decision to join the Confederate Army was a turning point in his life. Lee was torn between his loyalty to his country and his loyalty to his state. Ultimately, he chose to side with Virginia and the Confederacy, a decision that continues to be the subject of controversy and debate.

Union Occupation of Arlington Estate

After the Lee family was forced to leave the Arlington Estate, Union troops occupied the land and used it as a headquarters and training ground. The troops also began burying soldiers on the property, which became known as the Arlington Cemetery.

Creation of Arlington National Cemetery

In 1864, Congress officially designated the land as a military cemetery and renamed it the Arlington National Cemetery. The cemetery was expanded over the years and now covers over 600 acres, with more than 400,000 graves.

Custis-Lee Lawsuit and Resolution

After the Civil War, the Lee family filed a lawsuit to regain ownership of the Arlington Estate. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the United States government. However, in 1882, Congress passed a law that allowed the Lee family to repurchase the estate for $150,000.

Legacy of the Confederate General

Robert E. Lee is remembered for his military leadership and his role in the American Civil War. Despite his reputation as a skilled strategist, Lee’s decision to support the Confederacy and slavery has led to controversy and criticism.

Controversy and Criticism

The controversy surrounding Robert E. Lee’s legacy and connection to Arlington Cemetery continues to this day. Some see him as a hero and a symbol of Southern pride, while others view him as a traitor and a defender of slavery.

Conclusion: Remembering Arlington Cemetery’s Past

The history of Arlington Cemetery and its connection to Robert E. Lee and the Civil War is a complex and controversial topic. While it is important to remember the sacrifices of the soldiers buried at the cemetery, it is also important to acknowledge the role that Lee and his family played in its creation and occupation. As we continue to reflect on the past and strive for a more just society, it is essential to engage in thoughtful dialogue and reflection on the legacy of figures like Robert E. Lee.

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Kristy Tolley

Kristy Tolley, an accomplished editor at TravelAsker, boasts a rich background in travel content creation. Before TravelAsker, she led editorial efforts at Red Ventures Puerto Rico, shaping content for Platea English. Kristy's extensive two-decade career spans writing and editing travel topics, from destinations to road trips. Her passion for travel and storytelling inspire readers to embark on their own journeys.

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