arl-cemArlington National Cemetery is located west of Washington, DC, across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia. It is one of the Army National Military Cemeteries; the other is the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery in Washington, DC. Both are operated and managed by the U.S. Army and are the final resting places for veterans of military service. Arlington National Cemetery is also the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which commemorates those who perished in World War I.

The site of Arlington National Cemetery is historic; the land once belonged to George Washington Parke Custis, the grandson of Martha Washington and the adopted son of George Washington. Custis built Arlington House on the 1,100 acre plantation and then left the house and land to his daughter, Mary Anna Randolph Custis, who was the wife of Robert E. Lee.


At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, the Lee family fled the house; during and after the Civil War, ownership of the house and land eventually passed to the U.S. Government. Arlington House, also called the Custis-Lee Mansion, and the grounds around the house are today administered by the National Park Service. The first burial on the grounds was in 1864, and the War Department set aside about 200 acres of the original site to be used as a cemetery. During and after the Civil War, over a thousand freed slaves lived on the land in an area known as Freedman’s Village.

Arlington National Cemetery covers 624 acres and contains approximately 400,000 graves. It is the final resting place for a number of important historical figures. Among those buried there are:

  • Presidents John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft
  • Explorers Admiral Richard Byrd and Robert E. Peary
  • Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant, planner of the city of Washington
  • Abner Doubleday, who is credited with inventing baseball
  • Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis
  • Supreme Court Justices Warren Burger, Earl Warren, William Rehnquist, and Associate Justices Harry Blackmun, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., and Thurgood Marshall
  • Political figures William Jennings Bryan, John Foster Dulles, Medgar Evers, Edward M. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy

To learn more, see the Arlington National Cemetery and Arlington House sites.