Harry Lee's youngest son Robert would one day marry Washington Parke Custis' daughter and live in the Custis household. In 1908 James Lingan's remains would be moved to what had become the National Cemetery, and thus continues to stay on Custis' property.
The following evidence of Meigs' personal vendetta against the South in general and Robert E. Lee in particular may be the most incriminating. When he inspected the new grounds for the first time in late summer of 1864,
". . .he expected to find the house nearly unapproachable due to the number of
new graves. Instead, he found the mansion much as it had been when it was first
occupied by federal troops. The graves had been neatly arranged some distance
from the house. Furious, Meigs demanded that twenty-six bodies be brought
immediately from Washington, and in the heat of that mid-August day, he
personally supervised the burial of these fallen soldiers around Mrs. Lee's once
famous rose garden only yards from the house." (Peters 26)
In April 1866 Montgomery Meigs-- who by this time had lost a son to a Confederate
patrol-- returned to Mrs. Lee's rose garden to add a new testament to his bitter heart: The Tomb of the Unknown Dead of the Civil War stands adjacent to the graves of previously interred officers, and houses the remains of over two thousand soldiers recovered primarily from land around the two battles of Bull Run. Since most of these remains were limited to skeletons, "it can only be assumed" (Peters 26) that Confederate bones are mixed with those of Union men. In this way Meigs' final act of venom set the stage for the cemetery's future, in which it would no longer be a reminder of sectional violence but rather an awesome symbol of united national honor.
One forgotten footnote to history becomes chronologically relevant at this point. Unfortunately, its emphasis on civilians means that it does not weave its way into a narrative of early American national symbolism as neatly as one might hope. There were actually two things that flowed into the District of Columbia in overwhelming numbers after the start of the Civil War: dying soldiers and escaped slaves, which were ironically known as "contrabands". In a disturbing parallel, both of these groups were banished to the hills of Arlington. By April 1863 there were 10,000 refugees living in filthy overcrowded facilities within the city, and when smallpox broke out in the camp at Duff Green's Row the authorities decided to relocate as many African-Americans as possible (James 91). The Freedmen's Village was dedicated in December 1863, a few months before the cemetery on the other side of the hill. One hundred families moved into a well-planned community with a hospital, a home for the aged and infirm, and other buildings devoted to education and small-scale manufactures. Although similar villages would be established during Reconstruction, the one at Arlington was "a national showcase from its earliest moments" (Reidy 411) which frequently drew members of the Lincoln cabinet to its celebrations. As the war ended and time went on, the residents of Freedmen's Village became economically prosperous and politically active (Reidy 423), but as one might guess the neighboring white communities grew increasingly resentful of them. The Federal government initially provided some measure of protection: "[t]he irony of former slaves' building a life of freedom on the Lee family's property tasted sweet to Washington officials" (Reidy 417) and so no effort to force them off the land occurred until the 1890s, when the government briefly lost Arlington in a Supreme Court decision to Lee's eldest son Custis. When the property was legally bought from Custis Lee it was designated a military installation, and so civilians were restricted. Although other accounts of the Freedmen's Village are far more vivid than the one recounted here, it seems that its only participation in the development of Arlington as The Nation's Most Sacred Shrine is found in the Village's extinction. The military was eventually going to need the land for its own morbid purposes, and a peaceful community of African-Americans had nothing whatsoever to do with that.
In 1888 Philip Henry Sheridan died and was buried in a plot on the right side of the mansion's front lawn. The northern states mourned his passing, as he was the last of the three great Union Generals (the other two being Grant and Sherman). In addition to the squat yet massive obelisk that marks his grave, one of the original main gates to the cemetery was named in his honor. This gate consisted of a pediment with the general's name inscribed upon it, supported by four Ionic columns from the recently demolished War Department. These columns were inscribed with the names of (General Winfield) Scott, Lincoln, Stanton, and Grant. The other two gates similarly emphasized the greatness of Federal leaders: one was named for Generals Edward Ord and Godfrey Weitzel, and the other-- the only gate still extant-- in honor or George McClellan. The effort to achieve a balance between individual and collective greatness was begun by these gates, as every time visitors entered the cemetery they were reminded of the greatness of the individual before they were entreated to look upon the fields of white marble tombstones and thus absorb Arlington's overall composition as a memorial to collective bravery and sacrifice.