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Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial

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Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial is a National Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. It protects the mansion that once belonged to Robert E. Lee, widely respected general of the Confederate Army.

The Robert E. Lee Mansion overlooks the Potomac River, across from the National Mall in Washington, DC. It is surrounded by the Arlington National Cemetery, which was created during the American Civil War with the deliberate purpose of preventing General Lee from ever returning to his home.

Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, with Arlington National Cemetery in the foregroundArlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, with Arlington National Cemetery in the foreground
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Arlington House was built by George Washington Parke Custis, the step-grandson and adopted son of George Washington in 1802, on land bought by his father John Parke Custis in 1778. This was following the death of George Washington's wife Martha, and three years after George Washington's death. When George Washington Parke Curstis died, he left the Arlington estate to Mary Custis Lee for the lifetime, and after that, it went to Lee's eldest son, George Washington Custis Lee.

With the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, Robert E. Lee was offered command of the Union Army. However, not wanting to turn his back on the people of Virginia, he declined the offer, resigned from the army and within days joined the Confederate States Army as general. At that time, his wife Mary Anna Custis Lee was still staying at Arlington House. He convinced her to leave the house. Knowing that the Union army was coming to occupy the house, she managed to go away after sending some of the family's valuables for safekeeping. Since that departure, Robert E. Lee never set foot on Arlington House again while his wife managed to visit it once more shortly before her death in 1873.

Robert E Lee's bedroom in Arlington HouseRobert E Lee's bedroom in Arlington House
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After the Union army seized the house, some family heirlooms were saved while some looted by the soldiers. The house was then seized for failture to pay taxes. Robert E. Lee and his wife did not challenge for the return of their home, feeling that it would be too divisive. Their son George Washington Custis Lee did file a lawsuit in which the Supreme Court found that the estate was illegally confiscated and ordered that it be returned. Custis Lee then sold the mansion and the surrounding property back to the US government in 1883 for $150,000.

Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial was added to the National Register of Historic Places on 15 October, 1966.

Visiting Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial

Arlington House is located inside Arlington National Cemetery. Unauthorized vehicles cannot be driven into the cemetery. You have to park your car at the Arlington National Cemetery Visitor Center. Arlington House is a ten-minute walk from the visitor center. There is a sightseeing Tourmobile shuttle bus that takes you thorugh the cemetery with narration, for a small fee.

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