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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  December 6, 2009 9:30am-10:00am EST

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the graveyard in the national cemeteries in alexandria. and at the old soldiers home in washington. and he needed new burial space. so the quartermaster's office of the union army looked across the river and found this place, arlington, and thought it would be a good place to begin burying people. arlington happened to be the home of robert e. lee, the confederate general. so not only was it a convenient place to begin military burials from civil war, it was also felt to be a matter of justice, maybe even vindication if you want to call it that. the first military burials at arlington came in may of 1864, well into the civil war. and the very first of those burials was a private from the 67 pennsylvania infantry named
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william chrisman. he was a farmer. use from a poor family. and he came to serve in the union army. unfortunately ended up in the hospital in washington. he got a case of german measles, which killed many, many servicemembers on both sides of the war. he developed peritonitis from his measles infection, and he died in a washington hospital, was brought across the potomac river here to arlington as the first military aerial. things were so desperate at that time in the civil war, there were so many people dying, that there wasn't much time for ceremony or ritual at arlington. they would bring people over for burial day after day after day, and they went into the ground as william chrisman did with no
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flags flying, no bugles playing. all quiet off and not a chaplain to give them a cent of. so basically we're trying to keep up with the carnage from the civil war. when arlington began. during the war, things were so desperate that there wasn't any time for tombstones. they had headboards. they were made out of pine or walnut. painted white with black lettering. does, of course, had to be maintained or they fell apart. in the years after the civil wars, we begin to clean up, we begin to make sense of things, someone came up with a design in the 18 '70s, late 18 '70s, early 1800s for the white marble tombstones you see in arlington today. uniform designed. anyone who qualified for burial
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here, qualify for one of these tombstones. the earliest stones were like these you see here which have the name of the company, the state, and the date of burial and incised shield. later, the design is simplified just to include the name of the person, the date of birth, the date of burial. that's the modern tombstone you see in other sections of the cemetery today. the first military of burial here, william chrisman, was typical in that like many soldiers who died in the civil war, on both sides, he wasn't killed by a bullet or a cannonball. he was killed by a disease. most of the people who died in the civil war died from infections, dysentery, yellow fever, measles, mumps, then died
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from battle wounds. and most of the people you see in this section of the cemetery are in that category. william christman was buried in may, 1864. arlington cemetery was not established until a month later, june of 1864. it was officially designated a national cemetery, and it began to fill up very, very quickly. this part of the cemetery we are in, section 47, -- 27, was called the lower cemetery. as you can see it is in the edge of arlington. there is a road just outside of the cemetery here. you conceivably mention from this location. and that's the way the officers who were living and working in the lee mansion during the war wanted it. they would want to see the burials come in. they didn't want to be living in a graveyard, working in a greater.
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they wanted these graves out of sight and out of mind. the quartermaster general, brigadier general montgomery banks, didn't like that idea. as a matter of fact, he didn't have much use of robert e. lee. they had served together in the union army. banks considered to be a traitor. and thought he should be hanged for his desertion of the union army and his leadership of the army of northern virginia. so banks came to arlington on the day it was officially begun as a cemetery, june 14, 1864, came to this part of the cemetery. looked around and was upset that there were no graves around the lee mansion. so his next act was to go up the hill where we will go shortly, and to begin to put burials right up next to the mansion. he didn't want the least to be
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able to come back after the war was over. so you will see banks strategic approach to the creation of arlington cemetery. up the hill and mrs. lee's garden. >> we are now up on a hill overlooking washington, d.c., at the lee mansion. and i am aiming the camera at mrs. lee's camera spirit this is mrs. lee's garden, the highest point of arlington national cemetery. this was the home of robert e. lee, marylee, before the civil war. and at the height of the civil war in 1864, the first of military aerials were made in the cemetery. the lower cemetery out of sight of the mansion. quartermaster general didn't think that the graves were close enough to the mansion, so that he found officers who had died and in service and he had been
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buried around mrs. lee's garden to make it more difficult for the leaves to return to arlington after the war. >> as we walk on water, we see these tombstones actually encircle the garden? >> yesterday don't go all the way around it but they form a border around part of the garden. i think there is something like that at the end of the war there was something like 40 graves of officers. and we don't know exactly what he's thinking was, but i suspect he chose to bury officers here, rather than privates, you know, enlisted men because it would make it more difficult to remove them after the war was over. because they were more prominent. they were better known. it was a strategic move on his part and it proved pretty effective because by the end of the war, there were not only these graves here but there were thousands of other graves at
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arlington and it made it very difficult for the lee family to return. >> did the lee family attempt to return? >> they never really attempted to return, but they wanted to get arlington back and they worked for years, robert e. lee, after the war quietly met with his lawyers in alexandria and discussed with them a way to get arlington back. mrs. lee, who was more vociferous about it, what the congress after generally died and petition congress to give arlington back. and basically her petition was booted out of congress. they thought it was a ridiculous idea. at that time radical republicans were in charge of congress. they didn't give her a very good hearing. she died in 1873. her son, her eldest son, custis lee went to congress, got voted down then went to court and by
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1882, he won a famous case in the supreme court, supreme court ruled that arlington had been seized without just compensation during the civil war, and gave arlington back to the lee family. it took a while, but by 1883 the lee's had arlington back. of course, the bad news for the lease was that there were 16000 tunes here at the time. so as a practical matter, they couldn't come back to live here. so they settled with the government for fair market value, $150,000, 1100 acres of prime real estate, and 16000 tunes on the banks of the potomac river. the great irony is that when custis lee signed the state over, the title over to the federal government, custis lee on one side signing the title.
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on the other side with the secretary of war, robert todd lincoln, son of abraham lincoln. so that you had the son of lee and the son of lincoln agreeing on something. and i would say that that was the beginning of some hope that we could reunite north and south again. it took a while, but that was the beginning of the reunion. >> so we are going to walk back here to the first two of the unknown soldier's? >> yes. one of the great traditions in arlington is honoring the unknown soldiers. and the first instance of that came just after the civil war when quartermaster general montgomery meigs said a recovery team out into the battlefields around washington within a 30-mile race of washington to recover unknown soldiers from that war. they brought them here to this part of arlington.
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after the war, these teams recovered the dead, the unknowns, from chancellorsville, the other great battlefields, and meigs had a huge pit dug here at this spot, and had them buried in a mass grave. in 1856. 2111 unknowns buried here in arlington. this is at the edge, the end of mrs. lee's garden. so it is another instance of meigs' not only taking the opportunity to monitor the war dead, but also to erect a barrier to the lee's return to arlington. you'll see many unknowns in the civil war section of arlington, like these graves, greystone to.
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one after another, row after row. and that is significant because so many people in the civil war on both sides went to the graves without names. more than 42%, which is bad enough to get killed in a war, but also to lose your identity for your family to have no trace of you left. what could be worse than that? we did learn from the civil war and subsequent wars, we worked very hard to identify our service members as soon as the fighting was over. we would send specialty teams and to make ids, to provide a name for the fallen warriors and to give them a decent burial. but it took a while. it took a few boards to perfect it. the rate of unknowns went to something like 10 percent in the
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next big war, the spanish-american war, and then 3% became the standard in world war ii. world war i and world war ii. and we have gotten so good at this particular part of warfare, that by the time the amount came along, there was only a handful of unknowns at the end of that war. this is a headstone that says cornelia brown citizen. what is this section? >> this is a section for slaves at arlington national cemetery. before the words a cemetery, this was a working plantation owned by the robert e. lee family. and there were slaves living here, working here, dying here. when the civil war broke out, many slaves, thousands and thousands of slaves, came to washington. began to trickle into washington
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from virginia and other slave states. searching for their freedom. and that trickle became a flood with the emancipation proclamation of 1863. so thousands and thousands of slaves came to washington. they live here. they died here. they died in great numbers in the early years after the emancipation proclamation, because we were not prepared for the flood of refugees coming here. they didn't have any place to live. they didn't have anyplace to each. so the union army decided, let's build a place for them at arlington. so they build -- they established this here on the old lee plantation. as many as 1500 slaves came to live here in the spring of 1863. early 1864. and they stayed here one generation to the next
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generation to the next generation. three generations. the last slave, former slave left friedmans village in 1900. >> and so that's why they are very here amongst the soldiers, but that's way they say citizens? >> yes. it became a military cemetery, but there are also people who were not in the military. they were citizens. they were civilians, and in a way to call a slave, a former slave, a civilian or a citizen with voting rights, with rights of owning property, is for that time one of the greatest honors you could bestow on them. so that is chiseled here on their gravestones in the section of arlington cemetery. and you can see the slave
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section of the cemetery stretches on and on over down this hill over to the next one. there are thousands of slaves buried in this part of arlington. >> are people surprised when you tell them that? >> yes, most people don't know about -- they know there were slaves living here when there was a plantation, but most people don't know about friedmans village. there was a thriving black community which the army built for former slaves here in arlington. and it lasted for quite a few years. there are descendents of those people still living in the washington area. they come here. they honor their ancestors. they remember them. >> all of these tombstones in monument and here are much more elaborate than we have seen before. what's the story of this section? >> this is section one of the cemetery.
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arlington began as a poppers cemetery. during the height of the civil war. 1816 -- 1864. after the war when they had time to think about, reflect upon what had happened, what we had just gone through. we had time for more ceremony, more ritual and gradually one by one, the officers from the civil war wanted to be buried here. it was a great honor to be buried here eventually. after the smoke and blood of the civil war had settled somewhat. this was the place to officers -- it's known as the officers section of its day, section one. and remember, this is the victorian period, so they were basically no limits on the design. if you had the money and wanted to build an angel as your grave
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marker, even if you were a lieutenant, you could have it be any size, any have you wanted to. so you see again, at arlington, it is a reflection of the times of the ipods of the times, the ornamentation of the victorian era. you see come into play here. one gentleman, an artillery officer, union artillery officer loved his work so much that he had a canon brought in as his grave marker. and it was a working napoleon can. and he is just down the road here in section one. his poor wife is also under the canon for all eternity, sleeping beside him. >> you said that contrast is that you have a first lieutenant. this is an elaborate tomb, and a brigadier general? >> yes. i mean, you can see side-by-side the lieutenant would have a
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great tomb with the angel holding a rose is an integrated across. and then right beside a more discrete tomb from a brigadier general, so that great manager to you couldn't hear unless you are but it didn't matter as far as the design and grandeur of your tomb was concerned. this section also has not only civil war figures, but there are great explores in this section of arlington. remember, back in the end of the 19, beginning of the 20th century, much of the export was done by the army and navy, so just across the road here, we have adolphus w. greeley which was a great explores. he went farther north than
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anybody had been at that time. just down this road is the grave of john wesley powell, who explored the colorado river. he had one arm at the time. he had lost his arm at shiloh in the civil war, but he went on to be a great explores. and two other great things. u.s. geological survey. and another part of arlington just over the hill, the arctic explorers robert peary and his associate, matthew hans who claimed to reach the north pole in 1909. they are here. so the point is arlington is more than just a military cemetery. it is a place for explorers, figures from history, and many other things. >> well, we're on the hill overlooking the city here. what is this tomb on the mound here overlooking the city?
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>> this is the tomb of a frenchman who served in the american revolution. he stayed on. he was commissioned to design the city of washington. so he came here in 1891, 1892 when there was just across the river with the buildings, the capital, the washington monument, all of that. but when he came here, there was just woods and creeks, swamps. and out of that he envisioned a national capital for this new nation. he designed it to his design was accepted, was adopted. you can look at the city today and see the city that he envisioned. in the late 18th century. he died in 1825. his estate was worth less than
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$100. he was sort of an unforgotten man. he was buried in a grave on a maryland farm. his grave was a marked by even a tombstone. there was a cedar tree planted to mark his grave. so at the beginning of the 20th century, glenn browne, and other designers, city designers, had the idea of finding him, honoring him properly, giving him the proper burial he had never had and recognizing the man who had designed the nation's capital. they did it here. they brought him to this spot in 1909. and gave him this grave, a little late maybe, but better late than never. so the way they have it arranged here, is that you often find the name of -- this is a u.s. air
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corps lieutenant. you will find the name of the person who was in the service on one side of the two, and on the other side, you will find his or her spouse's name. so at arlington, the rule is that if you qualify for burial here, your husband or wife can come as well. and in order to save space in recent years, they have put people basically in the same tomb. they call that box style burial. one on top of the other. there's great attention given now to save space with the way the buried people, still with great respect, but with attention to efficiency of space. there's also a trend in recent
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years to encourage cremation for those who want it. and there has been built over the past few years they columbarium which issues at the other end of section 60, where anyone who was honorably discharged from service is qualified for and are much. it doesn't take up much space. they are very aware of that for the future needs of arlington. robert poole, this is section 60 of arlington cemetery. can you explain what this is? >> yes, we are in section 60 of arlington national cemetery. this is one of the newer sections of arlington. all of the sections are numbered. so this is one of the higher numbers. one of the newer sections. this is where the people have been serving in iraq and afghanistan are buried and honored. unfortunately, quite a few funerals for those people each week here.
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>> you have attended some memorial services in funeral service here in this area, haven't you? can you describe what the scene is like? >> i have been too many funerals here the past several years while i was working on my book. and it's never easy when you see the young soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, coming back from iraq and afghanistan to be buried here. you see young families. you see young friends. you often see infants who are now without a father or mother. and no matter how may times you see it, it is not easy to take. it's not easy to see. the most memorable part of this section is the section of arlington is the great care and
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the great dignity and a great honor that comrades tried to give to the fallen comrade here, fallen servicemembers. as you will see, there is great emphasis on doing it right, giving a comrade a sendoff of great dignity and style, just to make the point that this person is remembered, he or she died for reasons and we are here to honor that today.
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