Across Five Aprils To Arlington

I heard a new song today. "We Made It To Arlington". I'm sure most will recognize it as a reference to Arlington National Cemetary. But do you know why and how Arlington became ... well, Arlington? And why its especially appropriate that its the final resting place of our national heros?

As someone from Tennessee, I have a subtle fascination for the Civil War. Not the re-enactments popular among those who dwell on the exact detail of the right buttons, but rather the personal stories and sacrifices. Like most from Tennessee, I had family involved on both sides. Ironically, I also have a subtle fascination for the ultra-non-personal stories. In effect, the overall politcal picture.

For example, many believe that the War was fought over slavery. However, it was clearly fought over the issue of states rights. The issue is muddied because at that particular moment, the focus was whether or not the federal government had the right to override state governments decisions on slavery (or anything, for that matter). Yes, slavery was evil (and incidentially, very unproductive). But the real point was who had the ultimate authority -- federal or state officials.

Yet, what touches my heart are the personal stories. The ones that make me catch my breath and wonder "what if ..." or "there was the hand of God ..."

And the people. The ones that did the best they could. Like Robert E. Lee. He was a brilliant soldier, and by all accounts a wonderfully good man. I find it sad that it was reported that after the war he never laughed again.

I've often wondered why he surrendered. He could have regrouped and fought on. His men were certainly willing to follow him anywhere, and his military genius could have found a way. What went through his mind in that decision? Did he despair of the corruption in the Southern government? What made enough ... enough? Did he come to understand that a strong central government was the best protection from foreign power? Did he tire of watching men die instead of building productive lives? Did he sicken of loyalty misplaced and betrayed?

He lost a lot personally when he surrendered. His personal property was confiscated. His home seized. His only place of peace forever beyond his reach. Even so. I wonder if he was comforted in his later years, knowing that his action had in fact prevented years and years of inevitable death and destruction for a questionable cause. That an entire generation of young men and women on the brink wouldn't have to know the reality of war at home. I wonder if he's pleased about Arlington.

I think he would be. I think its the ultimate memorial to him, that THE national cemetary ... our military's sacred ground ... the final place of peace for our heroes ... a place of honor and recognition for their valor and sacrifice ... was his home.


I came across your blog today and just wanted to let you know that I love the banner you have on it...very attractive.
Nice, good content as well.
Keep up the good work!
Hello from Montreal, Canada.

Wren | 07/04/2005 - 04:06 AM
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