Tomb of the Civil War Unknowns

Tomb of the Civil War Unknowns

Near Arlington House, in what was once part of the estate's famous rose garden, stands a monument dedicated to the unknown soldiers who died in the Civil War. The monument, dedicated in September 1866, stands atop a masonry vault containing the remains of 2,111 soldiers gathered from the fields of Bull Run (Manassas, VA) and the route to the Rappahannock River. The remains were found scattered across the battlefields or in trenches within an approximately 25-mile radius of Washington, D.C. Nearly 1,800 remains came from Bull Run alone. 

The mass carnage of the Civil War had quickly overwhelmed the capacity of existing cemeteries — especially in northern Virginia, where many of the war's early battles were fought. As Union officials looked for a solution to this problem, U.S. Army Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs proposed that the Arlington House property, which the Army had occupied since May 1861, could be used as a burial ground. Meigs believed that the presence of graves would prevent Robert E. Lee and his family from ever returning to their property again. 

This was the first memorial at Arlington to be dedicated to soldiers who had died in battle and whose remains could not be identified. The vault likely contains the remains of Confederate soldiers as well as Union troops.

The side of the memorial features this inscription:

BENEATH THIS STONE
REPOSE THE BONES OF TWO THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN UNKNOWN SOLDIERS
GATHERED AFTER THE WAR
FROM THE FIELDS OF BULL RUN, AND THE ROUTE TO THE RAPPAHANOCK,
THEIR REMAINS COULD NOT BE IDENTIFIED. BUT THEIR NAMES AND DEATHS ARE
RECORDED IN THE ARCHIVES OF THEIR COUNTRY, AND ITS GRATEFUL CITIZENS
HONOR THEM AS OF THEIR NOBLE ARMY OF MARTYRS. MAY THEY REST IN PEACE.
SEPTEMBER. A. D. 1866.