Know Your Military

Arlington National Cemetery to Expand

March 13, 2019 | BY Claudette Roulo

Work is expected to begin next year on a long-planned expansion of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, the cemetery’s executive director told Congress.

An architectural illustration shows plans for Arlington National Cemetery.
Southern Expansion Plan
The Arlington National Cemetery Southern Expansion Plan will add more space to ANC in a location near the existing Air Force Memorial, and former Navy Annex. Plans include rerouting portions of the existing Columbia Pike. The project should begin in 2020, and should complete by 2025.
Photo By: Army illustration
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The cemetery now occupies about 625 acres of land near the nation’s capital and is the final resting place of more than 400,000 service members and their family members.

But, after more than 150 years of service, the cemetery is running out of room.

"The expansion will add 37 acres of burial space and extend the cemetery’s active life," Karen Durham-Aguilera said during a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies.

Soldiers stand in front of a mansion.
Arlington Mansion
East front of Arlington Mansion with Union soldiers on the lawn, June 28, 1864.
Photo By: Library of Congress photo
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Arlington National Cemetery lies on the former Arlington Estate — land that once belonged to George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of Martha Washington and stepgrandson of George Washington.

By the start of the Civil War, the property had passed into the family of Robert E. Lee through marriage. In May 1861, Union troops occupied the estate after the Lee family fled south.

Soldiers stand in front of a mansion.
New York State Militia
Officers of the 8th New York State Militia at Arlington House, Arlington, Va., June 1861.
Photo By: Library of Congress photo
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Freed slaves stand in line.
Freedman's Village
Freedman's Village in Arlington, Va., circa 1861-65.
Photo By: Library of Congress photo
VIRIN: 650101-O-ZZ999-221C

The property served as a Union Army camp and headquarters throughout the war, and starting in 1863, as the site of Freedman’s Village, a home for freed slaves that provided housing, education, training and medical care to help former slaves transition to freedom.

The first military burial at Arlington, for William Henry Christman, was made on May 13, 1864. By war’s end, more than 16,000 soldiers had been buried there.

Historic image of rows of tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery.
Arlington Tombstones
Rows of tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., 1865.
Photo By: Library of Congress photo
VIRIN: 651111-O-ZZ999-221C

Today, the cemetery holds funeral services Monday through Saturday (except federal holidays), conducting between 27 and 30 services each week day and between six and eight services each Saturday. Information on burial eligibility and military honors is available on the cemetery’s website.

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