Robert E. Lee is best known for commanding the main eastern force of the Confederacy during the Civil War, winning major battles against much superior Union forces at Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. He led two unsuccessful attempts to invade the North (turned back at Antietam in 1862 and Gettysburg in 1863), and then saw his army ground down by Union general Ulysses S. Grant in an attrition campaign through 1864 and part of 1865. His surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865 effectively ended the war.
Arlington House was home to Robert E. Lee and his family for 30 years before the Civil War. As many as 63 slaves labored on the plantation at that time. When Lee decided to quit the U.S. Army in anticipation of Virginia’s secession, he left Arlington and took his family to Richmond. Not long afterward Union forces took over the house, and before the end of the war the grounds had already begun to be converted to a cemetery—Arlington National Cemetery.
When you tour Arlington House today, you can see the Lees’ grand old Southern aristocratic furnishings and rooms and walk around the slave quarters. The Robert E. Lee Museum houses a selection of artifacts and exhibits about Lee’s life. It should take you about an hour to tour the house; check with the ranger at the front door to see if there will be a guided tour offered while you are there.
For more about Arlington House, visit www.nps.gov/arho.
Arlington House (Custis-Lee Mansion)
Hours: October through February 9:30 AM to 4:30PM
Parking: Unauthorized vehicles cannot drive into the cemetery. Parking for Arlington House is available at the Arlington National Cemetery Visitor Center. Handicapped parking is available at the Old Administration Building, located behind Arlington House.
Metrorail: Blue Line stop for Arlington Cemetery.
Arlington National Cemetery
Old Town Trolley Tour