The Story Behind The Civil War Unknowns Monument In Arlington

Located on the grounds of Arlington House at Arlington National Cemetery, The Civil War Unknowns Monument is a burial vault and memorial honoring unidentified dead from the American Civil War. It is not the same as the Tomb of the Unknowns(or popularly known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier).

The site of the  Civil War Unknown Monument was once a grove of trees near one of the estate’s flower gardens. In 1865, Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs decided to build a monument for the Civil War dead in the center of the grove. The unidentified bodies of 2,111 Union and Confederate soldiers were collected and buried in a vault and a 12-foot granite cenotaph was set on top.

The original monument was the inspiration for Montgomery Meigs’ tomb which was also located at Arlington National Cemetery. Over the years, the outward appearance of the monument has changed with the Rodman guns and pyramidal stacks of cannonballs that were once on top of the monument now located beside the base.  The resigned top is inspired by the description of the Ark of the Covenant found in the Book of Exodus. At the side of the monument, some inscriptions venerate those who were buried there.

The Civil War Unknowns Monument was the first monument dedicated to soldiers who had died in battle and whose remains could not be identified. It was once the focus of Memorial Day ceremonies in Arlington Cemetery until 1921 when the Tomb of the Unknowns was constructed.

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Charity W.

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Charity W. is a professional and skilled writer with a diploma in Mass Communication. When she is not glued to her computer screen, Charity spends her time reading, traveling, and watching movies. She is an expert on Arlington Virginia and keeps current with local events and occurrences.