Arlington Cemetery. A Home To Escaped Slaves?

Indeed it was - once upon a time.

After Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect in January of 1863, the nation’s capital was flooded with escaped slaves ('otherwise known as ‘contraband of war’). To shelter them, Federal authorities responded by creating a network of Freedman’s Villages within Washington City. Overcrowding grew so bad, however, that a new site had to be created outside the city limits. What better spot to place the refugees than upon the vacant estate of that traitorous rebel, Robert E. Lee? Arlington beckoned.

A map of the Freedman’s village on the Arlington Estate

A map of the Freedman’s village on the Arlington Estate

Evidently, it wasn’t enough for the Union to bury dead bodies around Lee’s house - they had to populate his land with a freed slave community as well. By the middle of 1863, hundreds of black folks were settled at Arlington. One Washington newspaper cheered,

General Robert E. Lee, who commands the army of rebels, is fighting to enslave the black man. To accomplish this hellish purpose, he kills the loyal soldiers of the nation, and attempts the destruction of the nation’s life. In view of this fact, a happy thought has occurred to the Secretary of War which it gives us pleasure to record….He ordered Col. Green to organize the Freeman’s Village… upon the Arlington estate.

Interested? Take our Arlington National Cemetery Tour and learn more…