Arlington House

"Arlington House" by Paul McGehee
Image Size: 16 1/4" x 27" ; Edition Size: 1800 S/N ; Remarqued: 200 S/N
Price Print S/N: $ 200.00 Order this print
Price Remarqued S/N: $ 800.00 (What's a "remarque"?) Order this print

Is the original still available?

"Arlington House" by Paul McGehee. Arlington House, also known as the Custis-Lee Mansion, was built in 1802 as a living monument to the memory of our first President, George Washington who had died just 3 years before. It was built by Washington's adopted grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, the son of John Parke Custis, Martha Washington's son by her first marriage. Washington's grandson had intended to name the new mansion "Mount Washington," but the Custis family as a whole decided upon "Arlington," which had been the name of the old Custis Family estate in the Tidewater area of Virginia years before. Custis married in 1804 and he and his wife lived in Arlington House for the rest of their lives. They had a daughter, Mary, who in 1831 married a childhood friend (and distant cousin) named Robert E. Lee. Lee, a West Point graduate working his way up the ranks in the US Army, was the son of Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee (George Washington's friend and Virginia's Governor for 3 terms.) When George Washington Parke Custis died in 1857, Robert E. Lee became the caretaker of Arlington House. He maintained its grounds and restored the mansion to its former glory, as it had fallen into disrepair over the years.

When the storm-clouds of what was to become the Civil War were forming in 1861, Lee was offered the command of the Federal Army...but turned it down, deciding rather to defend his beloved Virginia, which had just announced that it was seceding from the Union. His fateful decision to resign from the Federal Army (April 20, 1861) meant leaving his family and his home to fight on Southern battlefields. On Sunday morning, April 21st Lee and one of his daughters rode from Arlington House to Alexandria's Christ Church to attend services...the next morning Lee was to board a train for Richmond to become a General of the Forces of the Commonwealth of Virginia. This painting depicts Robert E. Lee in the foreground enjoying what were to be his final moments at Arlington House, preparing to ride to Christ Church.

As the years of the Civil War raged, Arlington House fell into Union hands, and Lee's family fled. In 1864, with the number of dead from the battlefield mounting without sufficient space for proper burial, Union General Montgomery Meigs took 200 acres of Lee's Arlington House estate grounds for the purpose of a cemetery. Even after the war ended in 1865, it continued to grow in size. Arlington National Cemetery, as it was later named, has become the final resting place for veterans from all services, and leaders such as President John F. Kennedy. His "eternal flame" attracts many who wish to honor the fallen President. The Tomb of the Unknowns is also located at Arlington Cemetery. To this day, Arlington House (now part of the National Park Service) overlooks the hallowed ground from high on a hill, with its American flag at half-staff during burials.

As to Robert E. Lee...after the April 21, 1861 scene depicted in this painting, he was never again to return to his beloved Arlington House. As to his fateful decision, in later years he had no regrets: "I did only what my duty demanded. I could have taken no other course without dishonor. And if it all were to be done over again, I should act in precisely the same manner." But as to his Arlington House, he expressed his feelings to his wife Mary in a battlefield letter: "They cannot take away the remembrance of the spot, and the memories of those that to us rendered it sacred. That will remain to us as long as life will last, and that we can preserve."


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