Friday, April 01, 2016

The Strange Case of Montgomery Meigs and Robert E. Lee

Brigadier General Montgomery C. Meigs (above), commander of the garrison at Arlington House and Quartermaster General of the Union Army, who may have had a grudge against Robert E. Lee, was tasked with finding additional burial grounds for battle casualties.  Meigs and Lee had served together many years earlier as military engineers on the Mississippi River.  Lee was a 1st Lieutenant and Meigs his subordinate, a 2nd Lieutenant.  Did Meigs bear Lee a personal grudge?  Some historians think so, or perhaps he was just embittered by the war itself, or by Lee’s defection from the Union army.  Meigs wrote to the Secretary of War stating that “the grounds about the mansion are admirably suited to such a use.” Meigs reported his “grim satisfaction” of ordering twenty six Union dead to be buried near Mrs. Lee’s rose garden in June, 1864. 

Meigs had graves dug right up to the entrance to the house.  This was malicious.  Meigs intended to prevent the Lee family from ever again inhabiting the house.  More than 16,000 Union soldiers were buried on the estate’s grounds. Ironically, Meigs’ own son was sent to Arlington Cemetery for burial.                                                                             

Neither Robert E. Lee nor his wife ever set foot in Arlington House again. In 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court returned the property to the Lee family, stating that it had been confiscated without due process. General Lee's son sold the house and land to the government for its’ fair market value. 
Read more: Historic Cemeteries of Northern Virginia

A quick look at women doctors and medicine in the Civil War for the general reader. Technologically, the American Civil War was the first “modern” war, but medically it still had its roots in the Middle Ages. In both the North and the South, thousands of women served as nurses to help wounded and suffering soldiers and civilians. A few women served as doctors, a remarkable feat in an era when sex discrimination prevented women from pursuing medical education, and those few who did were often obstructed by their male colleagues at every turn.

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