Today in History, May 13: 1864 – A Union soldier is buried on the grounds of the Custis-Lee House, otherwise known as Arlington House. The adopted son of George Washington and Martha Custis-Washington had built the mansion in 1802. In 1831 his daughter, Mary Anna Custis married Lt. Robert E. Lee, and they lived in the home until 1861, when West Point graduate Lee resigned from the US Army and accepted the command of the Confederate Army.
1864 Secretary of War Edwin Stanton authorized the Lee’s property to become Arlington National Cemetery, so that Lee and his family could never again occupy the mansion. You can look out the front window of the mansion and see the major landmarks of Washington DC across the Potomac…it’s that close. Today, over 320,000 service men and women have been laid to rest at Arlington, including many of our nation’s most famous heroes from every war from the Revolution to Afghanistan. By the way, I took the photo I used…touring Arlington was a truly inspiring experience. To see the final resting place of so many of my heroes was an experience I’ll cherish forever.
Today in History, February 21: 1848 – “Where else would we find him?” Former President, former Secretary of State, Former US Senator from Massachusetts, current Representative to the House John Quincy Adams, collapses after suffering a stroke while vehemently stating his opinion on the House floor. Adams had, by most reports, been a mediocre President. However he had authored the Monroe Doctrine telling European nations that America was in charge of police actions in the Western Hemisphere; he had served as the Ambassador to the Court of St. James (England); had negotiated the ceding of Florida to the US from Spain; had acted as the attorney for the slaves in the Amistad Trial; stated his vehement abolitionist views, and served 17 years in the House after his Presidency…because that’s what a servant to the people was supposed to do. His contemporaries were not surprised that he would die while serving the people. He was carried to the office of the Speaker of the House, where he would die two days later. What an example!
Today in History, February 15: 1798 – Combat on the House Floor. Matthew Lyon was a Democratic-Republican from Vermont. Roger Griswold was a Federalist Representative from Connecticut. Two weeks earlier, the two had argued on the house floor, Griswold commented about allegations of cowardice about Lyon during the Revolution; Lyon responded by spitting tobacco juice on Griswold. When the House failed to censure Lyon for the “gross indecency”, it infuriated Griswold. On this date he ambushed Lyon at his desk on the House floor, beating him about the head and shoulders with his wooden cane. Lyon retreated to a fireplace, where he took up a pair of tongs to combat the assault. Other Representatives had to separate the two. A vote was held to expel both of them, but it failed, 73-21. This would certainly not be the last physical fight in Congress.