Arlington National Cemetery began during the Civil War when the federal government confiscated the 1,100-acre estate and home of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and his wife, Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee, for failure to pay $92.07 in taxes.
An earthen fort was built on the estate and Lee's home, Arlington House, was taken over as the headquarters for Washington's defense, said Tom Sherlock, the cemetery historian.
In 1864, the mansion and 200 acres immediately surrounding it were designated a military cemetery.
The Lee family contested the federal government's confiscation in the 1870s and won its case in the 1880s.
"But at that time, there were many burials on the ground and it would have been impractical to remove them," Sherlock said. "They settled for the market value of the estate, which at that time was $150,000."
Since then, more than 300,000 of the nation's veterans from the American Revolution through Iraq have been interred in the cemetery's 624 acres. Only Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, N.Y., has more graves with almost 330,000.
Arlington conducts an average of 27 to 30 burials a day with just more than 6,600 funerals in 2006.