Google cameras capture a walk through Arlington National Cemetery

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By Debbie Gregory.

If you have never been to Arlington National Cemetery, now you can take a virtual walk through Arlington without ever leaving home.

For a little background on Arlington National Cemetery, in May, 1861, a young Union Army officer rushed into the Custis-Lee mansion. “You must pack up all you value immediately and send it off in the morning,” Lt. Orton Williams told his cousin, Mary Custis Lee, who was also the wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Lee was away mobilizing Virginia’s military forces, as the country hurtled toward the bloodiest war in its history.

Mary Custis Lee had inherited the1,100 acre estate from her father, George Washington Parke Custis, in 1857.

On May 23, 1861, the voters of Virginia approved an ordinance of secession by a ratio of more than six to one. Within hours, columns of Union forces streamed through Washington, headed for the Potomac. At precisely 2 a.m. on May 24th, some 14,000 troops began crossing the river into Virginia. They advanced in the moonlight on steamers, on foot, and on horseback. The forces advanced in swarms so thick that James Parks, a Lee family slave watching from Arlington, thought they looked like “bees a-coming”.

The undefended Arlington estate changed hands without a struggle. By morning, the estate was teeming with Union soldiers. Arlington National Cemetery is located on Robert E. Lee’s confiscated estate.

Early in 2014, you will be able to virtually explore one of the most sacred pieces of ground in America, thanks to Google’s work of mapping Arlington National Cemetery. Google is collecting panoramas of the cemetery’s 624 acres. The tech giant is preparing a “digital walk-through” of the cemetery that will launch to coincide with events marking the cemetery’s 150th anniversary.

Arlington National Cemetery is the resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families. Among those buried at the cemetery are President John F. Kennedy, President William Howard Taft, and 12 Supreme Court Justices.

Next year, you will be able to pay your respects while taking the virtual walk through Arlington National Cemetery, courtesy of Google.