A bugler plays "Taps" at Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.
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A bugler plays "Taps" at Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.George Silk—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
A bugler plays "Taps" at Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.
Horses pull a caisson through Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.
Arlington National Cemetery 1965
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.
Arlington National Cemetery with Washington, DC, in the distance, 1965.
Groundskeepers, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.
Arlington National Cemetery 1965
Digging a grave, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.
The original, temporary John F. Kennedy "Eternal Flame," The original, temporary John F. Kennedy "Eternal Flame," 1965.
Horses pull a caisson through Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.
Funeral, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.
Funeral, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.
Arlington National Cemetery 1965
Tending a grave, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.
Arlington National Cemetery 1965
Arlington National Cemetery 1965
Arlington National Cemetery 1965
Arlington National Cemetery 1965
A man rests in the shade at Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.
A resident squirrel perches on a headstone at Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.
A bugler plays "Taps" at Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.
George Silk—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
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Sacred Ground: A Portrait of Arlington National Cemetery

May 13, 2014

Millions of words have been written about Arlington National Cemetery through the years, but none can ever do justice to the singular atmosphere of the place itself. From its founding in 1866, just a year after the cataclysmic Civil War ended, through other, global conflicts, stunning scandals and massive cultural and political change, the 600 acres situated across the Potomac from the Lincoln Memorial have constituted sacred ground for generations of Americans.

Here, on the cemetery's 150th anniversary, LIFE.com offers a series of photographs made at Arlington by George Silk. Never published in LIFE magazine, Silk's pictures are appropriately quiet, reflective portraits of a small corner of the country that occupies a special, prominent place in the national consciousness.

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