The memorials start long before entering the gates of Arlington National Cemetery. Just after leaving the Memorial Bridge is “The Hiker.”
World War II soldiers were called G.I. Joes and World War I predecessors were Doughboys. The Spanish-American War fighters called themselves Hikers.
The 1906 bronze sculpture by Theodora Alice Ruggles-Kitson showing a typical infantry man was recast more than 50 times and often seen in town squares across the country. This one was dedicated on July 24, 1965.
George Washington was more than our first president and leader of the Revolutionary War. He also became the nation’s richest man as a farmer and entrepreneur. John Berlau’s new book “George Washington, Entrepreneur” (St. Martin) takes a rare look at how Washington grew as a businessman. A senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, Berlau answered five questions about his book. It’s a quick and easy read. Buy it at https://amzn.to/2YJ0n7x
1. Most people don’t think of George Washington as the richest man in the country during his lifetime. What was the key to his wealth?
There are two ways to answer that question: investments and habits.
On investments, in the 18th century, and to a significant extent now, land was wealth. Washington’s first job as a surveyor taught him how to spot and to utilize prime land, and this skill would serve him for the rest of his life. He would acquire tens of thousands of acres of land — much of it barren and undeveloped — and both sell some parcels and make agreements with tenant farmers for them to farm the land and give him a portion of their proceeds from the crops.
As far as habits go, I would say it was his incredible ability to adapt, innovate, learn and ask questions. When he found tobacco wasn’t fetching the price he wanted and was depleting Mount Vernon’s soil, he gave up growing tobacco and switched to wheat, hemp and other crops.
He was also innovative in the way he integrated his crops with new enterprises. In the 1760s, he built a gristmill, or flour mill, to refine into flour. He shipped that flour — in containers with the “G. Washington” brand name — throughout the colonies, to the British colonies of the West Indies, and to the mother county of Great Britain. After his presidency in the late 1790s, he built a whiskey distillery, as his Scottish farm manager suggested it would be natural fit with Mount Vernon’s farming and processing of corn and wheat. The distillery became Mount
Vernon’s most profitable enterprise, as well as one of the largest distilleries in the nation.
2. Ending tobacco production was a radical move by Washington. How was he perceived among fellow planters for doing so?
Ceasing to grow tobacco was a bold move by Washington for both economic and social reasons. There was a great deal of status to growing tobacco, as those who did so included the elite families of Virginia, who made a point of calling themselves “planters” instead of “farmers.” But throughout his life, Washington didn’t just listen to the elites, but looked for wisdom from ordinary people as well.
So when he saw that small farmers, including German immigrants, were growing wheat to be sold on the domestic market and thus avoiding the difficulties of shipping a crop like tobacco to Britain, he thought he could grow it even more efficiently on a big farm like Mount Vernon. So he grew wheat unapologetically and other big Virginia farmers soon followed his move, seeing it as common sense.
3. In the age of the cancel culture, do you think Washington’s reputation as our greatest president will be diminished over future generations because of slavery?
I think it would be very sad if that happened, because that would mean that we would have lost perspective on how pervasive the evil of slavery was — and to an alarming extent, still is In some countries —across the world. As African-American historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr has pointed out, “slavery is as old as civilization itself.” The first slave ship in the British colonies arrived in Virginia — as we know from the New York Times series — in 1619, which was 113 years before Washington was born. But even before that, the Spanish and Portuguese had about 500,000 slaves in the areas of North and South America they controlled.
Attempting to cancel him also overlooks that while slavery in America preceded Washington’s birth by centuries, Washington came to see the evil of slavery and worked to end this evil. He and the founders set up a system that aspired to equality under the law, and Washington would later express his growing opposition to slavery in many letters and generally refuse to buy new slaves or make a sale that would break up enslaved families. He would end up freeing all his own slaves in his will, as well as providing old-age and educational benefits for many of those he freed.
So I would hope that Americans and people all over the world over will always recognize, as many still do now, that while Washington wasn’t perfect, he worked toward what the Constitution calls “a more perfect union.”
4. Could Washington have achieved all he did financially without slaves?
At the time, he probably could not have, as there wasn’t really a free labor market. Interestingly, in his first job as a freelance surveyor, Washington had little if any assistance from enslaved workers. So slavery didn’t play a role in all his successes. But as I write in the book, once he became primarily a farmer —despite all Washington’s talent as an entrepreneur — his enslaved workers played a key role in his wealth. There’s no getting around that.
However, I think he could have also done very well, perhaps even better, in a system where slavery was prohibited. He came to recognize that slavery was not only cruel to those enslaved, it was holding everyone back. Washington had read Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith — who was himself an opponent of slavery — about the theory of capitalism and the power of the incentives of free labor. So Washington may have accomplished even more in a system with a paid workforce.
5. What lesson can young entrepreneurs take from Washington’s success?
Young entrepreneurs can take many lessons from George Washington. Among them are hard work, diligence, and curiosity. Washington wasn’t afraid to ask questions when he didn’t know things. And he read constantly, both about his livelihood of agriculture and the larger world. Also, he found a spouse — Martha — who, as I write, was a pretty savvy businesswoman herself.
I recently watched “Charlie Wilson’s War,” a 2007 movie starring Tom Hanks on U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson’s support of Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet–Afghan War in the 1980s. The movie grossed $119 million worldwide, which is a pretty respectable number.
The movie made me look up the real Charlie Wilson. Turns out Charles Nesbitt Wilson (1933-2010) was a pretty impressive fellow. A 12-term Congressman from Texas whose Operation Cyclone was the largest ever CIA covert operation. (At least as far as we know.) The U.S. Naval Academy officer served from 1956-60 as a lieutenant and gunnery officer on a destroyer. He also served at the Pentagon in an intelligence unit.
Wilson is pretty easy to find at Arlington National Cemetery. Turn left when reaching the cemetery’s main street after leaving the visitor’s center. On the left side, it’s the first section, last stone on the right side of a row at Section 54, grave 195.
In the row of bronze busts outside the Organization of American States along Constitution Ave. is Eloy Alfaro, the former president of Ecuador whose full name was José Eloy Alfaro Delgado.
Alfaro (1842 –1912) was the president from 1895 to 1901 and 1906 to 1911. He was known as Viejo Luchador (Old Warrior) for opposing conservatism for 30 years. Alfaro is best known for modernizing his country’s transportation and education system.
Anton Hilberath is an enigma surrounded by children.
Hilberath’s the only German soldier from World War II buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The First Sergeant of the Wehrmacht was among 830 German prisoners of war that died in the U.S.
Anything else about Hilberath requires plenty of patience and a translator. After a few dozen hours on the internet and couple conversations with older friends with military backgrounds, I pieced together some thoughts.
Hilberath died April 21, 1946 while working on Maryland’s Eastern Shore’s farms. Wait, that was a year after the war’s end. What were German prisoners still doing here? Turns out nobody was in a hurry to repatriate POWs across the Atlantic.
How did Hilberath end up at Arlington? Under the Geneva Convention, prisoners were given military funerals at the nearest government cemetery. At the time that was Arlington.
After dying of an undisclosed illness, Hilberath along with deceased Italian soldiers Arcangelo Prudenza and Mario Batista were buried in Arlington. The marker doesn’t note Hilberath’s Nov. 19, 1898 birthdate, only his death, nationality and rank.
All three lie in Section 15C not far from the Tomb of the Unknowns and one section over from the Confederate memorial and graves. Hilberath lies amid children of U.S. soldiers with no marker to the immediate left of him.
I’d never been to Brookside Gardens until recently. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced me to find new places to visit away from the city and the free park adjacent to Wheaton Regional Park is a fine place to walk around flowers and ponds. You can spend a couple hours easily strolling the grounds without a taxing landscape. Currently, the welcome center is closed until the pandemic’s end.
I encountered two large granite stones. One has a list of names, the other a story of 10 people who were killed in 2002 around the Washington area by a sniper. A young girl read the marker to her mother as yet another person too young to remember those terrifying three weeks just one year after the 9/11 terrorist attack now knows the story.
It was definitely the scariest time of my life since at least the 1968 downtown riots following Martin Luther King’s assassination. Even more so than 9/11 because that was a singular event whereas this went on for weeks without any pattern. The two men shot people of all ages, sex and color at various places around town. It seemed no one was excluded from the random violence.
Eventually, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were arrested on Oct. 24, 2002. Both were convicted of murder in Virginia. Muhammad was executed by state officials while Malvo being a teenager was given a life sentence without parole.
Many years, 300,000 people visit Brookside and this memorial is surely seen by most being close to the entranceway. The memorial’s $50,000 cost was paid through donations.
It’s nice that people senselessly murdered have not been forgotten.
So much attention is given the Tomb of the Unknowns, but there are actually more than 400 unknowns buried throughout Arlington National Cemetery.
Fourteen soldiers and sailors from the War of 1812 are buried together in Section 1 not far from the Custis-Lee House. Go past the Pan American 103 red stone memorial and nearly enter the woods before the granite marker is on the left. The photo makes it look like the marker is crooked, but I think it was more of my being tired at the end of walking nearly five hours around the grounds.
The 14 soldiers were discovered in 1905 by workers at the Washington Navy Yard. The monument was erected in 1976 by the National Society of the United States Daughters of the War of 1812.