Written By: Ben Cosgrove

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, the 600 acres situated across the Potomac from the Lincoln Memorial have constituted sacred ground for generations of Americans.

Here, 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.

A bugler plays "Taps" at Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

A bugler played “Taps” at Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Horses pull a caisson through Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

Horses pulled a caisson through Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Arlington National Cemetery 1965

Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Arlington National Cemetery with Washington, DC, in the distance, 1965.

Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Groundskeepers, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

Groundskeepers, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Arlington National Cemetery 1965

Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Digging a grave, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

Digging a grave, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

The original, temporary John F. Kennedy "Eternal Flame," The original, temporary John F. Kennedy "Eternal Flame," 1965.

The original, temporary John F. Kennedy “Eternal Flame,” 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Horses pull a caisson through Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

Horses pulled a caisson through Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Funeral, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

Funeral, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Funeral, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

Funeral, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Arlington National Cemetery 1965

Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Tending a grave, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

Tending a grave, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Arlington National Cemetery 1965

Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Arlington National Cemetery 1965

Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Arlington National Cemetery 1965

Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

Arlington National Cemetery 1965

Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

A man rests in the shade at Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

A man rested in the shade at Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

A resident squirrel perches on a headstone at Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

A resident squirrel perched on a headstone at Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Getty Images

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