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/Shutterstock

Horses pull a caisson through Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

Horses pulled a caisson through Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Arlington National Cemetery 1965

Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

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

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

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

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

Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Groundskeepers, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

Groundskeepers, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Arlington National Cemetery 1965

Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Digging a grave, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

Digging a grave, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

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/Shutterstock

Horses pull a caisson through Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

Horses pulled a caisson through Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Funeral, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

Funeral, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Funeral, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

Funeral, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Arlington National Cemetery 1965

Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Tending a grave, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

Tending a grave, Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Arlington National Cemetery 1965

Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Arlington National Cemetery 1965

Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Arlington National Cemetery 1965

Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Arlington National Cemetery 1965

Arlington National Cemetery, 1965.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

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/Shutterstock

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/Shutterstock

More Like This

Route 30 Nebraska, USA, 1948. destinations

This Land is Your Land: LIFE Photos From All 50 States

destinations

When Miami Beach Went to War

Haglia Sophia destinations

Uncovering Ancient Christian Mosaics

Rocky Mountain Road Trip destinations

The Highs of a Rocky Mountain Road Trip, 1959

Florence, Italy destinations

Florence, A Marvel Of Enduring Power

A Tahitian woman walking her horse through the jungle. destinations

Stunning Photographs of Islands That Inspired Great Works of Art