On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery

( 28 )

Overview

An intimate, behind-the-scenes chronicle of America’s most sacred ground.

“Along Eisenhower Drive, as far as the eye could see, the grave markers formed into bone-white brigades, climbed from the flats of the Potomac River, and scattered over the green Virginia hills in perfect order. They reached Arlington’s highest point, where they encircled an old cream-colored mansion with thick columns and a commanding view of the cemetery, the river, and the city beyond. The mansion’s flag, just lowered to half-staff, ...

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On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery

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Overview

An intimate, behind-the-scenes chronicle of America’s most sacred ground.

“Along Eisenhower Drive, as far as the eye could see, the grave markers formed into bone-white brigades, climbed from the flats of the Potomac River, and scattered over the green Virginia hills in perfect order. They reached Arlington’s highest point, where they encircled an old cream-colored mansion with thick columns and a commanding view of the cemetery, the river, and the city beyond. The mansion’s flag, just lowered to half-staff, signaled that it was time to start another day of funerals, which would add more than twenty new conscripts to Arlington’s army of the dead.”

So does Robert Poole describe a day like so many others in the long and storied history of Arlington National Cemetery. Created towards the end of our greatest national crucible, the Civil War, its story—as revealed in On Hallowed Ground—reflects much of America’s own over the past century and a half. The mansion at its heart, and the rolling land on which it sits, had been the family plantation of Robert E. Lee before he joined the Confederacy; strategic to the defense of Washington, it became a Union headquarters, a haven for freedmen, and a burial ground for indigent soldiers before Secretary of War Edwin Stanton made it the latest in the newly established national cemetery system. It would become our nation’s most honored resting place.

No other country makes the effort the United States does to recover and pay tribute to its war dead—an effort Poole reveals in poignant details from the aftermaths of the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and the conflicts in the Gulf and Afghanistan today. Every tombstone at Arlington tells a story: from Private William Christman, the first soldier buried at Arlington on May 13, 1864, to Union General Montgomery Meigs, whose idea Arlington was; from Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, the first casualty of powered flight, to Audie Murphy, America’s most decorated soldier; from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, so lovingly tended today, to John F. Kennedy’s eternal flame; from scientists and slaves to jurists and generals and tens of thousands of ordinary citizen-warriors, among the more than 300,000 interred on Arlington’s 624 acres. Their sagas, and the rites and rituals that have evolved at Arlington—the horse-drawn caissons, marble headstones, playing of taps, and rifle salutes—speak to us all.

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Editorial Reviews

Fergus M. Bordewich
The central character in On Hallowed Ground, Robert M. Poole's gracefully written, often deeply affecting history, cannot speak. However, Poole succeeds grandly in giving voice to the more than 600 acres of what virtually all Americans consider sacred soil.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher
"Gracefully written, often deeply affecting history. like the nation itself, Arlington bears the scars of its history, as Robert Poole eloquently shows."—Fergus Bordewich, WashingtonPost.

"Engaging. Robert Poole is an adroit sketcher of historical events, but even more of character."—The Economist.

“Graceful and dignified…perhaps more than any other secular site in America, Arlington casts a religious spell. The effect is not accidental…there is ample evidence of sacramental need in the many Arlington rituals that Mr. Poole relates in such moving detail.”—Wall Street Journal.

 “Vivid, compelling, filled with rich and unexpected detail, On Hallowed Ground tells the little-understood story of Arlington National Cemetery and in the process chronicles how we have honored—and sometimes dishonored—those who gambled everything on our behalf. Robert M. Poole is a fine storyteller and this is a great story.”—Geoffrey C. Ward, author of The Civil War and The War: An Intimate History 1941-1945

“Improbably gripping and often deeply moving, On Hallowed Ground chronicles both the evolution of our national cemetery and the profound ways in which treatment of the war dead reflects a nation's soul. Readers interested in political, social or military history from the Civil War on will want to read this book.”—Caroline Alexander, author of The Endurance

“Most Americans, especially most historians, think they know all about Arlington Cemetery. They respect what it represents, and revere the heroes resting there. But only Robert Poole has brought to life all the historic figures, from privates to presidents, who made this national shrine and populate its rolling hills. On Hallowed Ground is a memorable combination of historical research, first-hand reporting and sensitive writing—a definitive work that should last as long as the eternal flame at John Kennedy's grave site.”—Ernest B. Furgurson, author of Freedom Rising: Washington in the Civil War

“In his stirring, evocative style, Robert Poole blends Arlington’s untold story with America’s own story, as Robert E. Lee’s home, a prize of war in a divided nation, evolves—through wars and peace—into America’s most hallowed ground.”—Thomas B. Allen, coauthor of The Bonus Army

“Robert M. Poole not only captures the history of a venerable American institution but with it the politics of commemoration and reconciliation.  Absolutely first rate.”—Paul Dickson, coauthor of The Bonus Army

“Robert Poole has coupled superb storytelling with meticulous research and produced a gem.  On Hallowed Ground is by turns illuminating, informative, and enormously readable.  In the future you will never think of Arlington Cemetery withut recalling the tales contained in this marvelous book.”—Robert Timberg, author of The Nightingale’s Song and State of Grace: A Memoir of Twilight Time

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781441868251
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 7/28/2010
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert M. Poole is an editor and writer whose assignments for Smithsonian and National Geographic have taken him around the world. He is the author Explorers House: National Geographic and the World It Made, and is a contributing editor at Smithsonian. He lives in Virginia.
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Table of Contents

Prologue 1

Part I Disunion

1 Leaving Arlington 9

2 Occupation 22

3 "Vast Army of the Wounded" 37

4 First Burials 58

5 A Question of Ownership 76

Part II Reunion

6 "A Splendid Little War" 105

7 L'Enfant's Grand View 119

8 Known but to God 133

9 A Time to Build Up 160

10 "We Are All in It-All the Way" 176

11 The Nastiest Little War 194

Part III The Nation's Cemetery

12 "I Could Stay Here Forever" 209

13 The Last Unknown 230

14 War Comes to Arlington 251

15 Taps 263

Epilogue 269

Benediction 271

Acknowledgments 273

Appendix I Arlington Chronology 277

Appendix II Regulations for Burial 287

Notes and Sources 289

Index 343

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 28 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(13)

4 Star

(5)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2009

    Been there but know more now

    Having been upon the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery several times I am always at awe walking through the gates, but although I have some background knowledge of the area, Mr. Poole shed more light upon many aspects of these hallowed grounds that have just furthered my interest in this national landmark. Two thumbs up. Not a bad chapter in the book.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended Read

    I just finished this book. I bought it this summer after my first visit to Arlington Cemetery. It really captures the majesty and tragedy of the cemetery. The book is a really enjoyable read. It contains a lot of details while at the same time, it doesn't get bogged down with them. It started with the history of the plantation and how it was chosen as the site of the Cemetery. 1 of the greatest ironies in US History and it detailed it great.

    Would really recommend this book for any history buffs. I would try to time it with a visit to Arlington Cemetery, which is a must-see for any DC visitor.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great. . . Simply Great

    Robert M. Poole has written a wonderful book. Reading this book is like taking a walk through Arlington itself. I highly recommend it.
    The only thing I did not like was the typeface of the book.

    As Americans, we should know some things about our national cemeteries - both good and bad. These 'gardens of stone' have so many stories to tell and Poole really captures that. Thank You, Mr. Poole.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 6, 2010

    Thoroughly enjoyed it

    Bought this book as I have been to Arlington Cemetary a number of times but never really knew the history of it. Read it in two days and have passed it on to my kids who are extremely interested in the history as well. Arlington National Cemetary is a big part of US History and everyone will be better off understanding how this Cemetary developed and how it got to where it is today. A great read!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2015

    This should be a required reading for a history class.

    After working there for 5 years it was nice to see a new book written about the history of Arlington National Cemetery. I could not put the book down once I started reading it. I learned a few more things about Arlington. When I was there 35 years ago it was a quite and wonderful place. I helped bury many soldiers and family members there, and it was such an honor to do so. Now it is a big tourist trap. Made me feel sad to watch so many people wondering around this beautiful place. I hope I will be laid to rest there some day.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2015

    Poignant

    This book is a must read for anyone planning a trip to Arlington National Cemetery. It is truly hallowed ground and leaves an indelible impression. Knowing the history of the property will make it even more so.

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  • Posted December 14, 2014

    Amazing background on a national treasure!

    From the little know fact of Arlington's establishment, it's rituals, and secrets this book leads you thru the establishment of our national military cemetery system.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2014

    Test

    Hi
    <p> i am adam

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2014

    Arlington

    Just bought this! I will write more once I read the book. I am a big fan of American History, so I hope I am not getting me expectations set too high. We shall see as we go along

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    Posted December 21, 2009

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