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On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery | [Robert M. Poole]

On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery

More than just a fascinating account of how Arlington came into being at the end of the Civil War, On Hallowed Ground also tells the story of America as reflected in her greatest national cemetery. The history of the land on which the cemetery is built is as varied as our nation's, evolving from its earliest days as Robert E. Lee's ancestral home to a Union headquarters, a haven for freedmen, and finally a burial ground.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Robert E. Lee had made up his mind. If Virginia secedes from the Union, “then I will still follow my native state with my sword, and if need be with my life”. Lee’s home was Arlington House, the 1,100-acre estate inherited by his wife, Mary Ann Custis Lee (great-granddaughter to Martha Washington and step-great-granddaughter to George Washington). Arlington has a commanding view above the nation’s capital, Washington, at its height rising to over 200 feet above the surrounding area. Topology guaranteed that the Union military would seize and hold this most vital strategic high ground. The Civil War came and quickly the graveyards of Washington began filling up. Soon the fallen Union warriors would be buried at Arlington. These were the first in a series of events that over time would transform the Lee Arlington estate into Arlington National Cemetery.

On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery is a comprehensive history, written and narrated by a man with a passion for places of historical importance. For 21 years Robert M. Poole was a writer and editor of National Geographic and currently is a contributing editor at Smithsonian. Poole, in a Smithsonian interview states, “I am keen on the biography of places — in other words, how a particular piece of geography evolves over time, taking on its own distinctive character.” A native of North Carolina with attractive shades of a Southern accent, Poole narrates with the scholar’s scope of understanding and the patriot’s reverence for the subject. The audiobook producers have expanded the book’s print edition, adding additional material with six narrative voices. Very interesting voices they are; six people, each with close ties to Arlington National Cemetery and each with their own Arlington stories to tell. These narratives are mixed in with Poole’s, somewhat in the way side quotes are injected alongside magazine and newspaper articles. Though this process does put pauses in the main narrative, it most definitely enhances Poole’s story, the sideline details adding deeply moving and engaging details.

What will, and ought to remain with the listener is the profound poignancy of On Hallowed Ground. Lest we forget. —David Chasey

Publisher's Summary

More than just a fascinating account of how Arlington came into being at the end of the Civil War, On Hallowed Ground also tells the story of America as reflected in her greatest national cemetery. The history of the land on which the cemetery is built is as varied as our nation's, evolving from its earliest days as Robert E. Lee's ancestral home to a Union headquarters, a haven for freedmen, and finally a burial ground. Robert Poole also shows how the landscape of Arlington changed along with our democracy. Originally segregated by race and rank, the organization of the plots alone tells a complex story.

Poole conducted new interviews exclusively for this audio edition of On Hallowed Ground, featuring a range of key players in the cemetery's history and day-to-day operations. He spoke with Wayne Parks, great grandson of the slaves owned by Robert E. Lee's family and the first cemetery groundskeeper; Gunnery Sergeant William J. Dixon, a Marine and Iraq war veteran who oversees the quality control of Marine funerals at Arlington; and Linda Willey, chairperson of the Arlington Ladies Committee for the Air Force, who makes sure that there is a civilian present at every Air Force funeral. Our edition of On Hallowed Ground features highlights from these and other interviews, as well as more exclusive material, including a rendition of "Taps" played by the Army's principal bugler.

Download the accompanying reference guide.


Listen to An interview with Robert M. Poole.


©2009 Robert M. Poole (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“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)

"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)

What Members Say

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  •  
    M. Stevens Carlstadt, NJ, US 09-16-10
    M. Stevens Carlstadt, NJ, US 09-16-10 Member Since 2010
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    "Hauntingly Captivating..."

    I started this book to prepare myself for an upcoming memorial service for a World War II sailor at Arlington. I found myself listening to it whenever I had a few moments, even sitting for a few minutes in my car after my commute to and from work. It gave me an understanding of the history and politics of this national treasure. Surprisingly, I found myself listening with such concentration, that at moments, I found myself tearing with emotion as if I was standing there with the families of our fallen soldiers. I found the voice of BlackJack the horse's handler describing JFK's funeral procession bringing me right back to that fateful week when I was a little boy watching everything on TV.

    The author really did his homework, which is evident all throughout this well organized book. He takes us from the very beginnings of the estate through the most recent events. It also served as a history of the United States from the Civil War to the present, with the author showing how Arlington was tied into many national events of the time. This detail really came through when I actually visited the cemetery and found myself having a much deeper understanding of the ceremony, the locations and people buried there.

    The author's narration was performed in a pleasant tone that would be proper for the subject at hand. The audio production was well done and did not notice the typical voice drop-ins that usually come with a book filled with many difficult pronunciations.

    Simply put, it gave me a very clear understanding of the sacrifice of our Armed Forces and why they are so proud of the men and women who rest there.

    I enjoyed it thoroughly.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Hot Springs Village, AR, United States 07-31-11
    James Hot Springs Village, AR, United States 07-31-11 Member Since 2009

    Retired Clergy. PhD in Comparative Religion. Enjoying retirement of golf, motorcycling, model railroading, gardening, and reading.

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    "Exceptional"

    As one interested in the Civil War and nineteenth century America, I found this book to be an excellent listen. Initially I thought it might be a military spin job, but was pleased at the writer's objectivity and honesty regarding this nation's warring ways.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Louisville, KY, United States 10-16-10
    Michael Louisville, KY, United States 10-16-10 Member Since 2010
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    "An engaging and well written book"

    Kudos to the writer - for his style and his research. This is a delightful read. It offers a comprehensive history of the cemetery, from its origins to its present traditions. You'll learn about the Civil War fortifications, the village for black refugees from the South, the battle of the Custis family to return the land to their family, the initial ornate monuments, how the simple crosses were designed, why there is a tomb for the unknown soldier, when the current ceremonies we take for granted really started, and so much more. I cannot wait to once again walk through Arlington. I will not look at it with the same eyes.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laurie Florence, KY, United States 08-22-10
    Laurie Florence, KY, United States 08-22-10 Member Since 2005
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    "Great story"

    Although this book started out rather slowly, and I am not usually not a fan of "read by the author", I enjoyed the book. Once the story got going, I realized there is a lot more to the development of Arlington than I was aware of. I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Civil War history, or to anyone who's been to Arlington. I have, and now I'd like to go back and revisit!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diane Vicksburg, MI, United States 07-22-10
    Diane Vicksburg, MI, United States 07-22-10
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    "Incredible!"

    I don't usually go for history type books but this one caught my eye and I enjoyed it so much. It was very history informative and the added commentary from others that lived it was very moving. Arlington National Cemetery is a very important part of how this country honors and shows respect for its fallen soldiers, it was very interesting to learn of its origin to present day.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gillian Austin, TX, United States 02-24-14
    Gillian Austin, TX, United States 02-24-14 Member Since 2013

    SciFi/Fantasy and Classics to History, Adventure and Memoirs to Social Commentary—I love and listen to it all!

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    "Enlightening, Beautiful"

    "On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery" is a gem of a book that presents American history in a way I've never experienced it before. It starts with a look of its history, our history, in the times of slavery and continues to our day.
    Robert E. Lee kind of comes off like, well, let's put it this way: when he gets the land, through his wife's family, he puts up a whipping post where there never was one before. The slaves had been treated with a tiny amount of dignity and respect, but the man needs it to "start producing" because he has needs that have to be met. And he thinks they'd had a free ride in the years prior. Not very nice.
    The years, and wars, that follow are discussed, with a history of their major offensives, and it's all heroic. And tragic. So tragic. There's a real respect for those who fought, and especially for those who lost their lives, whether they were seasoned officers or just men on their first day into battle.
    I learned so much! About each battle, about everything behind-the-scenes, about the lives and prevailing views of each time period. I'd never known how each Unknown Soldier had been chosen, and it was heartbreaking and touching. And interesting. Since Vietnam, and its controversial determination of an Unknown, we're rather at the point where there may be no more: DNA and modern forensics may determine who they are when they're all finally found. Mothers, wives, children will just have to wait until that day and the day they're brought home. And perhaps they'll have to wait and wait and wait…
    And I never knew that "No Man Left Behind" started in the Korean War with "concurrent recovery," where battle lines were constantly changing and the stripping of corpses by the Chinese meant battleground cemeteries on foreign soil were an impossibility.
    What touched me most was what somberness, what dignity, and respect are shown to each of our nation's fallen: each soldier is carried with care, salutes are shot with precision, and flags are folded with crisp perfectness. And there is someone always, always there for the families. Every soldier comes with his own story, with his own lost dreams. It broke my heart.
    The author narrates this, obviously he's a military man who knows what he's talking about, from whence each man comes. He delivers it all in that almost flat military tone but one that's knowledgeable, respectful, and, oddly, emotional at times. I'll admit it: I cried here and there throughout.
    If you love history, if you love a good, touching story, if you have respect for the fallen: you won't regret this one. It was more moving than many a book I've listened to in a long time.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hannah thornton, PA, United States 12-16-12
    Hannah thornton, PA, United States 12-16-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Surprisingly delightful"
    What made the experience of listening to On Hallowed Ground the most enjoyable?

    When I purchased this audiobook, I didn't know what to expect. I was delighted by the story and the story telling. The history, the people, the significance of Arlington were all something that I thought I knew, but I really didn't. Definitely worth the read/listen.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michelle Reston, Manitoba, Canada 04-27-12
    Michelle Reston, Manitoba, Canada 04-27-12 Member Since 2011
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    "A Rich Documentary without images"

    Truly, the only downside to this book is the lack of images. I found myself sitting in front of Google Images as I listened, just to make sure I understood what the author was talking about.

    This is a book that listens like a documentary on television. Brilliantly narrated, with some parts voiced by others, giving you a "History Channel" type of experience. I felt moved in so many places and was amazed at the rich history of this cemetery.

    Americans should be proud of this place and Robert Poole has honoured veterans and their families with his beautiful work. I know I will be making a visit to the cemetery, just because of the passion of this book.

    If you know a solider, you owe it to them to listen to this story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Newport News, VA, United States 11-24-11
    James Newport News, VA, United States 11-24-11 Member Since 2005
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    "Outstanding"

    I bought this book as a random buy and all i can say is that it is great. The author did a wonderful job with the book and the information. I would recommend this book to any one

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eileen Charlotte, NC, United States 11-12-11
    Eileen Charlotte, NC, United States 11-12-11 Member Since 2007
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    "Authors aren't always readers..."

    This is an abosorbing story, well written, that is about more than just Arlington Cemetary. How Arlington became Arlington is a story in itself, and the social, economic and polictical forces at work throughtout the 1800 & 1900's that affected the cemetary are very interesting.

    The unfortunate aspect of the book is the reader. While Mr Poole wrote a great book, he should have turned it over to a more skilled reader. The somewghat choppy narration is distracting.

    Fortunately, the book is interesting enough to overcome the less than stellar narration. I happened to be listening to thsi over Veteran's Day, and the details in the book made the day even more meaningful.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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