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
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.
Listen to An interview with Robert M. Poole.
©2009 Robert M. Poole (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
“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)
I work at Arlington National Cemetery and this book is an excellent source for anyone wanting to know more than 'who is buried where.' The author approaches from a historical perspective that fleshes out the depth and soul of the cemetery, and the reason for its existence. I worried in the beginning that he was spending too much time on the Civil War portion, but later realized this serves as a foundation of all that happens later. Anyone working at or planning on visiting Arlington should read this book.
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.
The wealth of information within the pages of this book are a remarkable tribute to our nation's burial ground for our fallen.
I have been to Arlington National Cemetary to be a part of the ceremonies for a Coast Guardsman who had lain in a jungle of Laos, Vietnam for 34 years waiting to come home.
What I witnessed in 2003 means so much more to me now as I recall the beauty, solemnity, and love shown to us mourners every second of the day. I understand so much more of what that day meant to thousands, including the professionals of the Old Guard.
Thank you to all!
This presentation did more than tell the story of Arlington Cemetery but gave the background of how the United States has honored the dead through its history. I found it to be very interesting and enlightening to hear of the personalities who shaped this history. For anyone who has interest in Arlington or any of our National Cemeteries, this is a great read.
The author tells the story he wrote with feeling and passion. Also his inclusion of other voices to tell their particular story made the audio very interesting.
Although a book of history, it is a story that kept me wanting to listen to see how things developed in the various stages of the history of Arlington and in the changing policies that affected the return of the military dead from our overseas conflicts.
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