Robert Poole to discuss Arlington Cemetery at New Dominion Nov. 12

From New Dominion Bookshop:

Robert M. Poole will discuss his new history,

On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery

on Thursday, November 12 at 5:30 PM

“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.

Robert M. Poole, former executive editor of National Geographic, is the author of Explorers House. He is a contributing editor at Smithsonian and has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Preservation. He lives in McLean, Virginia. Following is advance praise for Mr. Poole’s On Hallowed Ground.

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 and The War That Killed Achilles

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.

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