On Hallowed Ground

  • by Robert M. Poole
  • Narrated by Robert M. Poole
  • 12 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.


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


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)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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.
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- M. Stevens

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

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-25-2010
  • Publisher: Audible Studios