Robert M. Poole on Arlington National Cemetery

hallowedgroundAuthor and historian Robert M. Poole will discuss the subject of his new book On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery at the New Dominion Bookshop on Thursday, November 12 at 5:30pm. For a preview, you can watch a video of Poole discussing his book at Barnes & Noble Studio.

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.

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.