Leave a comment

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them…

It was originally intended as a cheap act of political vengeance and yet its location, in Virginia on the plantation owned by Robert E. Lee, has managed to transcend the hollow efforts of the small time crook from Illinois who had helped make so many cemeteries necessary into a great resting place for the best our nation has had to offer in the past 150 years. History has its own ways of bringing justice to an even keel.

EAST ELEVATION - Arlington House, Lee Drive, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, VA

EAST ELEVATION – Arlington House, Lee Drive, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, VA

On hallowed ground: the story of Arlington National Cemetery New York, N.Y.: Walker & Co., 2009 Robert M. Poole Arlington National Cemetery (Arlington, Va.) History Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. 352 p., [16] p. of plates: ill., map; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 287-339) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG  

Gen. Montgomery Meigs, U.S.A.

Gen. Montgomery Meigs, U.S.A.

“… 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.”

Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater from mast of U. S. S. Maine

Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater from mast of U. S. S. Maine

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 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.

Sailor and girl at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Washington, D.C.

Sailor and girl at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Washington, D.C.

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 aftermath 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.

arling005
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; from generals to the 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.

Arlington National Cemetery. Flag at half-mast through door of Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater

Arlington National Cemetery. Flag at half-mast through door of Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: