Tag Archives: JFK grave

Another book about Presidential Gravesites

The Bear Went Over the Mountain-Finding America. Finding Myself.The Bear Went Over the Mountain-Finding America. Finding Myself. by Carll Tucker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book. The author goes on a quest to visit the graves of all the American Presidents and Vice Presidents. Unfortunately, I would have put the emphasis on graves and not on the author’s discovery of himself.

Mr. Tucker starts the book by announcing to his wife of 25 years that he is buying an RV and leaving her for months to go walkabout. He does not allow any discussion. He can’t really justify the trip to her or to his friends (or the reader), not even by calling it a midlife crisis. Whenever he gets lonely on the road, he visits a Wall-Mart to gawk at the rampant consumerism and desperate unhappiness of Americans outside of the privileged enclave where he was born to money. As narrators go, he is not someone I wanted to snuggle up to for 300 pages.

The book unfolds in map-order, following the author as he travels outward from New York. Since I only have a tenuous grasp on the order of American presidents (and no idea whatsoever about the vice presidents), I needed a whole lot more history to understand the chronology. I’m not sure how he could have assembled the book differently, but I was often lost.

The final straw, though, was that I wanted to know about the monuments to the fallen men, as well as the graveyards in which they lay. I wanted a guidebook and not a memoir. If you have a whole lot more historical knowledge than I brought to the book — and you’re interested in midlife quests — you will enjoy the book more than I did. George Soros liked it.

I bought my copy from Amazon: The Bear Went Over the Mountain-Finding America. Finding Myself.

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Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb?

Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb? A Tour of Presidential GravesitesWho’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb? A Tour of Presidential Gravesites by Brian Lamb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every library in America, whether personal or public, should have a copy of this book. It’s a straightforward listing, in presidential order, of our nation’s commanders-in-chief, including burial places, costs of admission to visit, causes of death, and final last words. Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb? would be great for doing schoolwork, playing Trivial Pursuit, settling arguments, and as a guidebook for family vacations. I can’t wait to drag my daughter off to visit some presidential gravesites.

All that aside, the book opens with a beautiful foreword by Richard Norton Smith which tries to explain for skeptics why anyone would want to visit a cemetery: “To honor those who have gone before. To draw inspiration from distant lives…. Not to mention the humbling perspective that comes whenever we confront mortality, our own or anyone else’s.” (I’m sure I’ll be in a position to quote that at some point!) Smith’s funereal obsession was with presidential graves, to which he dragged his long-suffering family year after year. He makes a strong case for having that touring information collected into this book. He also provides brief historical asides on many, though not all, presidents.

Lamb’s book is full of interesting facts. Did you know George Washington died taking his own pulse? That he was so afraid of being buried alive that he insisted on lying in state for three days? That Benjamin Harris’s father was actually dug up by resurrectionists? That William Taft was a Unitarian who didn’t believe in the divinity of Christ? That Lincoln’s brain and scalp were removed before he was embalmed and rings made of his hair became treasured mementoes? That five ex-presidents are buried in Ohio? An appendix even lists the amount of time ex-presidents survived after leaving office.

Included in the book are portrait sketches of each president, along with black-and-white photos of the burial sites. Unfortunately, many of the grave images are very dark and hard to make out. The inclusion of color plates adds so much that it’s a shame those photos are separate from (and not referred to in) the text of each listing. Hopefully, those flaws have been tackled in the 2003 edition.

An appendix lists addresses and even number of visitors to the presidential libraries. At the end of the 20th century, many former executive officers were choosing to be buried at their library sites, where presumably security was tighter than in the family boneyard down the road. It’s a sad comment that Lincoln had to be “smothered” beneath 10 feet of cement to protect his corpse from kidnapping. However we might feel about a man’s record in office, there’s no one more helpless than a dead man. As always, I hope that familiarity with graveyards will engender respect for them and for the high and mighty brought so low at last.

A newer edition is available on Amazon: Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb?: A Tour of Presidential Gravesites

This is another review from Morbid Curiosity #8.

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Cemetery of the Week #1: Arlington National Cemetery

Visitors to the Kennedys’ eternal flame.

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington, Virginia 22211
Phone: (877) 907-8585
Established: June 15, 1864
Size: 624 acres
Number of interments: more than 300,000 graves
Open: 7 days a week, 365 days. 8 a.m.-7 p.m. (April-September) and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (October-March)

Founded by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton on the commandeered grounds of Robert E. Lee’s family home, Arlington National Cemetery currently spans 624 acres and encompasses more than 300,000 graves. It is the second largest of the national cemeteries and conducts almost 7000 burials annually. Originally Arlington was designated as a military cemetery, but that definition can be set aside by presidential directive to include anyone who has served the United States.

Among the famous buried at Arlington lie Kennedy brothers John, Robert, and Edward; Supreme Court Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Thurgood Marshall, and Harry Blackmun (author of Roe v. Wade); band leader Major Glenn Miller; author Dashiell Hammett; explorers Richard Byrd and Robert Peary; the Brown Bomber Joe Louis, and several astronauts.

Arlington is home to many monuments worth a visit, including the United States Marine Corps. memorial (better known as the Iwo Jima Monument), the U.S.S. Maine Memorial, the Lockerbie Cairn in memory of the Pan Am flight brought down by Libyan bombers, a cenotaph to the Challenger astronauts, and The Tomb of the Unknowns, where the remains of three unidentifiable soldiers symbolize all the anonymous dead of World Wars I and II, as well as the Korean War.

A Visitors Center welcomes four million tourists each year to Arlington. In addition to exhibits on the history of the graveyard, it contains a bookstore that offers maps and guidebooks. Many organizations in Washington D.C. offer cemetery tours, as does the popular Tourmobile (http://www.tourmobile.com/).

Useful links:

Arlington National Cemetery homepage

GPS information for Arlington

Good news about Arlington

Recording the graves at Arlington

The Challenger Monument at Arlington

Books I’ve reviewed that reference Arlington National Cemetery:

Where Valor Rests

The American Resting Place

Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb?

The Bear Went Over the Mountain