Friday, June 29, 2018

Booknotes: Where Valor Proudly Sleeps

New Arrival:
Where Valor Proudly Sleeps: A History of Fredericksburg National Cemetery, 1866–1933by Donald C. Pfanz (SIU Press, 2018).

Where Valor Proudly Sleeps is the second volume in SIU Press's public history focused Engaging the Civil War series. I liked the first one, Turning Points of the American Civil War, well enough and look forward to seeing what they come up with next.

According to the description, Pfanz's book "explores a battle’s immediate and long-term aftermath by focusing on Fredericksburg National Cemetery, one of the largest cemeteries created by the U.S. government after the Civil War. Pfanz shows how legislation created the National Cemetery System and describes how the Burial Corps identified, collected, and interred soldier remains as well as how veterans, their wives, and their children also came to rest in national cemeteries. By sharing the stories of the Fredericksburg National Cemetery, its workers, and those buried there, Pfanz explains how the cemetery evolved into its current form, a place of beauty and reflection."

Among other topics, chapters discuss Civil War and postwar burials, the history of the national cemetery and later refinements, the evolution of the cemetery's Memorial Day commemorations, and a selection of personal stories. Prominent employees are profiled, as are some of the site's physical structures. Important national cemetery legislation and the words to the classic poem "The Bivouac of the Dead" are gathered in the appendix section, and photographs are spread throughout the text. Pfanz's long career with the National Park Service, including work at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP, undoubtedly informs the study, and John Hennessy gives it high praise, saying it "might be the best book ever written about a national cemetery."

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