SACRED GROUND by Edward Tabor Linenthal


Americans and Their Battlefields
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 Here, Linenthal (Religious Studies/Univ. of Wisconsin) provocatively chronicles the history and role of five of America's most famous battle-site memorials: Lexington-Concord, the Alamo, Gettysburg, the Little Big Horn, and Pearl Harbor. Linenthal notes that Americans have always been awed and inspired when visiting places where gallant fellow citizens transformed ordinary land into sacred ground by their spirit and blood sacrifices in epic battles. The venerated sites, he says, have provided a powerful focus for national reflections that not only have enriched legends (often promoted by interested power groups) but, by the passage of time and through continued research by historians, have redefined the past by bringing to bear updated concepts of freedom and justice. Lexington-Concord symbolized the martial valor of plain citizens risking death to shake off a tyranny and build a new, freer society; later, this same spirit of protest would inspire some to demonstrate against unpopular wars. The work of historians, Linenthal argues, has changed perceptions of the Little Big Horn and altered the Custer myth. The author relates how the survivors of Gettysburg, once bitter enemies, would in time find friendship together while visitors would only occasionally be reminded of the forgotten message of Lincoln--that military valor and sacrifice would be in vain if a people would still be divided and a united nation of all the people not achieved: The freed slaves were largely forgotten for generations. Finally, Linenthal finds that the Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor has seldom healed the average visitor's resentment toward Japan. An authoritative study of the nature of the American patriotic spirit as observed in its most hallowed memorials. (One-hundred- and-eighteen illustrations.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-252-01783-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Univ. of Illinois
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1991