Friday, April 23, 2010

"Digging Up the Dead"

New from The University of Chicago Press: Digging Up the Dead: A History of Notable American Reburials by Michael Kammen.

About the book, from the publisher:
A funeral closes a life story, and a grave in a cemetery marks its end forever. But what happens when those left behind don’t agree about the meaning of that story? Or when that disagreement extends all the way to arguments about the final resting place itself? In a surprising number of cases over the years, that’s when people have chosen to grab shovels and start digging.

With Digging Up the Dead, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Michael Kammen reveals a treasure trove of fascinating, surprising, and sometimes gruesome stories of exhumation and reburial from throughout American history. Taking us to the contested grave sites of such figures as Sitting Bull, John Paul Jones, Frank Lloyd Wright, Daniel Boone, Jefferson Davis, and even Abraham Lincoln, Kammen explores how complicated interactions of regional pride, shifting reputations, and evolving burial practices led to public, often emotional battles over the final resting places of famous figures. Grave-robbing, skull-fondling, cases of mistaken identity, and the financial lures of cemetery tourism all come into play as Kammen delves deeply into this little-known—yet surprisingly persistent—aspect of American history.

Simultaneously insightful and interesting, masterly and macabre, Digging Up the Dead reminds us that the stories of American history don’t always end when the key players pass on. Rather, the battle—over reputations, interpretations, and, last but far from least, possession of the remains themselves—is often just beginning.
Read an excerpt from Digging Up the Dead.