Remembering The Battle of the Crater: War as Murder (New Directions in Southern History)
Kevin M. Levin
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The battle of the Crater is known as one of the Civil War's bloodiest struggles -- a Union loss with combined casualties of 5,000, many of whom were members of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) under Union Brigadier General Edward Ferrero. The battle was a violent clash of forces as Confederate soldiers fought for the first time against African American soldiers. After the Union lost the battle, these black soldiers were captured and subject both to extensive abuse and the threat of being returned to slavery in the South. Yet, despite their heroism and sacrifice, these men are often overlooked in public memory of the war.
In Remembering The Battle of the Crater: War is Murder, Kevin M. Levin addresses the shared recollection of a battle that epitomizes the way Americans have chosen to remember, or in many cases forget, the presence of the USCT. The volume analyzes how the racial component of the war's history was portrayed at various points during the 140 years following its conclusion, illuminating the social changes and challenges experienced by the nation as a whole. Remembering The Battle of the Crater gives the members of the USCT a newfound voice in history.
monuments or shape other public spaces. By the early twentieth century, political disfranchisement, along with a short and ultimately unsuccessful deployment during the Spanish-American War that was plagued by problems with the unit’s white commander, led to the end of the black militias. Even though the governor called out the black militia only once during its existence, it effectively functioned as the one place where members of the black community in Petersburg could publicly commemorate and
serving for one year on the frontier. Williams later served as pastor of the Twelfth Street Baptist Church in Boston and in 1879 he became the first African American to serve in the Ohio legislature. Williams led the way in presenting African American history accurately through the use of oral history and archival research, seeking to legitimize it as a field of historical study. In an attempt to encourage the preservation of a black historical consciousness, Williams joined others in calling
the Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama. In the spring of that year, in an effort to desegregate department store lunch counters, students staged sit-ins beginning in Greensboro, North Carolina, and within a short period of time 115 stores had been integrated in over 100 cities, including four national chains. While individual protestors and organizations may have been focused narrowly on “the prize” of basic civil rights, their collective actions served to turn the centennial celebrations into a
residents view the park as their own personal recreation area and that blacks have only a token Negro’s heritage in a negative setting.” On a more practical level, the research team suggested that the PNB supplement its library and books for purchase to include studies of the African American experience. “PNB publications present very little information about black soldiers,” the report continued, “and nothing about their interest in the Petersburg campaign.” The report concluded: “The Petersburg
ran down the trenches towards the crater.” As Weisiger pushed his men in pursuit of the now-retreating Federals, Mahone ordered Hall’s Georgia brigade to attack against the southern rim of the crater. Its initial attack repulsed, the brigade was forced to take up a position behind Weisiger.20 At 1:00 p.m. Mahone ordered Sanders’s Alabama brigade into the mix. The 630 men in this unit were able to advance directly to the rim of the crater, forcing Union commanders to scrap any attempt at an