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Remembering The Battle of the Crater

Remembering The Battle of the Crater: War as Murder

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Remembering The Battle of the Crater
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-3640-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. 1-6)

    IN DECEMBER 2003 moviegoers were treated to a vivid re-creation of the battle of the Crater in the movieCold Mountain,directed by Anthony Minghella. Though the battle, which was fought just outside Petersburg, Virginia, on July 30, 1864, was not included in the original work of fiction by Charles Frazier, it was used in the film as a dramatic opening to set the stage for Inman (played by Jude Law) and his decision to leave the Confederate army and head back to his lover (played by Nicole Kidman), still living in western North Carolina and working desperately to make...

  5. Chapter 1 THE BATTLE: “Until Every Negro Has Been Slaughtered”
    (pp. 7-32)

    THE PRISONERS WERE placed in formation, in lines four abreast. Officers led the way, followed by alternating ranks of four black and four white soldiers. The column was ordered to parade through the streets of Petersburg in full view of the town’s remaining civilian population. The roughly 1,500 black and white Union prisoners, who had been captured the day before, July 30, 1864, after their failed assault, were being used to send a strong message: to the men serving in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, to the remaining white residents of Petersburg, and to the Confederacy as a...

  6. Chapter 2 THE LOST CAUSE: Maintaining the Antebellum Hierarchy
    (pp. 33-52)

    WILLIAM E. CAMERON was born and raised in Petersburg, Virginia. He served in the Twelfth Virginia Infantry and, like the rest of the men in the regiment, who hailed from the city and surrounding region, fought desperately on the morning of July 30, 1864, to protect his family and community from the Federal army and the myriad horrors associated with the presence of United States Colored Troops. By April 1865 Cameron could be found promoting the Confederate government’s new policy of recruiting slaves to serve as soldiers in experimental all-black regiments. Such a drastic shift in policy reflected not only...

  7. Chapter 3 VIRGINIA’S RECONSTRUCTION: William Mahone, “Hero of the Crater”
    (pp. 53-68)

    LESS THAN TWO weeks before a scheduled reunion of the Third Georgia Regiment in August 1883, Robert Bagby—who had served in Company H—was “surprised” to read in a local newspaper an editorial from a fellow veteran “objecting” to the proposed presence of their former commander, Major General William Mahone. Bagby’s response indicates that he understood the origin of this complaint. He assured his comrade that “the men who are invited to meet us on this occasion are expected to do so as survivors of a Lost Cause and not as representatives of a State or Federal Politics.” The...

  8. Chapter 4 REINFORCING THE STATUS QUO: Reenactment and Jim Crow
    (pp. 69-86)

    CROWDS CHEERED AS the veterans made their way up Second Street on the morning of November 6, 1903. For weeks the City of Petersburg and the A.P. Hill Camp Confederate Veterans had been planning to welcome the veterans to celebrate and reenact the battle of the Crater. The center of attention were the veterans of Major General William Mahone’s brigade, who were escorted by veterans’ organizations with mounted police and the fire brigade to follow; in the vanguard, serving as chief marshal, was General Stith Bolling. “When the excited thousands saw the veterans made up of every camp,” reported a...

  9. Chapter 5 WHITES ONLY: The Ascendancy of an Interpretation
    (pp. 87-106)

    THE “SUCCESS” OF the 1903 reunion and reenactment—as well as plans to hold the event on a yearly basis—renewed interest in creating a national park in Petersburg with the Crater as one of the principal sites. Support came not only from the city of Petersburg and the rest of Virginia but also from states north of the Potomac River. The outbreak of war with Spain in 1898 fostered deeper sectional reconciliation and gave Southerners “an opportunity to free themselves of Northern suspicion of their loyalty and to establish southern honor.” Ex-Confederate generals such as Fitzhugh Lee, who had...

  10. Chapter 6 COMPETING MEMORIES: Civil War and Civil Rights
    (pp. 107-124)

    IN THE TWO decades after World War II, American families took to the roads on vacations that had as much to do with pleasure as with a desire to explore historic sites that reflected the country’s national identity and democratic values. In 1954 alone, around 49 million Americans set out on heritage tours of the United States, including Mount Vernon, Gettysburg, Washington, D.C., and Independence Hall. These sacred places connected Americans with a rich history that allowed them to imagine themselves members of a larger community bound together by common values. Such a connection with history and heritage encouraged good...

  11. Chapter 7 MOVING FORWARD: Integrating a Black Counter-Memory
    (pp. 125-140)

    IN 1974 THE Petersburg National Battlefield (PNB) placed a marker at Battery Nine, along the driving tour, to acknowledge its capture by USCTs on June 15, 1864. At about the same time, residents of Petersburg learned that their battlefields had been included, along with twelve other historical sites, as National Historical Landmarks with a connection to black history. Other signs of change could be seen on the battlefield as well. Superintendent Larry Hakel indicated that the staff would redouble its efforts to interpret the battlefields so as to reflect the participation of black soldiers. Visual changes could be seen as...

    (pp. 141-144)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 145-160)
    (pp. 161-176)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 177-184)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 185-192)