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Remembering The Battle of the Crater: War as Murder

by Kevin M. Levin

Availablecloth$35.00s 978-0-8131-3610-3
Availableweb pdf$35.00s 978-0-8131-3640-0
Availableepub$35.00s 978-0-8131-4041-4
New Directions in Southern History
200 pages  Pubdate: 07/01/2012  6 x 9  20 B&W photos, 1 illustration, 1 line drawing

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.

Kevin M. Levin has published writings have appeared in numerous publications, including The History Teacher, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Southern Historian, and Virginia at War, 1865. He is also the writer of a well-known blog, entitled Civil War Memory (http://cwmemory.com/). He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Levin offers something new and valuable in this book. His approach of unpacking the complex telling and forgetting of the events surrounding one battle allows him a focus and specificity that even many very good treatments of historical memory often lack. Remembering the Battle of the Crater stands to make a real and lasting contribution to the field of Civil War memory studies. -- Anne Marshall, author of Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State

[Remembering The Battle of the Crater] centers on the well documented ‘massacre’ of the United States Colored Troops by Confederate soldiers during and after the battle, carrying the story on through the eras of the Lost Cause, Virginia’s Reconstruction and Readjuster Movement. Levin’s work offers a refreshing and inquisitive look at the battle and how the role of the USCT’s is now coming into light in subsequent preservation and interpretation efforts. -- Chris Calkins, Former Chief of Interpretation/Historian (Ret.), Petersburg National Battlefield

This is an important study of memory, race, and the Battle of the Crater. Levin traces the troubled story of how the Mine Attack at Petersburg was remembered by survivors and contemporary generations alike, and he makes clear and frank judgments about the tortured ways in which Americans have dealt with, or avoided, key racial aspects of the battle. Levin offers significant and convincing insights as he sheds light on our understanding of historical memory. -- Earl J. Hess, author of Into the Crater—The Mine Attack at Petersburg

In this stunning and well-researched book, Kevin Levin catches the new waves of the study of memory, black soldiers, and the darker underside of the Civil War as well as anyone has. That horrible day at the Crater in Petersburg, its brutal racial facts and legacies, all tangled in the weeds of Confederate Lost Cause lore, have never been exposed like this. Levin is both superb scholar and public historian, showing us a piece of the real war that does now get into the books, as well as into site interpretation. -- David W. Blight, author of American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era

Levin offers something new and valuable in this book. His approach of unpacking the complex telling and forgetting of the events surrounding one battle allows him a focus and specificity that even many very good treatments of historical memory often lack. Remembering the Battle of the Crater stands to make a real and lasting contribution to the field of Civil War memory studies. -- Anne Marshall, author of Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State

This unique book is not another battle history but tells the story of the Crater's history. This is a look at how and what we chose to remember of an incident. . . . This book needs to be read and remembered. -- TOCWOC

An excellent book that more people should make an effort to read. -- Those that can't write, Review

Illuminates the roles of race and politics in shaping our collective history of the war. -- Outrider Books

Levin has given us a wonderful insight not only into the ever-evolving nature of Civil War memory, but he has also helped illuminate the interplay between race and politics in our collective rendering of the war. -- Civil War Monitor

Levin addresses the shared recollection of a battle that epitomizes the way Americans have chosen to remember and how the racial component of the war’s history was portrayed. . . illuminating the social changes and challenges experienced by the nation as a whole. -- McCormick Messenger

Remembering the Battle of the Crater is a well-researched and well-written book. Civil War buffs should find it to be an especially interesting read-- one of the many important new studies that are being published to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the conflict. -- Journal of America's Military Past

Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder by Kevin Levin offers a valuable addition to the growing body of scholarship on the American Civil War and popular memory. Levin shows how, for much of the post-war period, the story of the battle of the Crater was explained in terms of the courage of the white combatants and their honor in fighting for what they believed in. Minimizing and ignoring the role of black troops at the Crater made it possible to evade divisive issues arising from slavery and racism. While acknoledging a debt to David Blight's Race and Reunion, Levin's succint and thought-provoking book makes its own contributions to our understanding of the Civil War's place in the public conciousness.w -- Civil War Book Review

On the whole, Levin has produced a thoroughly researched and carefully argued study... The result is a solid academic book that firmly establishes Levin as an important scholar and public voice on the Civil War, race, and memory. -- Journal of American History

Levin has done a superb job of charting a course through the complex and sometimes perplexing details of this story. His research is exhaustive, and his critical eye encompasses such diverse elements as John Elder's famous painting of the battle, the many reunions and reenactments held on the battlefield, the creation of the Petersburg National Battlefield, and the ways in which park personnel have tried to interpret the engagement to succeeding generations since 1932... If Levin's study can inspire further work along these lines, its value will be enhanced beyond that of a mere case study, good as it is in that category alone. -- Earl J. Hess -- Journal of the Civil War Era

This is a thoughtful and well-written work, based on solid research. -- Blue & Gray Magazine

Levin contextualizes the emancipationists interpretation within Virginia politics and charts its ultimate triumph during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. . . . Recommended. -- Choice Magazine

Levin, known to many historians for his acclaimed blog Civil War Memory, deftly explores the role of race in this battle for memory. -- Journal of Southern History