I’ve received some very positive feedback for my article, “William Mahone, the Lost Cause, and Civil War History,” which was published in the December 2005 issue of the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. My newest publication, “The Battle of the Crater, National Reunion, and the Creation of the Petersburg National Military Park: 1864-1937” will be published shortly in the Virginia Social Science Journal (2006, Vol. 41, pp: 13-34). Here is the abstract:
This essay examines how interpretations of the Battle of the Crater evolved as a result of various conditions within and beyond the state of Virginia between 1864 and 1937. As one of the few remaining sites from the Petersburg siege, the Crater attracted a steady stream of visitors following the war. Starting in 1875 and continuing into the twentieth century, Confederate and Union veterans met on the battlefield to celebrate the heroism of the common soldier and to promote sectional reconciliation. This study focuses specifically on the steps taken by veterans, politicians and preservationists to bring about a national park in Petersburg that would include the Crater site. An important component of this focus will be to show the extent to which African-American participation in this battle was ignored for the purposes of reconciliation. The disappearance of African-Americans from the historical terrain can be seen clearly in two reenactments, which took place in Petersburg in 1903 and 1937. Reenactments provided a unique opportunity not only for veterans to meet with former comrades, but also for the community to construct and maintain a collective memory. Much of that collective memory underscored principles embodied in the Lost Cause and tended to reinforce white supremacy and national reunion.
Both the Mahone article and this one are part of my larger book manuscript on the Crater. Breaking the larger project down into individual articles has made it much easier for me to focus and achieve a certain amount of progress. It is of course very difficult to maintain focus on research and work as a full-time teacher. The next issue of the popular magazine America’s Civil War will include one of my articles which examines Confederate reactions to the Crater and the use of United States Colored Troops.