Why Is This Monument Here?
Following my interviews yesterday at the Petersburg National Battlefield Park I made my way through part of the driving tour that ends at the Crater. I shot this photograph at Stop #3/Confederate Battery 9. It is a monument to United States Colored Troops (dedicated in 1993) who served in both the Army of the Potomac and Army of the James during the Petersburg Campaign. Now it is true that black troops in Hink’s Division captured this position on the first day, but given the prominence of the Crater in our collective memory and as a tourist destination the question must be asked: Why is this marker not at the Crater?
Follow Up: I received an email from an NPS historian who suggested that the placement of the marker can be explained by the fact that this was the USCTs first major engagement in Virginia and that it was successful. Neither can be said about the Crater. This is a reasonable response and I want to make it clear that I wasn’t attempting to point to anything conspiratorial. In fact, it is important to acknowledge that there is a monument to black soldiers in Petersburg. My only problem with this explanation, however, is that the monument does not address the action of that particular engagement, but is a more general tribute to their service. In addition, I still have to wonder whether the Crater would have made for a more ideal location given its popularity and given the kind of story that can be told about the service of USCTs in the war and its consequences both on the battlefield and as part of the story of emancipation and freedom.