Reconciliation and Reunion at the Crater

In 1907 a large contingent of Pennsylvanians representing the 48th Pennsylvania Regiment, including the governor, traveled to Petersburg where they were greeted by Virginia’s Governor, Claude A. Swanson and the A.P. Hill Camp Confederate Veterans.  The veterans traveled together on the city’s new electric street cars to the Crater where they unveiled a new monument to the regiment and listened to addresses by the two governors.  William Wells, who served in the regiment, also addressed the audience.  His speech is a wonderful example of the theme of national reunion that eventually overshadowed the “emancipationist legacy” of the war.  This is significant given the racial aspect of the battle of the battle of the Crater.

Here is a short excerpt from his speech:

Nearly a half century ago, we men of the Northland struggled here against the brave men of the Southland in trying to gain possession of this hill crest; but we struggled in vain.  Had our opponents been men of inferior civilization or race, our task might have been accomplished; but we contended with men who were nurtured as we were nurtured, imbued with like sympathies, possessed of similar aspirations, descendants of the same original ancestry, each contending for that, which with different surroundings, he believed to be right.  Time, that healer of all dissensions among men has, during the forty-three years which have intervened since we last stood here, face to face, thrown the mantle of charity and partial forgetfulness over these stirring events; and the bitterness of those days in which brother fought against brother, and father against son, has happily passed away, we hope and believe, never to return, while a new generation, with new ideas, new aspirations, new ideals, has come upon the scene of our activity, and we who fought here are enabled without the loss of manly dignity, to grasp each other’s hand in national pride, and to recall the events of 1861-1865, in which we took so conspicuous a part, only to laud each the deeds of the other.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

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