One of my readers was kind enough to leave a link to this video on a previous post, which captured the explosion of the Hawthorn mine at Beaumont Hamel, Somme, France, 7.20 a.m. lst July 1916. The mine was exploded by 252 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers using about 40,000 lbs of ammonal. The resulting crater was 80ft deep and measured 150 yds by 100 yds. In contrast, the men of the 48th Pennsylvania loaded 8,000 lbs (320 kegs, 25 pounds in each bag) into the mine. The explosion left a crater measuring 126 feet long at the surface, 69 feet long at the bottom, 87 feet wide at the top, and 38 feet wide at the bottom. Henry Pleasants estimated that it was 25 feet deep.
While I have had an opportunity to begin work on a few new projects, much of my time has been spent getting my Crater ms. ready for publication. The folks at the University Press of Kentucky have been incredibly helpful in providing the necessary support and encouragement to this first-time author. I finished collecting the images and securing the required permissions to publish. A number of the images have never been published, though they are easily accessible on various websites. I am hoping that the production staff will be able to use copies of images printed from microfilm that depict the 1937 Crater reenactment at Petersburg. They are very cool. In addition, I am including what may be the only image of the William Griffith house, which functioned as a small museum and helped to ensure the preservation of the battlefield until it was acquired by the federal government in the 1930s. [Thanks to NPS historian, Jimmy Blankenship, for providing copies of this particular image.]
The next stage will involve the heavy lifting of reading through the page proofs and creating the index. Things are moving along and we are still on schedule for a spring 2012 release. At the top is another fascinating image of the Crater that was shared with me and which can be found at the U.S. Army Military History Institute at Carlisle. It’s a postwar photograph of what I believe are Confederate works adjacent to the Crater. Notice the two skulls and bones. I found accounts of the discovery of human remains as late as the 1930s.
Of course, one wonders why he was invited in the first place. He certainly is entertaining. His speeches have been fine tuned to garner a strong emotional response from those who have a strong need to see an African American man dressed in Confederate uniform, who fervently believes that large numbers of blacks fought in the army and that that the black population as a whole maintained the strongest ties to the Confederate cause and their masters through to the end of the war. In the trailer that I posted yesterday, H.K. calls for Lincoln to be disinterred so he can be placed on trial for war crimes.
In the spring of 2010 I was interviewed by Ken Wyatt for a documentary titled “Colored Confederates.” He filmed for about two hours and we talked about a number of issues related to what I have suggested is one of the most misunderstood topics in Civil War history. Well, it looks like the documentary is close to completion and today I came across the trailer. There is a short snippet of me about half way through that comes after one of H.K. Edgerton’s impassioned speeches. Wyatt also interviewed Nelson Winbush, Bruce Levine, Gerald Prokopowicz, Earl Ijames, and Ervin Jordan. There is a Facebook page for the film that also includes a few shots of me and Ken. I will keep you updated as we get closer to a release date.
I get it. The Confederate flag is offensive to many African Americans. What has become something of a mantra within the black community is arguably the clearest example of a collective voice that for far too long was kept silent in discussions about how our Civil War ought to be remembered. While I support calls to take down Confederate flags in a few select places I tend to resist the idea of tearing things down that provide windows into our nation’s past. These calls almost always reveal deep frustration and bitterness, but they rarely involve education and understanding. John Hennessy is correct in pointing out the deep chasm between white and black Americans when it comes to Civil War memory.