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I am excited to announce that my first book, Remembering The Battle of the Crater: War as Murder, is now available from the University Press of Kentucky.
“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 Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory
What is the book about?
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.
Abraham Lincoln Book Shop Interview
Interview with David Thomson of The Civil War Monitor
- M. Keith Harris at Cosmic America
- Jim Cullen at History News Network
- James Durney at TOCWOC blog
- Robert Grandchamp at Civil War News
- Pat Young at What I’m Reading Now
“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
“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
“So-called “memory studies” have come to the forefront in recent years, thanks to the work of distinguished scholars like David Blight, Lesley Gordon, and Carol Reardon. Add to their number now Kevin M. Levin, whose new book Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder, provides an outstanding look at how people North and South, participants and their cultures, dealt with the awful recollection of those hours of carnage and brutality in the Crater.” –William C. Davis, Virginia Tech [Review at History Book Club]
“In examining a single battle across such a wide expanse of time, 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.” –Caroline Janney, Purdue University [Review at Civil War Monitor]
“The work offers compelling evidence supporting the findings of previous studies of how racial attitudes and postwar concerns continue to shape our view of the nation’s bloodiest war.” –Ethan Rafuse, America’s Civil War
“While acknowledging a debt to David Blight’s Race and Reunion, Levin’s succinct and thought-provoking book makes its own contributions to our understanding of the Civil War’s place in the public consciousness.” –Francis MacDonnell, Civil War Book Review
Key Points of Interpretation and Highlights:
- The Confederate response to black Union soldiers was not simply a function of rage.
- Confederate heritage commemorations at the Crater were not unified expressions, but often reflected deep divisions within society.
- African Americans maintained a vibrant memory of the battle and relied on it as a form of racial uplift through the era of Jim Crow.
- The preservation of the battlefield had little to do with reunion and reconciliation between white northerners and southerners.
- Brings the story surrounding the Crater and historical memory all the way to the present day.
Catch up on previous blog posts about the book:
- Capturing the Horror of the Crater
- The Future of Petersburg National Battlefield
- George Washington Williams’s Crater
- Remembering the Crater at Virginia State University
- Remembering USCTs at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
- Did USCTs Massacre Confederates at the Crater?
- Can a Rape on the Northern Neck Explain the Crater Massacre?
- What I am Not Saying About the Crater
- Nat Turner Lived 40 Miles From the Crater
- Lieutenant Freeman Bowley’s Crater
- Was the Battle of the Crater the Last Slave Insurrection in the Western Hemisphere?
- White Union Soldiers, Race, and the Battle of the Crater
- Preserving Petersburg’s African American Past
- Petersburg, Race, and the Aftermath of the Crater
- Some Thoughts About Confederate Veterans and Memory
- The 1937 Crater Reenactment