I thought we would never get here, but in roughly two weeks the 150th anniversary of the Petersburg Campaign kicks off. The staff at the Petersburg National Battlefield has put together a helpful handbook [PDF] that includes all the information you need related to events between mid-June and the end of September. There is quite a lot taking place this summer and fall. From what I’ve heard the crowds have been impressive throughout the commemoration of the Overland Campaign, which is a great sign that public enthusiasm can be sustained.
As you might expect I am very excited about the 150th anniversary of the Crater. I will be in Petersburg beginning on July 29 through August 2. On August 1 there will be two panel discussions on aspects of the battle of the Crater and at 7pm I will be delivering an address on the battle and Civil War memory. The location for the panels and my talk has yet to be decided.
I am so looking forward to the commemoration and I am honored to be a part of it. Hope to see some of you on the Crater battlefield at the crack of dawn on July 30.
For those of you in the Boston area I will be speaking tomorrow evening at 6:30pm at the Walpole Public Library on the battle of the Crater. I am going to talk specifically about the experiences of white Union soldiers and how they responded to having to fight alongside a division of black soldiers. The talk is based on an essay that I recently completed for an edited volume on the Petersburg Campaign that is still in progress and that I hope to be able to share more about in the near future.
I do hope that some of you can make it. I will have books available at a discounted price, which I will be happy to sign. Some of you will remember that I recently blogged about Walpole High’s little Confederate heritage fetish. Perhaps it will come up.
Looking ahead, some of you will be interested in this summer’s Sacred Trust Talks, sponsored by the Gettysburg Foundation in July. I will be speaking on July 5 at 3:30pm followed by a book signing in the Visitor Center lobby. I doubt very many people will be coming to see me, but I am following James I. Robertson so hopefully a few people will stick around.
Thanks to Benjamin Cloyd – author of an excellent study of the history and memory of Civil War prisons – for the very fair review of my book in the most recent issue of Civil War History (March 2014). I should have focused much more on the intersection of the centennial and the civil rights movement in Petersburg.
Cloyd identifies what I now clearly see as the weaker sections of my book. This is likely the last review to appear in an academic journal and overall I am pleased with how the book has been received by the scholarly community. Continue reading
Just a quick reminder that I will be speaking in the following places this month. On March 15 I will be speaking, along with Stephen Engel, Gordon Rhea, Eric Wittenberg, Brian S. Wills, at Longwood University’s annual Civil War seminar. Looking forward to seeing friends in Virginia. Continue reading
I’ve been very pleased with the reception that my book has received from the scholarly community since its publication in June 2012.. My goal was to write something that would be accessible to a wide audience, but would also be of interest to historians of memory, the Civil War and the American South. Even the critical reviews have been fair and have given me much to think about. I have to say, however, that getting a positive review in The Journal of Southern History [February 2014 (pp. 214-15)] is really something special. For many historians it is considered to be the premier journal in the field. The journal can’t review every new study in Civil War history so thanks to the editorial staff for selecting my book and thanks especially to Bonnie Loughlin-Schultz for writing the review.
Kevin M. Levin’s insightful work opens with the battle of the Crater as depicted in the 2003 film Cold Mountain, which presents the battle as most Americans think of it: Union detonation of explosives under a Confederate fortification followed by terrible hand-to-hand combat and Confederate victory. It is no fluke that the film glossed over the pivotal role of the United States Colored Troops (USCT). Instead, its interpretation is the culmination of a nearly 150-year-old contest over how the battle should be remembered.
Levin, known to many historians for his acclaimed blog Civil War Memory, deftly explores the role of race in this battle for memory. In reality, the USCT played a pivotal role and fought bravely in the face of terrible conditions. Petersburg was the first time that General Robert E. Lee’s soldiers faced former slaves on the battlefield, and they responded that day with a violence that held “no tactical purpose” (p. 29). Many captured black troops were executed by Confederate soldiers bent on preserving racial hierarchy in the South. Continue reading