Here are three photographs of the Crater from the Petersburg Museum that did not make it into my book. The first was taken inside the mineshaft itself and is dated 1926, though it is difficult to estimate exactly where. Notice the sunlight that is coming in from above. I assume the photograph was taken close to the entrance. The second one shows a depression in the soil that follows the mineshaft up to the Crater itself, which is located by the cluster of trees just over the ridge line. It doesn’t look much different from today. It was taken sometime between 1926 and 1934. The final photograph, I believe, is from a point just west of the Crater looking northwest. The tree line is much fuller today and extends all the way to the Jerusalem Plank Road. It was taken in 1906. I would love to find a photograph of the battlefield in the 1920s that showed the actual golf course.
On Thursday I head to Charlottesville to take part in the Virginia Festival of the Book. I’ve been looking forward to this event for the past six months. As many of you know I lived and taught there for ten years. It’s one of my favorite events of the year and one that I hoped to participate in once the book was finished. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to return and share the finished product with friends, who supported me personally and professionally.
I will be joining Ron Coddington for a panel called “Images of the Civil War.” Many of you know Ron from his many NYTs Disunion articles as well as his three books of Civil War soldier photographs published by John Hopkins University Press. The plan is to take a few minutes each to share some images from our books, respond to a few comments from my friend and moderator, Rick Britton, before opening it up to the audience.
This is going to be a lot of fun. There will be plenty of books for sale. The event takes place on Friday at 4pm at the City Council Chambers on the Downtown Mall (605 E Main St.). I would love to see you there.
p.s. If my presence isn’t sufficient to bring you out, Michaela will be there as well.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the current state of interpretation re: the history of black Union soldiers during the Civil War and beyond in preparation for the Future of Civil War History Conference, which will take place later this week in Gettysburg. As I’ve said before, I think there is much to celebrate as we look back over the past 50 years. The number of scholarly and popular books being published continues at a brisk pace and popular representations of black soldiers can be seen in recent Hollywood movies such as Cold Mountain and Lincoln and even a historical novel about USCTs at the Crater by Newt Gingrich. Most importantly, many history textbooks now devote significant space to black Union soldiers and their contributions. Throughout much of the Civil War sesquicentennial USCTs have been front and center in museum exhibits, symposia, in the pages of local newspapers as human interest stories as well as in the form of new monuments and markers. Continue reading “Carole Emberton Reconsiders the Black Military Experience”
Looks like students at South Pointe High School are bringing to life the diary of Lt. Samuel “Catawba” Lowry, who served in the 17th South Carolina Infantry. Lowry’s diary is well worth reading. He provides a great deal of detail about camp life, battle, as well as his experiences with his servants. His final diary entry comes just days before the battle of the Crater in which he was killed. Lowry’s servant, Henry Avery recovered the body and escorted it home to Yorkville for burial. On the one hand, I love projects like this. Unfortunately, it looks like both teacher and students might be taking a bit too much license with the diary.
It is a story about Lowry’s home and his family – a story about his beloved Southland. Most of all, is a story about relationships and bonds of brotherhood. It is also a story that some of the South Pointe cast members hope will challenge the stereotypes of the Civil War and slavery. Three of the essential voices in the play are Lowry family slaves: Horace, Jesse and Henry. They accompanied young Samuel to war. The diary never uses the word slave. Lowry refers to them as servants or boy. It was Henry who descended into the crater, recovering Lowry’s body. Henry then found Lowry’s possessions – including the diary – and then brought Lowry home to Yorkville for burial. South Pointe teacher James Chrismon and students such as junior Nicholas Arsenal turned the diary into a stage play. The play is not literal – some theatrical licenses were taken – but it stays true to Lowry’s beliefs and to his prose….
Anthony McCullough, one of two black students in the play, said the production “makes me realize that black people have come a long way.” Arsenal said he hopes the play changes some perspective on slavery. “It wasn’t right, but not everyone was treated so badly. “This play is about equality,” Arsenal continued. “Race doesn’t matter. Anyone can be your family,” he said.
Of course, it would be a mistake to blame students for characterizing the relationship between master and slave as one of equality. Responsibility for this falls squarely on their teacher. This might be a good time to recommend one of Gilder-Lehrman’s summer Teacher Seminars.
Update: Thanks again everyone. Sold a total of 10 copies on the first day.
You can now purchase my book, Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder, directly from me for the low price of $25 plus $3.00 shipping. Just click the “Buy Now” button below and you will be taken to my PayPal site. Please use the Contact Form if you would like a signature and inscription. The University Press of Kentucky prices the book at $35 plus shipping and handling, so I hope that this discounted price for a signed first edition makes the purchase more appealing. This is what I sell the book for at talks, workshops, etc.
“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