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.
Louis Martin (National Archives)
It’s not until September 26, but I am super stoked about receiving an invitation to speak at the 2014 Conference on Illinois History in Springfield. I’ve never been to Lincoln’s home town.
Even better, I was asked to speak about Private Louis Martin, who as you can see was seriously injured at the battle of the Crater. This image has been with me from the beginning of my research on the Crater and it is featured prominently in my book. Unfortunately, I did not spend any time exploring his story, in part, because so little of it is known. Recently, a marker was placed in a cemetery in Springfield, where he is buried.
Not surprisingly, I am going to approach the subject from the perspective of memory. I want to explore in some detail how this image shapes how we think about the black experience in the Civil War and Martin’s story specifically. I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to this talk.
Hope to see some of you there. More details forthcoming.
Click here for future speaking dates.
Today’s Washington Post features an essay on the Crater by Forstchen and Gingrich, which focuses on the men of the Fourth Division. You may remember that two co-authored a work of historical fiction on the battle back in 2011. Shortly after its publication I was invited by the Atlantic to review the book. Needless to say, the book has numerous problems even as a work of fiction, not the least of which is its failure to deal honestly with the well documented accounts of the massacre of large numbers of black Union soldiers. The authors also imagine a conversation between Robert E. Lee and William and Mahone in which the former orders that no captured black soldiers be harmed. There is no evidence of such a meeting taking place and even a fictional account has numerous problems. Continue reading
You probably won’t be surprised that I have a fairly large file of saved emails from readers who believe that what animates my blogging and research is an intense hatred of Southern/Confederate heritage. One day I am going to go through and write something up about their content. Many of these emails conform to a certain theme that involves claims about what motivated or didn’t motivate their ancestor during the Civil War. It’s a mantra that over the years I’ve accepted as reflective of a relatively small, but passionate community. Continue reading