Tag Archives: Crater

Speaking in Newburyport, MA on Wednesday Evening

For those of you who live in the greater Boston area and are looking to get out for a few hours tomorrow evening I would love to see you in Newburyport.  More specifically, in nearby Salisbury [East Parish United Methodist Church, 8 Lafayette Rd. (Rt. 1)].  I will be giving a talk to the Merrimac Civil War Round Table on the battle of the Crater.  My talk will focus specifically on how Confederates responded to the presence of United States Colored Troops on the battlefield and in the letters and diaries written in the immediate aftermath.  The meeting begins at 7:30pm.

I will have books on hand at a discounted price and will be happy to personalize a copy for you.  Hope to see you.  If you can’t make tomorrow evening’s presentation you can catch me on October 26 at the Civil War Round Table of Greater Boston in Waltham.

Earlier today my friend Keith Harris posted a review of my book at Cosmic America.  There is really no reason to read beyond the first two sentences:

Let’s get straight to the point here. Kevin Levin’s new book, Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder,  is an exceptionally solid work.

In all seriousness, I appreciate Keith taking the time to read my book.  He makes a couple of really important points about where my book fits into the broader field of Civil War memory studies, which I am going to respond to very soon.

Interview With The Civil War Monitor

Thanks to David Thomson for the opportunity to interview with The Civil War Monitor’s new series, Behind the Lines.  We talked mainly about my Crater book and toward the end I babble on a bit about blogging and social media.  If you are curious the book is doing very well.  Some of you are familiar with the standard academic press contract and I am now confident that within a few months I will make enough profit to take my wife out to a nice dinner.  You can still pick up the book at a 40% discount.  Just use the coupon code on the book page.  [The code will override the 20% discount that you will see on the publisher's book page.]

The book has received some favorable reviews.  Jim Cullen reviewed it for History News Network earlier this summer and I was especially pleased to see Caroline Janney’s positive review in The Civil War Monitor.  I first learned about William Mahone in a summer seminar for history teachers at the University of Virginia taught by Gary Gallagher and William Thomas. Carrie was one of the teaching assistants for the course.  I am very much looking forward to her forthcoming study of Civil War memory, which will be published next year as part of the University of North Carolina Press’s Littlefield Series.

A couple of shorter blog posts have appeared with mixed reviews.  Brendan Wolfe offered a thoughtful and critical assessment at the Encyclopedia Virginia blog on parts of the first chapter.  I offered some feedback, but have not seen anything on the rest of the book.  More curious is Tim Talbott’s review at Random Thoughts on History.  It seems I overlooked a Confederate account of the battle that even he can’t reference.  Again, most of the focus is on the first chapter.  In the end I appreciate that they took the time to read at least parts of the book.

Appearance on Civil War Talk Radio

Earlier today I was interviewed on Civil War Talk Radio by Gerry Prokopowicz of East Carolina University.  We talked mainly about the book, including the battle, William Mahone’s political career, the two Crater reenactments, and briefly about interpretation at the Crater today.  This is my second appearance on CWTR.  The first time was back in 2006 when I had just published a short article about the battle in America’s Civil War.  Nice to be able to return to talk about the book and a much broader story.  Thanks to Gerry for another enjoyable experience on the radio.

Listen to the interview here.

Interview at Abraham Lincoln Book Shop

A few weeks ago I was interviewed, along with Glenn LaFantasie, at the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago.  It was a real honor to be invited to take part in their Virtual Book Signing program.  The interview and book signing was recorded and is now available on their YouTube channel.  The store still has a few signed copies of my Crater book and I encourage you to support the store if interested in a first edition.  All four parts can be found below.

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Why Petersburg’s South Side Depot Matters

I couldn’t be more pleased to hear that we are one step closer to seeing Petersburg’s South Side Depot renovated and utilized by the National Park Service as a welcome center and as a site to interpret the city’s rich Civil War history and beyond.  It’s nice to see the involvement of the Civil War Trust as well.  While I fully support their focus on battlefields it is essential that they involve themselves in the preservation of endangered sites beyond the battlefield that can only enhance the public’s understanding of the war.  In the case of Petersburg the battlefield was the city itself.

As someone who has thought a great deal about the challenges of interpreting the city’s Civil War history the addition of this site downtown will assist the NPS in their continued effort to reach out to the local population, especially African Americans.  I explore some of these more recent challenges in the final chapter of my new book on the battle of the Crater and historical memory.

Many local blacks that I interviewed during the course of my research never learned about or even visited the local battlefields, including the Crater.  One gentleman shared that while growing up he believed the site of the Crater was off limits to blacks.  Others simply believed that the NPS’s mission was to interpret and protect and interpretation that appealed to whites only.  As recent as the 1970s black students at Petersburg State University believed that the primary function of the NPS to be the “maintaining or glorifying the image of the Confederacy.”  The upshot is a history of mistrust that the NPS has worked hard to overcome since this time.

A comment by NPS Superintendent Lewis Rogers echoes these concerns:

I’m African-American. When I grew up, I didn’t think there was anything in the Civil War for me. I learned there were African-Americans who fought in the Civil War, and Native Americans who fought in the Civil War, both of which fought at Petersburg.  We want to reach out to the urban population … and to become more a part of fabric of the community. We have four sites, but most are out in more rural areas. … We want the opportunity to be right in town and be part of the fabric of the community. We hope it will also help stimulate the economy.

An NPS presence downtown will build on the addition of walking tours that have proven to be very successful and popular among locals.  The Depot itself will take this one step further by applying the necessary assets to interpret not only the battles, but the postwar period as well.  William Mahone used the Depot as an office during part of this period, which opens up a number of avenues to discuss his involvement in the railroads as well as the racial politics of the Readjuster Party during the 1880s.

All in all this is really good news for Petersburg and I can’t wait to see what they do with the place.