The latest issue of the Journal of American History (June 2013) includes a review of my Crater book by Chad L. Williams, who teaches here in town at Brandeis University. This is a very fair review. I couldn’t be more pleased to see that Professor Williams highlighted the chapters on William Mahone, the Readjusters and local Virginia politics as constituting the most important contribution to the literature on Civil War memory. Williams is also the first reviewer to mention my blog since Jim Cullen’s review at History News Network last summer. Overall, the reviews have been very positive, which is incredibly gratifying.
Interest in the Battle of the Crater has become something of a cottage industry recently. Books on the July 30, 1864, clash between the Union army of the Potomac and the Confederate army of northern Virginia on the outskirts of Petersburg, Virginia, have appeared from a diverse assortment of “historians,” ranging from Richard Slotkin to Newt Gingrich. The massive explosion (which created the crater and was intended to break Confederate defenses) and the subsequent disastrous Union assault mark two of the most spectacular and tragic moments of the Civil War. However, much of the renewed scholarly and popular interest in the battle has centered on the presence of African American troops and their slaughter at the hands of opposing Confederate soldiers—one of the worst racial massacres of the war. Continue reading “Crater Book Reviewed in Journal of American History”
The academic journal reviews of Remembering the Battle of the Crater are just beginning to appear. Overall the reviews have been very positive. It’s encouraging to know that historians, who you respect, believe that the time it took to research and write was time well spent and that it constitutes a worthy addition to the broader historiography. I was surprised that the book review editor of The Journal of the Civil War Era asked Earl Hess to review my book given that he contributed a blurb for the back cover. Either way, it doesn’t get any better than receiving Hess’s stamp of approval in this particular journal. I am thrilled with his review.
There are definitely some things I would do different if I had it to do over again. For one thing I would have done a better job of emphasizing the extent to which the 1903 and 1937 reenactments reflected the limits of sectional reconciliation. This would have situated the book more comfortably within a growing body of scholarship on Civil War memory.
The Journal of the Civil War Era (June 2013): 290-92
The Battle of the Crater, fought on July 30, 1864, as part of the third Union offensive during the Petersburg campaign, has drawn a good deal of attention in the past few years. Several books have been published dealing with the military history of the event, which now seems well covered in the secondary literature. Kevin M. Levin, however, has written a study not of the battle itself but of how it has been remembered over the past 150 years, with a special emphasis on the controversial fact that a division of black troops participated in the attack that followed detonation of the mine that created the famous crater. Many of those troops were slaughtered in the counterattack that restored Robert E. Lee’s line outside the city, shot down in cold blood by enraged Confederate soldiers. Continue reading “Earl Hess Reviews My Crater Book”
Update: I’ve sold two copies of the book in the past hour. I guess there is no such thing as a negative review.
I have to say that I really thought my book’s Amazon page was going to be flooded with negative reviews from day one of publication. I even spent some time strategizing over how I might respond, but the negative reviews never appeared. Better late than never. Up until three days ago there was only one review posted. In the last few days one very positive review appeared and today I noticed the following review from “silver dollar”. Continue reading “How I Fooled David Blight”
Update: Just received a private email stating that I am “incapable of feeling anything but hate for Confederate soldiers.” As always, thanks for taking the time to comment.
This weekend I was in Petersburg, where I gave a talk to a group of educators as part of teachers conference sponsored by the Civil War Trust. I had a great time. It’s always nice to be able to catch up with my good friend, Garry Adelman, and meet new teachers. Yesterday morning I had a chance to walk the Crater battlefield, where I got to see the incredible new view shed from the Crater back toward the guns at Fort Morton and the staging area for the battle. After that, I headed on over to Blandford Cemetery for a quiet stroll.
I am a sucker for Blandford. It’s not the cemetery’s importance to the battle or the fact that I can identify many of the names on the markers or even the beautiful Tiffany Windows in the church that I find so impressive. When I walk through the arch to the Confederate section I am truly moved by what I see. It’s a bit deceptive, especially if you have already visited the Confederate section at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. Blandford doesn’t have the grandeur or sophistication of Hollywood and that is probably why I prefer this place. You won’t find a pyramid at Blandford. In fact, there are relatively few markers in the Confederate section, but it doesn’t take long to realize that those markers outline row upon row of unidentified Confederate soldiers buried by their respective states. This section of the cemetery is a testament to the profound sense of grief and loss experienced by the community in the years following the war. So many young men buried without any identification and far from home. The monument to the unknown Confederate is perfectly positioned at the top of the ridge overlooking these men. How can you not be touched on a deeply emotional level? Continue reading “Our Confederate Dead”
First things first. Thanks to all of you who emailed yesterday to share your concerns about our safety in light of the attacks that took place here in Boston. My wife and I have lived in Boston for close to two years. After watching the response of our community to yesterday’s tragic events, I can honestly say that there is no other place I would rather live. I love this city.
Last month I traveled to Charlottesville to take part in the Virginia Festival of the Book. My panel included my good friend, Rick Britton, and new friend, Ronald Coddington. We talked about our respective books and fielded a number of excellent questions from the audience.
This coming Saturday C-SPAN will air a panel discussion about United States Colored Troops that I recently moderated at Gettysburg College. Let’s just say it was an unusual and entertaining discussion. I’ve actually thought about it a bit and will share some thoughts over the weekend.