Tag Archives: Petersburg

Destination Petersburg 150th

PNB/Crater 150I 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.

William Forstchen and Newt Gingrich Massacre the Crater… Again

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

Ohio Men Cheer For the USCTs at Petersburg

Earlier today I was going through my collection of original Civil War era newspaper and came across an issue of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated from July 9, 1864. The first page includes this wonderful illustration of the charge of General Hinks’s “colored troops” outside of Petersburg in mid-June. Ohio troops cheer them on in the background. It’s a wonderful find as I continue to explore how white Union soldiers responded to the use of USCTs a few weeks later at the Crater.

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It’s a powerful image, but we should proceed carefully in interpreting it. For some it is an image that fits into a popular and satisfying narrative that is framed around slavery, emancipation, military service, freedom, postwar promises of civil rights, and the eventual slide into Jim Crow. From this perspective we may be tempted to dismiss the cheering of the Ohio men as something fleeting or, in hindsight, even insincere. Such an interpretation, however, misses a salient point about white Union soldiers. They were not engaged in a civil rights struggle. Continue reading

The Year of the Crater/Upcoming Talks

Commemorating 1864 means, among other things, commemorating and remembering the battle of the Crater. As you might imagine the highlight for me will be the opportunity to speak in Petersburg on the anniversary of the battle itself on July 30. Beyond that I wanted to take a minute to share where I will be discussing the Crater in the next few months both here in Boston and elsewhere.

  • February 7: “Lincoln, Race, and the Battle of the Crater,” Boston Union Club, Boston, MA.
  • February 9: Book Signing and Talk, “Remembering the Battle of the Crater,” Sons of Union Veterans, Concord, MA.
  • February 17: Book Signing and Talk, “Remembering the Battle of the Crater,” University of North Carolina at Pembroke/Workshop with area teachers on digital literacy and the myth of the black Confederate soldier.
  • March 15: Confederates Assess the Battle of the Crater, Longwood University, Civil War Seminar, Longwood, VA.

My calendar is quickly filling up, but I am still open to additional speaking engagements as long as they don’t conflict with my teaching responsibilities. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Welcome to 1864

This morning I was reminded that today is the first day of the sesquicentennial of the War in 1864. As I alluded to this past spring, it is going to be very interesting to see how the final sixteen months of the war will be commemorated and remembered. There are practical issues of funding, but there is also the turn that the war itself took in 1864. Those of us on the education/public history side of things will have to think long and hard about how we engage the public about some of the more important and challenging issues of the war. Continue reading