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Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder Hardcover – Jun 19 2012


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"Levin offers something new and valuable in this book. His approach of unpacking the complex telling and forgetting of the events surrounding one battle allows him a focus and specificity that even many very good treatments of historical memory often lack. Remembering the Battle of the Crater stands to make a real and lasting contribution to the field of Civil War memory studies." -- Anne Marshall, author o "f Creating a" "Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State"

About the Author

Kevin M. Levin has published writings have appeared in numerous publications, including The History Teacher, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Southern Historian, and Virginia at War, 1865. He is also the writer of a well-known blog, entitled Civil War Memory (http: //cwmemory.com/). He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Amazon.com: 9 reviews
16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Building history a memory at a time July 30 2012
By James W. Durney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Unlike Fort Pillow, what occurred at the Crater is not open to debate. Whites on both sides murdered members of the United States Colored Troops (USCT).
The battle is an example of what commanders should not do if they want to succeed.
The entire operation from start to finish lacked support from army HQ, plan changes for political considerations hurt the operation but everyone refused to abandon it.
The plan took on a life of its' own that no senior officer had the will or courage to end.
Soldiers at the front suffered. Command squandered a possibly good plan but fed men into a battle with little chance of success.
The Crater is the Army of Northern Virginia's first experience with the USCT and they reacted badly.
Worse, white men in the Army of Potomac murdered members of the USCT in hope of protecting themselves.

The Crater is a popular subject with the publication of several books and a novel in the last few months.
This unique book is not another battle history but tells the story of the Crater's history. This is a look at how and what we chose to remember of an incident.
Additionally, the book looks at the changes time causes in how and what we chose to remember.
This is not a history of the battle but a history of the history of the battle.

The book opens with a description of the battle that centering on the attack by Mahone's Brigade breaking the Union's resistance.
The author insures the reader knows the important parts of the battle, without bogging down in details.
With this as our point of departure, we follow two major story lines.

The first deals with the preservation or lack of preservation from the end of the war to our times. Petersburg wants normal.
The city wants to restore the landscape and blot out the scars of war. The owner of the Crater wants an attraction with the public buying tickets.
As veterans visit the battlefields, the city leaders realize some preservation of the siege lines is good business.
This leads to the establishment of the National Military Park and the current preservation efforts.
A major discussion is the changes in the park's presentation over the last 80 years.
We look at how the Civil War community, the public and minority groups accept or resist these changes.

The second story line follows the veterans, white Virginians and Petersburg's Black community from 1865 to the current day.
This is a detailed look at race relations during this time. We start with little official recognition that black men fought at the Crater.
Unofficially, the Confederate veterans were very willing to talk about this. They had no problem talking about the murder of wounded and prisoners during and after the battle.
While the teller of the story never seems to be the one killing prisoners, this is a common memory. Mahone's Brigade was comprised of regiments from the surrounding area.
These men were very active in framing the narration and excluding Blacks.
This starts to change in the 1950s as renewed interest in the USCT and the Civil Rights movement challenges the accepted narration.

This well-written book looks into a different area for Civil War History. It is more social political history than military history.
However, this is the story of how we understand and remember history. This book needs to be read and remembered.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Battle of the Crater Sept. 11 2014
By Dwayne the Luddite - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is well documented but reads more like a thesis (which it was) than a history. The author's premise may be debatable and I don't agree with the entirety of his premise but the references cited within do support those ideas as intended. (Again - it is more of a thesis than a history so keep in mind that the citations are INTENDED to support his premise.)

I cannot dispute the majority of this book and it jibes well with other accounts of General Mahone's (and other's) actions and, to my mind, even more importantly it confirms and expands on Mahone's actions as a political figure with the 'Readjuster Party'.

If you're looking for a rousing 'yee-haw' story of battle (from either side's perspective) then this book may not be for you (Killer Angels is a GREAT read for that).

If you're interested in fleshing out your understanding of this battle and the figures involved then the citations footnoted in this book alone are well worth following up with. You'll find plenty of other books to read just by checking out the sources he cites.

Folks who are living in the past or who are racially motivated might do well to read something else more along their 'party lines'. History is a study of fact & while the author proposes an interpretation of motives that might offend some (of either side); his effort at footnoting his sources should be noted. (That means; if you doubt his premise then read and -->VERIFY his sources and then come to your own conclusions! You don't have to trust this book, what has been spoon-fed from schools, race-baiters or even reviewers such as myself).

Agree or disagree: I found books listed in his footnotes which may help increase my understanding of these events and for that alone I thank him.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Very good reading. July 29 2015
By George C. Harpole - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very informative book about a little known battle of the Civil War! Very good reading.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Excellent read Oct. 22 2014
By Ray Navarro - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
After reading the negative reviews on this book I knew it was a book I needed to read. I found the book an excellent read. Well written, well researched with the author's views objectively presented.
6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A great book on the Civil War in Memory May 3 2013
By Bill - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just loved this book. Couldn't put it down. Extremely well written, and persuasively argued. I have led groups of college students on tours of the Petersburg Battlefield six times over the last decade, but this book will make my next visit to the battlefield a few weeks from now so much richer. Anyone interested in the memory of the Civil War will find this an immensely rewarding read.


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