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Remembering The Battle of the Crater: War as Murder (New Directions in Southern History) Hardcover – June 19, 2012

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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions in Southern History
  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky; First Edition edition (June 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813136105
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813136103
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #926,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


""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 of Creating a Confederate Kentucky: The Lost Cause and Civil War Memory in a Border State" --

""[Remembering The Battle of the Crater] centers on the well documented 'massacre' of the United States Colored Troops by Confederate soldiers during and after the battle, carrying the story on through the eras of the Lost Cause, Virginia's Reconstruction and Readjuster Movement. Levin's work offers a refreshing and inquisitive look at the battle and how the role of the USCT's is now coming into light in subsequent preservation and interpretation efforts."-- Chris Calkins, Former Chief of Interpretation/Historian (Ret.), Petersburg National Battlefield" --

""This is an important study of memory, race, and the Battle of the Crater. Levin traces the troubled story of how the Mine Attack at Petersburg was remembered by survivors and contemporary generations alike, and he makes clear and frank judgments about the tortured ways in which Americans have dealt with, or avoided, key racial aspects of the battle. Levin offers significant and convincing insights as he sheds light on our understanding of historical memory."--Earl J. Hess, author of Into the Crater -- The Mine Attack at Petersburg" --

""In this stunning and well-researched book, Kevin Levin catches the new waves of the study of memory, black soldiers, and the darker underside of the Civil War as well as anyone has. That horrible day at the Crater in Petersburg, its brutal racial facts and legacies, all tangled in the weeds of Confederate Lost Cause lore, have never been exposed like this. Levin is both superb scholar and public historian, showing us a piece of the real war that does now get into the books, as well as into site interpretation."--David W. Blight, author of American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era" --

About the Author

Kevin M. Levin's published writings have appeared in numerous publications, including The Atlantic, New York Times, 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 ( He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By James W. Durney TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 30, 2012
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.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dwayne the Luddite on September 11, 2014
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.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ray Navarro on October 22, 2014
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.
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bill on May 3, 2013
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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More About the Author

Kevin Levin is a historian and educator currently living in Boston. From 2000 to 2011 he taught American history at the St. Anne's - Belfield School in Charlottesville, Virginia. His published work in the area of Civil War history and historical memory can be found in popular magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals. He is currently researching the history of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

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