Out of the Past
History Lessons 
Battle of the Crater

Battle of the Crater

Part of the Siege of Petersburg during the American Civil War,  the Battle of the Crater took place on July 30, 1864, between the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee and the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Major General George G. Meade (under the direct supervision of the general-in-chief, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant).

During weeks of trench warfare much like what would occur in World War I, Union forces tunneled under the Southern lines and set off underground explosives that created a craterous gap in the Confederate defenses.

Unit after unit was sent charging into and around the crater, but none got through during an assault that General U.S. Grant described as "the saddest affair I have witnessed in the war." 

The battle is recognized as one of the Civil War's bloodiest struggles, claiming a combined 5,000 casualties, including  many members of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) under Union Brigadier General Edward Ferrero. Significantly, this was the first battle in which Confederate soldiers fought face-to-face against African American soldiers.

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Remembering The Battle of the Crater
Remembering The Battle of the Crater
War as Murder
by Kevin M. Levin
The University Press of Kentuckyi, 2012

This examination of a single battle by
Civil War historian and teacher Kevin M. Levin illuminates the roles of race and politics in shaping our collective history of the war.

The battle occurred during the Union Army's seige of Petersburg, Virginia at the end of July, 1964.  The "Crater" was created by a huge explosion set off by Union forces beneath the Confederate front line. A subsequent advance by Union troops into the gap ended disastrously.

This book focuses on the United States Colored Troops (USCTs) who were massacred during and after the battle and how the story of their demise has been shrouded from public memory.

"That is the subject of this book," Levin points out. "This process of preserving a certain kind of memory that moves to minimize or ignore the participation of USCTs in one ofthe bloodiest battles of the Civil War."

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