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Published on Jul 16, 2014
"Remembering the Battle of the Crater"
The battle is best remembered for the detonation of 8,000 pounds of explosives under a Confederate salient outside of Petersburg, Virginia on the morning of July 30, 1864 and the close-quarter fighting that ensued. It is also, however, the first time in the Eastern Theater of war that an entire division of United States Colored Troops was employed on the battlefield. The well-documented massacre of many of these men by Confederate soldiers as well as the reaction to their use by white Union soldiers is one of the least understood aspects of this battle, but it is crucial to understanding how soldiers on both sides came to terms with profound changes brought about by emancipation and black enlistment. The performance of black soldiers on battlefields such as the Crater and their contribution to Union victory forced Americans to confront questions of citizenship and, ultimately, the legacy and meaning of the Civil War itself.
Recorded at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitor Center in July 2014 as part of the annual Sacred Trust Talks and Book Signings.