Black History Month: Petersburg – Crater of Despair

Even if you’re from central Virginia, you don’t visit the city of Petersburg.  There’s very little reason to do so, unless you want to see first hand the results of black blight and a ruined city. If someone says they’re from Petersburg, its usually met with a wary glance in response. And for good reason.

It’s a city perpetually on the verge of collapse – either due to crime or financial malfeasance. The city’s corruption, crime and incompetence is practically ignored by both the local and national news. Unlike Baltimore and Birmingham, Petersburg is small and backwater enough to even be overlooked by the intrepid scholars that document the very real decline of black ruled cities.

If it wasn’t for the city’s ties to The War of Northern Aggression and the Commonwealth’s funds for maintaining certain historical elements of the city and the surrounding area, the entirety of Petersburg would be an unlivable slum. To be fair though, reckless White hipsters, ignorant of colored crime and fanatical in the “diversity is our greatest strength” dogma, have attempted to gentrify certain neighborhoods in the city, much like their northern cousins are doing in Brooklyn and Harlem. They’ve done the same to the more seedier parts of Richmond – that a few hipster boys and girls get mugged or burglarized by the soon-to-be-displaced blacks seems not to deter their gentrification schemes.

But, Petersburg is a bit different from both Richmond and New York City. The city’s small size (around 32,000) makes it easier to stand-out if you’re an effeminate White do-gooder. In a larger city, the gentrifying crusaders can escape to a nearby enclave of like minded folks and drink their realities away. In Richmond, the hipsters can simply walk a few blocks away from the “dark” part of town and they’ll be safely back in an all-White, albeit colorfully tattooed, neighborhood. Richmond is 50% black and is basically black run – its dysfunctional and dangerous for sure, but its not quite the absolute dystopia that Petersburg is (and always will be).

You see, Petersburg is 80% black. Once you get in those high percentage points, its guaranteed that you’re going to see some very serious societal breakdowns. That’s not a pie-in-the-sky theory, that’s law. To think otherwise is akin to not believing in gravity or that water isn’t wet. When a purposefully blind (as in blind to race realism) local liberal wants to challenge me on the dangers of a majority-minority city, I simply ask them if they’re willing to take a midnight stroll through downtown Newport News. They won’t and, deep down, they know why.

And, what makes Petersburg so tragic is the amount of blood spilt to stop it from happening. An estimated 42,000 Yankees and their colored cannon fodder became casualties during the nine month siege of the city. The Confederate casualty estimate is approximately 28,000. If the men of the 100th Pennsylvania Regiment (which would be completely thrashed outside of Petersburg) could see the city today, there’s no doubt they would have joined the Confederate cause or simply returned home.

The Richmond–Petersburg Campaign consisted of nine grueling months of pitiless trench warfare. The Union armies were commanded by the bloodthirsty drunkard and eventual failed president, Ulysses S. Grant. Having been unsuccessful in capturing Petersburg (an important supply depot at the time), he had massive trench lines constructed – they would ultimately extend over an unbelievable 30 miles – from the outskirts of the Capital of the Confederacy to around the eastern and southern outskirts of Petersburg. On the opposing side was the great General Robert E. Lee and his ragged defenders – if Petersburg fell, than the Confederacy and the remnants of the Founders’ Republic would fall with it.

It was a fight for civilization. Ultimately, the forces of civilization were defeated. Jim Crow was able to shore up black dysfunction for a time. But, with those practical solutions now removed, the city has devolved to what her defenders knew it would – a crater of despair.

The Battle of the Crater, not the siege of the city, is the more well known element of the city’s history. The battle also acts as the perfect metaphor of the Cockade City– an erupting and massive crater, filled with not only despair and death, but completely devoid of innovation and civility. Its also stark (and bleak) evidence of Negro capabilities.

If you’re unfamiliar with the battle, its one of the more fascinating (in a macabre sort of way) and deadly operations of the entire war.

Perhaps out of boredom and restlessness, Grant approved the following plan to break the Confederate lines and end the siege of Petersburg: use his engineers to dig a massively long tunnel under the Southern defenses, pack the end of the tunnel with 8,000 pounds of gunpowder, blow up Johnny Reb, gamble on extensively (supposedly) well-trained black troops to maneuver around the exploded crater, brush aside the disoriented Confederate troops and amble on into Petersburg singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Sounds like an inventive plan. What could go wrong?

Plenty. For one, Grant put the operation in the hands of his generals, George Meade and Ambrose Burnside – Burnside, in particular, being one of the worst military commanders of all time. The only two things that did work: the tunnel and the explosion. The tunnel was successfully dug by Pennsylvania boys who in civilian life had been miners. And, the gigantic explosion did immediately kill around 300 unaware Confederate troops. Afterwards though, all hell broke loose.

The Union generals got cold feet on the black troops’ abilities and worried that they would be slaughtered (they eventually would). So, instead of rushing them towards the confused and dazed Southerners, they ordered a completely untrained (in the operation) White division (1st Division of the IX Corps) to dash headlong towards the now-exploded crater. Instead of charging around the crater, the Yankees just surged (after some time, allowing the Confederates to regroup) into the vast hole in the ground, ludicrously thinking it would make a good firing pit.

The Southerners, formerly stunned by the unexpected explosion, reformed and setup positions at the edge of the crater. Then, they began eradicating the White Union troops trapped in the pit. Confederate General (and VMI graduate) William Mahone called it a “turkey shoot.” Not content to allow just the White Union division (and other elements of the IX Corps) from being butchered, Burnside ordered the supposedly trained colored units to engage at the crater. To be fair though, Burnside probably thought the black troops would do what they were trained for – skirt around the massive hole and engage with the Confederate troops. Unsurprisingly to us though, that didn’t happen.

The black troops just charged straight into the tremendous hole in the ground that any sane person could tell was certain death. Confederate troops only needed to fire their muskets into the blue mass of Yankee troops trapped in the crater. They didn’t even need to aim, just point at the blue mass and fire. As the maelstrom of death continued, the Yankees killed the black troops in the crater with them, thinking that the Confederates would give them leeway should they be captured.

After only a few hours, Grant’s army was bleeding from close to 4,000 casualties (including killed, wounded and missing in action). The Confederates less than 1,500. For Grant, those numbers were replaceable.

All that death and destruction for modern-day Petersburg. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry when you think about the suffering that ensued for Petersburg to corrupt into its current state.

So, how bad is Petersburg?

Image result for Petersburg Virginia decay

Bad is putting it mildly. Over the past several years, the black-run city has spent all of financial reserves, then continued to keep spending money. Short-term loans ensued once the well went dry – the city managers assumed the loans would be offset by anticipated tax revenue. What genius approved that financial scheme? An 80% black city would be a wellspring of a tax base? The idea is laughable.

Once the funds from the loans ceased, the city decided to renege on its payments. Lenders won’t loan to Petersburg anymore now. And, some of its fire and rescue equipment have been repossessed – embarrassing. Petersburg’s law enforcement has been decimated due to the lack of money, with many cops leaving the city or taking up jobs in Richmond and the surrounding counties.

About 3 in 10 residents live in poverty, more than twice the statewide rate. As the population has declined due to White (and black) flight, it has also aged — more than 15 percent of residents are 65 or older, versus 13% statewide. About 17% of families and 20% of the population live below the poverty line, including almost 30% of those under age 18 and roughly 16% of those age 65 or over.

If you look at nearby Mechanicsville, Virginia – which is 90% White and approximately the same population size, it’s a dramatic contrast – 3% of the population and 2.8% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 4% are under the age of 18 and 4% are 65 or older. Wonder why? If your answer is systemic institutional racism, you’re asleep at the wheel.

Standard & Poor’s has cut Petersburg’s credit rating to BB from BBB — officially junk status. It was already the lowest-ranked locality in Virginia; even towns in Virginia’s Appalachian region (struggling coal country) have a higher rating. The S&P report gave the city a unfavorable future (that’s putting it mildly), judged its management performance to be sub-par and questioned whether it would be able to sustain itself. In case you’re wondering, the entire city council is black.

Per the website Neighborhood Scout, which tracks and figures crime stats and compares them to other communities across the country, Petersburg’s on par with Gotham City. With a crime rate of 42 per one thousand residents, Petersburg has one of the highest crime rates in America compared to all communities of all sizes – from the smallest towns to the very largest cities. One’s chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime here is one in 24. Within Virginia, more than 95% of the communities have a lower crime rate than Petersburg.

Considering Petersburg, Virginia is 80% black, maybe some actual diversity might do the city some good, before it ends up completely like Pietersburg, South Africa.


  1. This is one of the best articles I’ve read in a long time. The reason is although I heard of the countless problems with black-run Detroit, Chicago, etc… the situation in Petersburg seems to be swept under the rug- I had no idea. In addition to learning something new you also tied it to the obvious racial differences in humanity and also provided a bit of history to boot. Great job……this well-rounded article has a lot to offer!