I’m scheduled to have an article on the Civil War historian Bruce Catton in a forthcoming issue of Traverse, which bills itself as “Northern Michigan’s Magazine.” (Catton was born in Petoskey, Mich., and grew up in Benzonia.) Meantime, I explain my appreciation for him in today’s NRO symposium on military history, which we’ve published in honor of Memorial Day:
There’s no shortage of good writing on the Civil War, but I’ve always had a special fondness for Bruce Catton. Part of it stems from our shared Michigan roots and a bit of family history — we read a passage from one of Catton’s books at my grandfather’s funeral. Catton wrote much and he wrote well; it’s hard to go wrong with anything that carries his byline. The volume that captured my imagination as a boy was The Golden Book of the Civil War, a children’s version of a book that has since been updated and reissued as The American Heritage New History of the Civil War. I loved it more for the battlefield pictures than Catton’s words, it must be said. For an actual Catton narrative, This Hallowed Ground is an excellent, one-volume account of the war.
My very favorite Catton book is not a military history, but a memoir: Waiting for the Morning Train. That’s the one we read from at the funeral — a poetic passage toward the end, about the night train’s departure.
Other contributors to the NRO forum include Brookhiser, VDH, Adrian Goldsworthy, Mark Moyar, and Brad Thor.