The Corner

Long Live Bruce Catton

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.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.


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