I got my start on Bruce Catton with this book, which I honestly bought because I liked the cover. I found that the book was less about the battles than it was about politics, personalities and causes. However, I stuck with it and I’m glad I did. It was my gateway book into the Civil War.
From there I moved on to Catton’s three-volume Centennial History of the Civil War: The Coming Fury, Terrible Swift Sword and Never Call Retreat. I was hooked and today I own eleven books by Mr. Catton. Besides the aforementioned, there’s also:
- The American Heritage History of the Civil War
- Gettysburg: The Final Fury
- Grant Moves South
- Grant Takes Command
- Glory Road
- Mr. Lincoln’s Army
- A Stillness at Appomattox
Perhaps my favorite Catton book is one that I don’t own (yet): Reflections on the Civil War. This book was Catton’s final book and was put together after his death from his tape recordings. Written in his familiar conversational tone, this book opened my eyes to the hows and whys and strategy of the Civil War.
As I boy I had only the paperback versions of many of these books. As I’ve grown I’ve acquired hardback editions of most of these books, including This Hallowed Ground that I bought used online. In one of those serendipitous moments of life, stuffed in the pages of that book was a newspaper clipping of an interview that someone had done with Catton—it was a neat fine.
As a father it was enjoyable to watch my youngest son pour over the pages of the American Heritage History of the Civil War for Young Readers—here was Bruce Catton igniting an interest in the Civil War with my son, just as he had done with me.
I have 133 books on the Civil War in my collection. I have books by Shelby Foote, James McPherson, Steven Woodworth and others. Bruce Catton may not be as thorough or as prolific as some of these authors, but he remains my favorite.