Not feeling the love for Bruce Catton

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Bee

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It is amusing to me is often the same folks who poo-poo Catton gush over Shelby Foote (and vice versa). They are both essential CW reading. I do not place much weight on what forums say, as the opinions are often more on par with team fandom than historical analysis. Give Catton a shot and make your own decision.
 
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gary

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Feb 20, 2005
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It is amusing to me is often the same folks who poo-poo Catton gush over Shelby Foote (and vice versa). They are both essential CW reading. I do not place much weight on what forums say, as the opinions are often more on par with team fandom than historical analysis. Give Catton a shot and make your own decision.
Good comment Bee.

BTW, I tried to read Shelby Foote once. Gave up. It was just unappealing to me much like the way 7thWisconsin found "Grant Moves South."
 

Stratagemo

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For me, Catton was my 'gateway drug' into the wider world of Civil War history. Particularly his Army of the Potomac trilogy and his American Heritage Civil War book.

I just find his writing style to be fantastic, very moving and engaging!

While I'm sure there are more detailed books with updated information out there, I still highly recommend Catton for a beginner to Civil War history.
 
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Jamieva

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I would be interested in the north/south breakdown of who read Catton and Foote. I grew up in Va...read Foote...never touched Catton. I think folks in the south had little interest in reading Catton because of the subject matter. I have acquired some of his lately and they are in my stack but I have not gotten to them.
 

Stratagemo

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I would be interested in the north/south breakdown of who read Catton and Foote. I grew up in Va...read Foote...never touched Catton. I think folks in the south had little interest in reading Catton because of the subject matter. I have acquired some of his lately and they are in my stack but I have not gotten to them.
It could also be a generational thing? Catton completed publication of the Army of the Potomac trilogy in 1953 (as I recall) whereas Foote's trilogy wasn't completed until 1974.

I grew up in Canada and read (and thoroughly enjoyed) both.
 

7th Mississippi Infantry

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Is he still worth reading?
I would say yeah . . . Catton is still worth a look during 2018.
He was required reading in one of my classes during the University days . . . eons ago.

However, I personally could not 'get into' his style of writing.
But that's just me.

You may enjoy his works.
 
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Si Klegg

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I am not great on the Generals and the Politics around the war - which, I believe, is people's gripe behind the Catton criticism - but for the story and experience of the common soldier, Catton and of course, Bell Wiley are first class.

If you haven't read the AOP series, you're really missing out. He tells the story of this often ill-served and disastrously-led Army superbly. His affection for and empathy for the average soldier of the Army of the Potomac is heart-warming. I had two copies each of Mr Lincoln's Army, Glory Road and A Stillness to Appomattox, one set being rather dog-eared because it was a lender to new recruits in our re-enactment group :thumbsup:
 

E_just_E

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I think that Catton is still worth reading. Same as Foote. I will probably put their work at similar level, despite the differences in perspective. It is story telling, and somewhat a Reader's Digest version of what happened without much detail, esp. in military tactics. I think that this is why some readers find it very rudimentary and also the reason that other readers just love it. It is approachable reading...
 

zburkett

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Orange County, Virginia
Catton (and Foote) both wrote widely read books that upped interest in the American Civil War that produced new levels of research. This new research dated some of what they had said. At the least they created thousands of people interested in the Civil War and history in general who were willing to do research. At the funniest they are victims of their own success.
 
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Irishtom29

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Catton was the John Ford of writing on the war. He got the feeling and the emotion right and could get more across with a single paragraph than most writers can in pages. “This Hallowed Ground” is still my favorite one volume history of the war. You see, I read primarily for enjoyment, fancy that.
 
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If you read the first chapter of the first volume of the AoP trilogy (Mr. Lincoln's Army), where Herman Haupt is trying to find soldiers to guard his train, you will be instantly hooked on Bruce Catton. No one, and I mean no one, wrote with the grace and style and pace of Bruce Catton in the entire Civil War library. IMHO, Catton is the gold standard of writers and I found no glaring historical errors in his books. If you want minute detail and minute-by-minute descriptions of battles, Catton is not your man. But, if you want beautifully written, well-researched history, give him a try.
 
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