Chapter 5: Comparison and Contrast
Bruce Catton


Catton

Bruce Catton
(1899-1978)

Born in Petoskey, Michigan, the son of a Congregationalist minister, Bruce Catton attended Oberlin College in 1916, but left to serve in World War I. After the war, Catton became a journalist, writing for the Cleveland News, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Boston American, as well as editing American Heritage magazine. Catton won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for A Stillness at Appomattox (1953). This, along with such works as Mr. Lincolnís Army (1951) and This Hallowed Ground (1956), rank him as one of the countryís major Civil War historians, although he never took a college history course.

As this essay demonstrates, Cattonís approach to history emphasized the personalities of the people who made it. Cattonís classic essay was first a radio address, part of a series of broadcasts made by American historians, which he later revised for printed publication.

In an address to the Society of American Historians, Catton had this to say about writing history: "Any man who undertakes to talk about history as literature ought to being by expressing his deep conviction that when it becomes literature, history does not cease to be history. . . . If our work has any final value, that value must depend very largely on . . . performing with not only the historian's competence but also with the skill, the insight, and the demanding conscience of the literary artist. If we succeed, the history we write takes its places as literature. Good history is literature."

Related Readings and Other Background Information

  • Castel, Albert. "Why the North Won and the South Lost." Civil War Times May 2000: 56. (Available through Expanded Academic ASAP).

  • Kamen, Al. "The 42nd on the 18th." Washington Post 10 July 1998: A23.

  • Timberg, Craig. "Views of New Lee Image: Closer to a Compromise." Washington Post 7 July 1999: BO1.

    The surrender took place at the home of Wilmer and Virginia McLean in the town of Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Lee arrived around 1 p.m., Grant about a half hour later. The meeting lasted about an hour and a half. Lee was surrendering the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia; the remaining Confederate armies surrendered over the next few months. The terms of the agreement paroled Confederate officers and enlisted men but required that they leave al military equipment behind. Lee asked if the soldiers could keep their horses (in the Confederate Army, soldiers owned their own horses) since they would need them to farm. Grant ordered his men to allow any Confederate who claimed a horse or a mule to keep it. In addition, he had 25,000 rations sent to Lee's hungry army.



Web Destinations

Robert E. Lee
The University of Groningen maintains this web page that offers a biography of Lee.

Ulysses S. Grant Biography
The federal government maintains this web page that offers a biography of Grant.

United States Civil War Center
This website, provided by Louisiana State University, gives access to a special collection of research information on the Civil War.

Stratford Hall Plantation
The Robert E. Lee Memorial Association maintains this site devoted to the birthplace of Lee; it provides multiple links to other information about Lee as well.

Ulysses S. Grant
This page offered by the Ulysses S. Grant Network provides numerous links to biographical information on Grant.

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park
The National Park Service maintains this website with information on the battle and regional area.

Grant and Lee: A Study in Contrasts


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