- Mass Market Paperback
- Publisher: Berkley; Reissue edition (March 15, 1987)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0425104958
- ISBN-13: 978-0425104958
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,452,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Reflections on the Civil War Mass Market Paperback – February 1, 1990
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This eclectic collection of historical musings, published posthumously from educational tape recordings Catton made during his life, is must reading for Civil War buffs. The tone is conversational and the text never demanding, although it contains several deeply penetrating insights. Asking why the Civil War didn't leave irreconcilably angry feelings between the North and South (such as those found in the Middle East or Ireland), Catton comments: "I think the chief reason for this is the legend of Robert E. Lee and the heroic confederate soldiers ... [who] suffered mightily in a great but lost cause. The point is that this very phrase accepts the cause as having been lost. There was no hint in this legend of biding one's time and waiting for a moment when there could be revenge. This was the lost cause; something to be cherished, to be revered, to be the outlet for emotions, but not to be the center of a new outbreak of violence." A great book by a great historian.
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For the most part this transformation was successful and achieves a natural narrative style. Reflections on the Civil War should particularly appeal to readers seeking a concise, and yet insightful introduction to the Civil War. This relatively short book, about 250 pages, would be ideal for supplementary reading for advanced high school students or undergraduates.
The essays target five major topics: Lincoln's leadership; life in the army; the war itself - strategy and execution; the Civil War as the first modern war, and There Was a Young Soldier. This last section, the experiences of John Geyser from Pennsylvania in an engineer battalion in the Army of the Potomac, was riveting, and is a remarkable description of soldiering under General McClellan.
John Geyser carefully penned thoughtful sketches of camp life, individual soldiers, and military action. These drawings add substantial value to this work. Geyser's sketches had only recently come available and had not been published previously.
In the 1960s Bruce Catton, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, helped Americans understand and commemorate the centennial of the Civil War. His books - Mr. Lincoln's Army, Terrible Swift Sword, Gettysburg: the Final Fury, A Stillness at Appomattox, two volumes on Ulysses S. Grant, and others - were widely admired. His writings gave meaning and life to the Civil War in a way unmatched by previous writers.
In recent decades American interest in the Civil War was similarly revitalized by the monumental documentary on the Civil War by Ken Burns and later by the film Gettysburg. Newer studies by outstanding historians like Shelby Foote and James M. McPherson, and Civil War novels like those of Michael and Jeff Shaara, have perhaps unfairly displaced the writings of Bruce Catton.
In my view Bruce Catton's major works compare favorably with Shelby Foote and James McPherson, two authors that I greatly respect. Reflections on the Civil War is a quick way to become acquainted with this remarkable writer and historian.
If one may say he is not really a scholar, he is at least a brilliant popularizer and integrater. REFLECTIONS is like the capstone of his career. Now that I've read scores of books on the subject, Catton somehow manages to revivify the entire period.
By far my favorite chapter is the story of an Army Engineer who also created a sketchbook of his battle experiences. Catton follows him thoughout the war and even after, until his later years are spent in pain from an injury received in battle decades before. Also brilliant is is short summary of the war from the point of view of opportunities lost. (It appears that the commanding generals of the Army of the Potomac have a lot to answer for.)
If you want a single book to give you a good feeling of what the Civil War was like without dragging you company by company through all the gory details, this is the book for you.
There are many great writers about the Civil War, but I definitely feel that, now that Catton has gone, the vital spark is no longer there.
It is the best book I know of for anyone who is seeking their first Civil war book because it tells the stories of the war in such human terms.
It is the best book I know of for the Civil war "expert" for the very same reason. One cannot lose
focus on the essential human war exoperiences once this book is read.
It is an outstanding achievement. There is fact here to be sure but Catton always provided mofre than fact. He provided understanding. And in "Reflection On The Civil War" he provides passion and compassion, intrigue and dareing, and deep respect for the simple common people of the 1860's
Here, he speaks of their wisdom, their dedication
and their courage. One of the most masterful pieces of writing I have evefr read comes late in the book when he trace two trajectories. The first