January 22, 2012


Bruce Catton, The Army of the Potomac: Mr. Lincoln's Army (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1951) ("The point that is so easy to overlook nowadays is that the men of the 1860s were living in the center of a fiery furnace. It was not a tidy, clear-cut war against some foreign nation that was being waged. It was a civil war, a war not between men of two nations but between men of two beliefs, two philosophies, two ways of considering human society and its structure and purpose. The opposing beliefs were not sharply defined and clear so that no man could mistake which camp he belonged in. On the contrary, there were a dozen gradations of belief leading from one to the other, and a man might belong to one camp on one issue and in the other camp on another; and the very word 'loyalty' might mean loyalty to a flag, to a cause, or to a belief in some particular social and political theory, and 'treason' might mean disloyalty to any of these. Indeed, the war was peculiarly and very bitterly a war of the tragically modern kind, in which loyalties and disloyalties do not follow the old patterns even though those patterns may be the only ones men can use when they try to formulate their loyalty. And so that generation was deprived of the one element that is essential to the operation of a free society--the ability to assume, in the absence of good proof to the contrary, that men in public life are generally decent, honorable, and loyal. Because that element was lacking, the wisest man could be reasonable with only part of his mind; a certain area had to be given over to the emotions which were all the more mad and overpowering because he shared them with everyone else." "Hence the Civil War was fought and directed in an air of outright melodrama. . . ." Id. at 97-98.).

Bruce Catton, The Army of the Potomac: Glory Road (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1952) ("And here in the middle of it all was the 24th Michigan, with a county judge for a colonel and a county sheriff for lieutenant colonel and all the line officers carrying presentation swords; the regiment that had once been ostracized because its valor was unproven. Since Fredericksburg the regiment had been accepted, but in the unfathomable economics of army life the men seen to have felt that they stilled owed the rest of the brigade something, and here on Seminary Ridge the bill had come up for payment. Three times Colonel Morrow sent back word that the position was untenable, and each time General Wadsworth grimly ordered him to hold on anyway. Some of the survivors remembered forming line of battle six times that hot afternoon, with the rank battle fog lying low under the trees and unappeasable enemies coming in from all directions at once. Four color-bearers were killed, and the regiment sagged toward the rear, and Colonel Morrow ordered the fifth color-bearer to jab the flagstaff in the ground and stand aside it for a rally. The man was killed before he could obey, Morrow himself took up the flag and waved it, a private ran up and took it away form him, muttering that it wasn't up to the colonel to carry the colors, and then this private was killed and another man took up the staff. Then he too was shot, and Morrow got the flag after all, after which a bullet creased his skull and he himself went down." Id. at 279-280.).

Bruce Catton, The Army of the Potomac: A Stillness at Appomattox (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1953) ("Yet the casualty lists did not tell the hole story, which indeed was a good deal more complex than most of the participants were able to understand." "Since May 4 [1864] everything that had happened had been part of one continuous battle, a battle three months long, with advance and retreat and triumph and disaster all taking place together, so that words like victory and defeat had lost their meaning. All that had gone before was no more than prelude. The nation itself had been heated to an unimaginable pitch by three years of war and now it had been put on the anvil and the hammer was remorselessly coming down, stroke after clanging stroke, beating a glowing metal into a different shape." "There would be change and the war was bringing it, even though it might be that the war could not bring victory. The war had taken on a new magnitude, and perhaps it was no longer the kind of struggle anybody could win. But it was moving inexorably toward its end, and when it ended many things would end with it, in the South and in the North as well. Some of these were things that ought to end because they shackled men to the past, and some of them were fit to be laid away in the shadowland of dreams that are remembered forever, but in any case they were being brought to an end. After that there could be a new beginning." Id. at 253.).