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A Stillness at Appomattox (Army of the Potomac #3)

4.33  ·  Rating Details ·  4,628 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
Mr. Catton has combined historical accuracy with poetic insight to present the story of the Army of the Potomac in the final year of the Civil War. Writing from the point of view of the citizens who found themselves soldiers he has reaffirmed the great American tradition of a peace-loving people who, faced with necessity, can also produce greatness in war.
Hardcover, 438 pages
Published 1953 by Doubleday & Company (Garden City, NY) (first published January 1951)
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Gmaharriet There have been entire books written by other people about the several causes of the Civil War. I don't think Mr. Catton was trying to cover that…moreThere have been entire books written by other people about the several causes of the Civil War. I don't think Mr. Catton was trying to cover that aspect. He was trying to cover the war as seen by the participants in the fighting, primarily from the Northern point of view...the officers and the men under them.

The causes of the war were political, involving which new states and territories should be brought in as slave or free, and there were disagreements over import duties with those having an advantage or disadvantage that was also sectional in nature. There were probably as many viewpoints on those issues as there were congressmen and senators and other influential people. To try to cover them thoroughly would likely have required another two or three entire books, and those topics would not have suited Catton's writing style.(less)
Keith Don't know if you got an answer, but they are different trilogies. A Stillness at Appomattox is volume three of a history of the Army of the Potomac…moreDon't know if you got an answer, but they are different trilogies. A Stillness at Appomattox is volume three of a history of the Army of the Potomac that fought primarily in Viriginia. (The other two volumes are Mr. Lincoln's Army and Glory Road.) The Centennial history covers the entire war and all the armies and politicians. That set includes Never Call Retreat, Terrible Swift Sword, and The Coming Fury. The Army of the Potomac set is a much more entertaining (less dry) read in my opinion. I hope this helps!(less)
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Mar 06, 2010 Eric rated it really liked it
Shelves: war, history, us-civil-war
Appomattox, one of “the homely American place-names made dreadful by war.” Appomattox Court House has a homeliness, but Wilderness Tavern, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor - the Virginia killing fields of Grant’s overland push - those sound entirely sinister. And then you have the fight-grounds and sites of massacre from three centuries of Indian Wars, which seem to fall on either side of a fine line separating the comical (Tippecanoe, Little Big Horn) from the weirdly resonant (Fallen Timbers, Wounded ...more
May 19, 2011 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the third installment in Bruce Catton's great Civil War trilogy. Similar to the first two volumes, "A Stillness at Appomattox" continues the style of writing history for modern readers, concentrating on the human motivations central to important events. These books are as readable and enjoyable today as they were originally in the 1950's. Beyond the broad appeal inherent in them, these three volumes, and especially "A Stillness..." were important components in the mid-twentieth century's ...more
Jun 17, 2009 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I re-read this a few years back, and it's simply one of the best history books I've ever read. Grant's brutal sledgehammer campaign, Lee's ferocious response, it's all here, but written in a way that comes across, at times, like some sort of dark war poetry. I think I saw on Goodreads where someone said that Catton was a historian with great heart. I couldn't agree more. And as a Virginian, I love the way Catton captures a familiar landscape, since I actually live only a few miles from the Chanc ...more
This is not a book. It is a holy thing.

It's holy for what it says, how it says it and how well it understands it.

It is not read, it is lived. It is experienced in short bursts and set aside, so that you can close your eyes and imagine and contemplate and feel, and pay all proper homage -- as you try to grasp its enormity. I've been to Civil War cemeteries where thousands of headstones radiate in all directions, endlessly, but even that does not make me feel the accumulated weight of death and s
Jun 19, 2008 Riannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I guess I read this book out of order, I didn't realize it was the third book in a trilogy. That being said, it worked just fine as a stand-alone book.

The last few months of the Civil War were really brought to life for me by this book (sorry for the cliche phrase). It's well-written and reads like a novel, but it also contains a lot of quite interesting historical information. I've always found the Civil War a fascinating subject, and knew a moderate amount about it before reading this book, b
Robert Snow
May 15, 2016 Robert Snow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read "A Stillness at Appomattox" while touring the Richmond / Petersburg area at the end of May. I now understand it took the leadership of a man like Grant to beat the Southern gentry of a man like Lee. This was killing on a grand scale when the industial might of the North just out produced the South in everything from food to armaments. This is a good book to read in order to understand the command structure, the middle leadership of the Army and the logistics of getting an Army ready to at ...more
What can I say about Bruce Catton and this book? I became a life-long lover of all things history because of Bruce Catton. I read these in my early twenties and I can still recall the sweet pleasure I got from realizing that history was actually FASCINATING when written by someone who seemed to sense the past as present.

Life-changing for me.

If you would like to know more about the Civil War and are a beginner - I suggest you start with Catton.

If you need to remember why it is you became fasci
Monte Lamb
Nov 20, 2011 Monte Lamb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us-civil-war
If there is a better writer on the Civil War then Bruce Catton, I have not found him. If he has written a better book than this one, I have not read it. This book covers the last 14 months of the war with the Army of the Potomac. While it covers all the details and events, its strength is how it puts the events in a greater context of how it affected our country's future.
Sep 20, 2012 Kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bruce Catton is from my hometown: Petoskey, Michigan. There is a statue of him outside of the Petoskey Carnegie Library where I checked out books as a child. I have read his short memoir "Waiting for the Morning Train" as well. In it, he writes, very beautifully, of how he, during his own childhood, used to listen to the old men tell stories of their Civil War days, and how the stories would awaken in him a certain poetical feeling.

In his book, he passes the poetical feeling along to us. It incl
Keith Lovell
A little dry but overall a nice union perspective of the end of the war in Virginia.
Jun 29, 2015 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: civil-war
I loved reading this beautifully written series, which is part love song, part elegiac hymn to the ordinary Union soldier.
Margaret Harris
Nov 23, 2016 Margaret Harris rated it it was amazing
The title of this book is misleading, for there is no "stillness" until the last paragraph of the last page. We read, rather, a powerful and exquisitely written story of the final thirteen months of American Civil War noise—the thundering boom of cannon, rat-tat of a thousand muskets, zinging rifle fire, clomping horses, crunching wagon wheels, yells from infantrymen making attack, raging fires of woods and buildings, and screams and cursing by wounded men lying between enemy lines.

The sounds be
Oct 12, 2016 Gmaharriet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bruce Catton, as always, never fails to make the Civil War vivid, giving an understanding of the little guys who marched and fought, as well as the officers' actions and President Lincoln himself. Nobody can beat Catton for readability and giving us the feelings of pride, humility, winning and losing, and the excitement that must have been felt by both North and South, and sadness at the end for the Confederate soldiers.

Great book! Wonderful writing! Highly recommended!
Robin Friedman
Dec 02, 2016 Robin Friedman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bruce Catton's "A Stillness at Appomattox" was the first adult Civil War book I attempted after, many years ago, I was captivated by a series of Civil War stories geared to pre-teens. Since that time, I have continued to read about the Civil War and recently have recaptured something of my boyish fascination with the subject -- I hope at a more thoughtful level. I was reluctant to struggle with this particular book again because of the memory of my struggle with the book as a child. But I needed ...more
William P.
Jan 03, 2017 William P. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
I would think about making a judgement on one of the greatest historians and authors of all times.
When I was in college NROTC it was required reading.
May 26, 2014 Keith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Never was a great army so poorly served by its officers. Never was a victorious army guided by such incompetent leaders. Thus was the fate of the Army of the Potomac. Its rank and file soldiers – through their blood, sweat and unflagging determination – defeated the Army of Northern Virginia in spite of every attempt of their leaders to lose the war (and kill their soldiers in the process).

The brave yet hapless men of the Army of the Potomac deserved a great biographer and they got one with Bru
Gerry Germond
This is the third and final book chronicling the Army of the Potomac, the army which fought in Virginia against Robert E. Lee. It covers the final year of the war, in which its movements were directed by General Grant.

There are three things I noticed about this book and the previous two in the series (Mr. Lincoln’s Army and Glory Road): 1) the metaphors; 2) the descriptions of the battles; and 3) the mention of things happening in the wings, as it were, which affected the Army of the Potomac.

Jun 25, 2013 Riley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some of the passages in this book are lyrical and very, very good, though others seem overwritten. Bruce Catton does a great job showing how the Civil War in its last campaign had morphed into sometime far darker than the war started as: brutal and bloody trench warfare in which civilians were targeted and the supposed glory of battle was missing.

One description of the change, focusing on how the technology of war had altered in just a few years:

“In other ways, too, the generals had been brought
Bill Rogers
Aug 10, 2013 Bill Rogers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After Lee's suicidal attack broke his Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg, Lincoln brought U.S. Grant east. The solders of the Army of the Potomac knew Grant had a great reputation from his brilliant campaigns along the Tennessee and around Vicksburg, but the only general in whom they had faith was Robert E. Lee. Grant was up against the best of the best now, and only time would tell whether his name was "really Ulysses or Useless."

This is the story of Grant's tenure as commander of the Army
Jul 18, 2013 Bryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Army of the Potomac trilogy is hard to find. I read the first book years ago but never got the rest. I finally put together a complete set (thanks, Half-Price Books) and they are as good as I had always heard.

These books are about the war as seen by the private soldier in the Army of the Potomac. The Union's generals are covered mostly in terms of what the soldiers thought of them, and the Confederate generals they knew only by name and reputation are barely covered at all; the Confederate a
Star Immak
Nov 19, 2016 Star Immak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a wonder! Told, to me anyway, more like a story and more from the perspective of the individuals that were weaved together to get a greater sense of the collective moods. Details of exact dates or exact locations or exact this or that that might bog down a history book are blended perfectly and always give to the greater feeling of the various people(mostly from the army of the Potomac's point of view) going through these (mostly horrible) things. This book covers the latter bit of ...more
Mar 19, 2012 Larry rated it it was amazing
This third volume in the Army of the Potomac trilogy is a marked change from the first volume. The supreme civil war buff that wrote, and very often entertained us, in the first volume, has transitioned in each following volume to become a most competent professional historian. While the genuinely fascinating anecdotes that highlighted the first volume have diminished, this final volume is constantly and consistently still very interesting, blending more smoothly the "stories" with the facts and ...more
Nov 01, 2010 Ross rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, 19th-century
For someone who does not consider himself a history buff, let alone a Civil War history buff, I found myself at times bogged down in this detailed military history. More than once, I put A Stillness aside for a few weeks and returned only reluctantly.

But I believe this was Catton's design. He intended, is seems, to put his reader in the well-worn shoes of the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac - to make you feel the heat, hunger, dust, and dread of life and death in that army. And he succeeded
David Ellis
Mar 26, 2016 David Ellis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Stillness at Appomattox is a Civil War classic, often on Civil War top-ten lists. Although it is older than I am, it has held up well; living up to its status in this reader's view. While it is one-sided in approach, focussing on the Army of the Potomac, it includes all manner of participants. It is not just the story of politicians, or of generals, or the contrabands following the army, or the soldiers of the army, or the people of the northern home front; rather, it is the story of all of th ...more
May 31, 2011 Jonathan marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition

'"A Stillness at Appomattox" by Bruce Catton. This third book in a splendid trilogy, "Army of the Potomac," covers the final year of the war in writing beautiful enough to be poetry. Catton, a former Plain Dealer columnist who died in 1978, grew up in a small Michigan town knowing and speaking to Civil War veterans. He also pioneered writing military history from the lowly soldiers' points of view. He depicts the ugliness, the plight of slaves and freemen,
Jeff Sulman
Excellent narrative account of Civil War. There were some major holes in the trilogy. Volume 2 ends with Burnside's exit and volume 3 resumes with Grant's instillation but there is nothing of Gettysburg! Its referred to as a past event but it is missing from the narrative.

I also disagree with Catton's view of the cause of the war. He believes it was caused by incompetence from both sides and if they'd been more willing to compromise and less prone to political blunder succession and war could ha
Terry McCarthy
Mar 21, 2010 Terry McCarthy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brutal. Gritty. You'll finally understand just what an ugly time this was...makes you appreciate your ancestors, that's for sure.
Too clunky for the Pulitzer for me, but I understand the sentiment. No regrets with every minute of this book. I feel a better man for reading it.

But let's face it. If you really want to FEEL battle, look up two short essays:
1) Illumination Rounds, by Michael Herr
2) Okinawa: The Bloodiest Battle of All, by William Manchester you will find some really heavy shit.
Jan 03, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bruce Catton was one of the best history writers on the topic of the Civil War. In this book he outlines the battles and strategies of General Grant during the last year of the War. To anyone who is interested in the strategy of the great battles, this is a good book to read. I liked getting to understand, to some degree, how men of war think. The more I learn of the Civil War and it's human devastation, the more incomprehensible it seems.

I also enjoyed Catton's memoir, "Waiting For the Morning
One of my favorites, back from I was just starting to learn about the Civil War...the most compelling of Catton's books, especially on the episode of the crater battle during the siege of Petersburg. So utterly tragic...

I wouldn't read Catton's literature, not history, by today's standards....

But Catton is still a good place to start before moving on to books with better with superior documentation...

And A Stillness at Appomattox is his best book, of those that I've read.

Sep 20, 2016 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not generally a fan of non-fiction, but I read this for MVHS Summer Book Club. It took some effort to get through the book, including reading more than 100 pages aloud to myself to keep from going to sleep. That said, I thought the book was extremely interesting (though not exciting) and well written. I learned a lot about the Civil War and how close the North came to losing it several times. I never realized there were so many generals! It really is a good book.
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Catton was known as a narrative historian who specialized in popular histories that emphasized the colorful characters and vignettes of history, in addition to the simple dates, facts, and analysis. His works, although well-researched, were generally not presented in a rigorous academic style, supported by footnotes. In the long line of Civil War historians, Catton is arguably the most prolific an ...more
More about Bruce Catton...

Other Books in the Series

Army of the Potomac (3 books)
  • Mr. Lincoln's Army
  • Glory Road

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