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

4.33 of 5 stars 4.33  ·  rating details  ·  3,281 ratings  ·  63 reviews
When first published in 1953, Bruce Catton, our foremost Civil War historian was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for excellence in nonfiction.This final volume of The Army of the Potomac trilogy relates the final year of the Civil War....more
Paperback, 1st Anchor Books ed, 438 pages
Published August 1st 1990 by Anchor Books (first published January 1951)
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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
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
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
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...more
Monte Lamb
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.
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...more
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...more
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...more
Bill Rogers
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...more
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...more
A Kritzer
Catton,... the master of the art of writing. At his best it reads like poetry. Do yourself a favor and read all his Civil War books. He has a bias to the North, but knowing so, going in, you will be well rewarded. My personal favorite is "The Coming Fury".

His "Hallowed Ground" is perhaps the best overall book on the war.

Move on to Shelby Foote to continue your reading pleasure. You will be pleased.

Next on my horizon is the Trilogy by Allan Nevin.

Occasionally you read a Pulitzer prize winning book and say "wow, I can see why this won." "A Stillness at Appomattox" is just such a book. Catton makes the subject matter interesting and approachable. Rarely does the narrative drag, which says a great deal given the material, and when the book excels it can be hard to put down. The book entertains and educates even an experienced ACW buff. Not to be missed by anyone with even a passing interest in the campaign.
Poetic, gripping

Poetic, gripping

I've read many books about the period, but none except perhaps Team of Rivals make the subjects come as alive as Carton does here. simply outstanding.
May 31, 2011 Jonathan marked it as to-read

'"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,...more
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...more
Terry McCarthy
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

...here you will find some really heavy shit....more
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 now...it'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.

J. Clayton Rogers
I never read a Bruce Catton book that I didn't think was fantastic. Of course, the Army of the Potomac trilogy ranks at the top of his work, filled with a strange poetic horror that mesmerized me as a teen and still draws me in. His description of the Battle of Spotsylvania can give you nightmares--and it's so well written! No one, including Shelby Foote, has come close to narrative history as intense as this. Not for scholars, of course (except for beach reading).
James Fulks
Excellent book but I just couldn't bring myself to finish it. Grant's handling of the army was brutal and his fights with Lee were grinding affairs of attrition. I just couldn't take that level of violence anymore. Catton's treatment of the Civil War is fairly straight forward and he doesn't go out of his way to be deliberately gruesome but even the cold hard facts are charged with blood and sacrifice. I need a break from this bloody era.
J.J Jinkins
A Stillness at Appomattox was a good read, but somewhat disappointing compared to Terrible Swift Sword. The book was tedious at some times, and towards the end I could not wait to complete it. The book was well researched, and the account of Sheridan (whom I knew nearly nothing about)was particularly compelling. In conclusion, this book was decent, but not amazing like its predecessor, Terrible Swift Sword.
As moving as the Shaara books (Killer Angels, Gods and Generals, The Last Full Measure), and, this book is non-fiction. Was definitely written before the modern-day language police could redact the politically incorrect terms. I noticed some slight bias in the author against Grant and favoring Lee and a hint of Southern sympathy, but, otherwise an excellent book and AFAIK historically accurate.
Stunningly detailed portrayal of the last year of the American Civil War. Reads a bit like a history textbook at times, but also highlights many of the lesser known battle stories. Captures the unusual relationship between the two armies who differ in principle but who are common in blood and humanity. Ends with Lee's surrender at Appomattox.
This book won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1954 and is part of the trilogy on the Civil War that made Catton famous. As a trilogy, it is a good starting place to get the overview plus some of the highlights of that period of our history. Catton is quite readable and really made the subject of the Civil War approachable for the non-academic.
Finally! I have finally finished the longest trilogy ever! It was extremely detailed and interesting, but it was incredibly dense. So while I appreciated that I finally was able to read this, I wouldn't recommend this one to anyone who isn't REALLY interested in the Civil War. If you are, then it's a great one for you.
Jonathan Harmon
A fantastic, superb, poetic look at what I consider the most intriguing and dramatic wars in history. Catton mixes marvelous prose with an incredibly thorough approach to historical accuracy. There's a reason this book is so critically appreciated - it happens to be a GOOD book.
I read this book after I visited the Appomattox Court House. It uses many primary sources to tell the story of the Civil War. Excerpts are taken from soldiers letters and colorful scenes are created to take the reader back in time and recreate a sorrowful time in our history.
This story reflects the long difficult slog (literally) that the Union army of the Potomac went through the last year of the war. It reminded me of the hundreds of ways we can kill each other, and how much in common we all have.
Another Pulitzer winner.
Not bad for a history... a little tedious, and I would've loved to learn more and hear more from the perspective of the Confederate Army of N. Virginia. But I guess this was a history of the Army of the Potomac. But for a history, I thought it read very well.
Mike Huey
Excellent read. Some maps would have been a great addition. Illustrates quite well the sheer drudgery, total chaos, and numbing horror of war. I seldom look forward to finishing a good book but in this case the end brought relief in that the killing ceased.
Don Lowrance
From the beginning Catton draws you into the shadow life of the soldier, both North and South, that fought with heart and faith for their country and commanders. When I finished at Appomattox, I carried their imprinted emotions with me. It is a gifted work.
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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...
The Coming Fury Mr. Lincoln's Army Terrible Swift Sword: The Centennial History of the Civil War Series, Volume 2 Never Call Retreat Glory Road

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