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

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  4,941 Ratings  ·  110 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.
Paperback, 1st Anchor Books ed, 438 pages
Published August 1st 1990 by Anchor Books (first published January 1951)
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Robert LoBretto Not sure why you think he should have written about the reasons that caused the Civil War in this trilogy. For the name of this trilogy is, after all…moreNot sure why you think he should have written about the reasons that caused the Civil War in this trilogy. For the name of this trilogy is, after all - The Army of the Potomac. He writes about the battles that the army fought and the collective mentality of the rank and file and the leadership...and stories from the soldiers themselves collected from original sources. You are not looking hard enough if you can't find books about the causes of the war, but you won't find them in this outstanding trilogy(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)

Community Reviews

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Mar 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 17, 2009 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
Jun 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Larry Bassett
This is the third book of the famous Bruce Canton trilogy about the Civil War. Published about 65 years ago it is much heralded and maybe the most famous telling of the story of the Civil War. And I did find it mostly compelling reading although I am far from a fan of Civil War history. The portions of the book which retold battle strategy and the movement of troops etc. etc. were most arduous for me. And there was a lot of that. But the stories about what was going on inside the heads of the pe ...more
Robert Snow
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Colin Mitchell
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
The final book in Bruce Catton’s excellent,” The Army of The Potomac “ trilogy. The story moves on with Grant taking command of all the armies and pressing down through the Wilderness a further battle at Chancellorsville, bloody fighting at Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor and into the trench systems around Petersburg. Sheridan finally puts his army south of Early in the Shenendoah Valley, lays waste to the countryside and is finally able to rout Early’s army. Sherman takes Atlanta, Richmond falls and ...more
Monte Lamb
Nov 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
I suppose I went into this backwards. This is the final volume of the Army of the Potomac trilogy written by Bruce Catton about the Civil War. After spending some time visiting historical sites in and around Richmond, VA, I particularly wanted to read this account of the last year of the Civil War. In 1954, it won both the Pulitzer Prize for history and the National Book Award for non-fiction.

In A Stillness at Appomattox, Catton walks his readers through the various battles that took place durin
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, nonfiction, war
For anyone interested in the Civil War or American history in general, author Bruce Catton's trilogy of books should be on your short list of 'must reads'. "A Stillness at Appomattox" is Catton's final book on the Army of the Potomac. This book follows the army from 1863 when U.S. Grant took command to Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in April 1865. The first two books, "Mr. Lincoln's Army" and "Glory Road" take the reader through the first two and a half years of war. Together, these th ...more
Sep 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 15, 2015 rated it liked it
A little dry but overall a nice union perspective of the end of the war in Virginia.
Elizabeth Kennedy
Jun 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: every American
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
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
From Destruction to Stillness
In this story of the final period of the war, we have passages graced by such lyrical quality it approaches poetic mastery. The author brings us ever so gradually to the conclusion of the Civil War. We move from the carnage of the Wilderness Campaign to the Bloody Angle assault to the battle for Petersburg and Richmond. This story envelops the reader with the overall sense of the brutality of the American Civil war. Bruce Caton tells this story with a clarity and m
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though it started slow with Dahlgren's Raid, once the author described the scene with Grant meeting Meade in taking over the strategic direction of the Army of the Potomac, the book became a great read. Though he doesn't dwell on the details of the battle, I love the way he brings about the circumstances of the before, during and aftermath of each one. He also provides some descriptions on battles that weren't fought by the AotP but had an effect on the war nonetheless like the Shenandoah campai ...more
Nov 29, 2017 added it
'A Stillness at Appomattox' shares the battles of the Wilderness, the Bloody Angle, Cold Harbor, the Crater, the Battle of Fort Stevens and on through the surrender at Appomattox. This final volume of The Army Of The Potomac trilogy relates the final year of the American Civil War, and Catton shares the pathos of the time. It is a stirring account of the longest year, and shares a detailed history of the Union army.

Compared to works such as 'A Savage War: A Military History of the Civil War', th
Matthew Perry
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you are unfamiliar with Bruce Catton, he was arguably the most renowned and well-respected Civil War historian of the 20th century. His works have stood the test of time, even forty years after his death. In his last installment of the “Army of the Potomac Trilogy”, Catton tracks the end of the war from the summer of 1864 to the surrender at Appomattox in April of 1865. Told with stunning clarity and amazing narrative, Catton weaves the successes and failures of both armies through the dying ...more
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Calton's description of the battle at Spottsylvania is devastating. His writing is so compelling and gripping. You feel as if you are on the battlefield and are set to grieve with each loss of life. I am so glad to have read this Caron's moving accident nyt of the Army of the Potomac. Every historical person he writes about comes alive as a living, breathing human with emotions and cares. Beautifully written.
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Vivid account of the last year of the Civil War, bringing the trilogy to a close. Particularly good on the Petersburg siege and the missed opportunities at the beginning. I was hoping for more on the Shenandoah Valley campaign, as I knew less about that part. As with the other parts, captures the soldier's experience in detail.
Rob Kaiser
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The best Civil War history and quite possibly the best work of nonfiction I've ever read, Bruce Catton's A Stillness at Appomattox is lyrical and haunting. The gorgeously written chapter "Roads Leading South" is worth the price of admission all by itself.
This book starts out interesting enough; there’s no question about Catton’s writing. It’s just that after a few chapters it started to be depressing for me. Yes, the South lost and we all know that; it’s just that how they lost got to be more than I felt I could handle to continue.
Dan Schroeder
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Timeless, intimate and absorbing.
Oct 12, 2016 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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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.

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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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“The end of the war was like the beginning, with the army marching down the open road under the spring sky, seeing a far light on the horizon. Many lights had died in the windy dark but far down the road there was always a gleam, and it was as if a legend had been created to express some obscure truth that could not otherwise be stated. Everything had changed, the war and the men and the land they fought for, but the road ahead had not changed. It went on through the trees and past the little towns and over the hills, and there was no getting to the end of it. The goal was a going-towards rather than an arriving, and from the top of the next rise there was always a new vista. The march toward it led through wonder and terror and deep shadows, and the sunlight touched the flags at the head of the column.” 1 likes
“such manner as shall seem most likely to conduce to the furtherance of the interests of the Confederate States of” 0 likes
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