Bruce Catton (Oct 9, 1899 – Aug 28, 1978) was a journalist and a notable historian of the American Civil War. He won a Pulitzer Prize for history in 1954 for A Stillness at Appomattox, his study of the final campaign of the war in Virginia. He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 from Gerald R. Ford
Catton was born in Petoskey, Michigan and raised in Benzonia. His experiences in this Northern Michigan village formed the basis for his book Waiting for the Morning Train (read online from Google Books). The back side of the Michigan Historical Marker to Bruce Catton in Benzonia begins:
Bruce Catton’s fascination with the Civil War began in Benzonia, where he grew up with Civil War veterans, who “gave a color and a tone, not merely to our village life, but to the concept of life with which we grew up.” He was impressed by their certainty, their values and their faith in bravery, patriotism, freedom and the progress of the human race. He wrote, “I think I was always subconsciously driven by an attempt to restate that faith and to show where it was properly grounded, how it grew out of what a great many young men on both sides felt and believed and were brave enough to do.”
He attended Oberlin College but didn’t finish his degree due to the outbreak of World War I, he served briefly in the Navy before becoming a reporter for various newspapers. In 1954, Catton was one of four founders of American Heritage magazine and in 1959 he was named senior editor, a post which he held for the rest of his life. You can read about Catton’s time at American Heritage from a co-worker, and also read this feature on Bruce Catton from TRAVERSE Magazine.
Catton died at his summer home in Frankfort, Michigan in 1978.
Photo credit: National Park Service from Bruce Catton on Emancipation at the Antietam National Battlefield.
As with our other Michigan Author features, we are very much hoping that you will add observations, links and other comments to help build a better picture of this notable Michiganian.