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The Catton View

April 2024
1min read

Several months after his death, a letter was addressed to Brace Catton, founding editor of this magazine, from Jeffery Sherrill, a seventh grader from Social Circle, Georgia. William B. Catton, Bruce’s son (and co-author with him of The Glory and the Dream ), answered the young man’s letter and was kind enough to pass along the correspondence to us. Portions of both letters follow:

“Dear Mr. Bruce Catton:

“I admire you for your Civil War books. I have five of them. When I was young I loved the Civil War more than anything ! I always looked at your books the most. I tried to write my own book about the Civil War but I got to the First Bull Run and quit. If I finished I said I would dedicate it to you. The title was The Silver Book of the Civil War . …

“My favorite battles during the Civil War were the battles of the Wilderness, Shiloh, and Chickamauga. They all are very bloody, aren’t they? I used to love the North. … Then I saw Gone With the Wind and found out whose side I was on. Sheer hatred of the North grew in me. …”

“Dear Jeff:

“I’m afraid I must begin with the sad news that my father died a few months ago after a brief illness. I’m sorry he never got to read your letter.… Letters from young people were always his favorites, and I know he would have liked yours. He would have answered it, too.

“I hope you don’t mind my trying to answer it for him. Certainly I appreciate—as he would have appreciated- the nice things you said about his books. He would have been impressed, as I am, by the great amount of work you have done on the Civil War, and by your efforts to write a book about it. Writing a book is one of the hardest jobs there is.

“My father would have been unhappy to hear that you have come to hate the North. The war was of course a great tragedy for many of the people who fought in it or were hurt by it, and it is understandable that some of them—in the South, and in the North—came to hate their enemies. It was General Sherman who said, ‘War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it.’

“But over one hundred years have gone by and in looking back upon the Civil War we can find better emotions than hatred. We can admire the bravery and the devotion with which both sides fought. We can find—as you have found—favorite battles and favorite leaders to study. We can learn to appreciate just how terrible war is, which is worth remembering.

“And above all, we can be thankful that, for all its pain and destruction, the war ended with the Union preserved and the slaves free. We can regret that it took a bloody war to accomplish these goals, but we should continue to be grateful that the United States is still one country and that all of its people are free. My father certainly felt this way, and he would have said something about it in answering your letter. …”

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