Historian, author, editor, Bruce Catton (1899-1978) is best known for his two Civil War trilogies -- The Army of the Potomac and The Centennial History of the Civil War. Born in Petoskey, Catton spent most of his childhood in Benzonia, where his father accepted a teaching position at Benzonia Academy. In 1906 he became the academy's principal. The Catton's lived in this building, which was the principal's home and the girl's dormitory. Catton served in the navy and worked for newspapers and the federal government when at the age of fifty-one, he published his first Civil War Book, Mr. Lincoln's Army. In 1954 he became the editor of American of American Heritage magazine and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for A Stillness at Appomattox. He died at his Frankfort, Michigan, summer home in 1978.
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." In the 1970s, Catton turned his thoughts to his native state, writing Waiting for the Morning Train, an account of the Michigan of his boyhood, and Michigan: A Bicentennial History.