Why I Couldn’t Agree With Bruce Catton

by Al Benson Jr.

Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America

Over the years I have read a bit of “Civil War” history from a lot of authors with divergent opinions on many things. Somehow, though, Bruce Catton’s view of the War was just not one I could get comfortable with. It was sort of like James M. McPherson’s view of the War, and you all know who he was. If you ever read anything I wrote about the War you will recall I couldn’t get comfortable with McPherson’s worldview regarding the War and the reasons for it either. And while McPherson’s books have often been cited on the World Socialist Website in the past, I couldn’t find anything in that regard about Bruce Catton.

However, McPherson’s and Catton’s views appear quite similar when it comes to the notorious Forty-Eighters that Donnie Kennedy and I wrote about in Lincoln’s Marxists.

A friend in New Jersey recently sent me a paragraph out of Catton’s The Army of the Potomac: Glory Road, from page 172 of the book. This is one I had not read, and it probably explains why I am glad I did not make the effort. Even when you research history,  there are times when you can only stand so much propaganda and, though he probably did not intend to do it, that’s exactly what Mr. Catton gave us in this instance. I will comment here on some of what he said in this paragraph.

He started out with: The nation inherited something rich and strange when the German revolutionary movement broke up in blood and proscription lists,  with the best men of a dozen German states hastening to America.   The 1848 revolts in Germany and several other European countries were socialist revolts. That being the case, it would seem that Catton is trying to tell us that the “best men” from a dozen German states were all socialists or communists, because that’s what took part in this revolution. Catton may not be aware of this–in which case you might do well to ask just what else he is unaware of. Either that or his worldview has no problem with socialists. I can’t say definitively either way.

He continues: These Germans were deadly serious about words which Americans took blithely for granted, words like liberty and like freedom and democracy.  It seems as if Catton is totally unaware of the fact that these words do not mean the same things to socialists and communists that they mean to us. When they use such terms they are not saying  what we say when we use them. Lots of ignorant people who eulogize the Forty-Eighters make this grave error. They do not understand how the Leftists use language to confuse their adversaries–and if we are not Leftists, then we are all their adversaries.

Catton says: They (the Forty-Eighters) made up a substantial part of the ground which the free-soil men had cultivated in the 1850s and when the war came they had seen the Union cause as their own cause, with freedom for the black man as one of its sure ultimate goals. This is yet another confirmation that the socialists/communists  saw the Union cause as their own. As for “freeing the slaves” their motives were hardly humanitarian no matter what they said. They were every bit as “racist” as those Southern folks they accused of “racism.” They felt that “freeing” the slaves would uproot the South and cause major problems for the Confederacy and so they endorsed it. The South was the part of the country that was the most Christian and conservative and the most opposed to the socialist designs of both the Establishment in Washington, New York and London.

As Catton wound down in this paragraph he stated:  Their leaders were men who had lost their fortunes and risked their necks, taking up arms for liberty in a land of kings who resisted change, and these leaders called the Germans to the colors as soon as Fort Sumter was bombarded.  Almost sounds as if Sumter was their signal to be up and moving!

What Catton seemed unable to grasp here is that the socialists/communists in Germany, as well as in the rest of Europe, did not fight for liberty for the common man, as we know it. They fought to centralize all the German states into one collectivist entity–with their friends in control of it! The same held true for what they sought to do all over Europe. They fought for collectivization–not liberty. And that’s what they fought for here also. They knew, at least at the leadership levels, where Lincoln was coming from and they knew they had a shot at doing here what they had failed to do in Europe, because they had a leader in Washington that agreed with them!

Until we learn to get this history straight we will continue to make the same stupid errors that we have seen, purposely or otherwise, for the last 150 years. Unfortunately, authors like Mr. Catton who end up glorifying socialists and communists don’t help us much!

1 thought on “Why I Couldn’t Agree With Bruce Catton

  1. Why I Could Not Agree With Bruce Catton
    Revised History https://revisedhistory.wordpress.com/
    By Al Benson, Jr.
    Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America
    Posted on March 7, 2018

    (Why I too couldn’t agree with Bruce Catton’s vision of American history! My comments are in brackets. See my Website at http://albarrs.wix.com/usandfamilyhistory–Al Barrs)

    Over the years I have read a bit of “Civil War” history from a lot of authors with divergent opinions on many things. Somehow, though, Bruce Catton’s view of the War was just not one I could get comfortable with. It was sort of like James M. McPherson’s view of the War, and you all know who he was. If you ever read anything I wrote about the War you will recall I couldn’t get comfortable with McPherson’s worldview regarding the War and the reasons for it either. And while McPherson’s books have often been cited on the World Socialist Website in the past, I couldn’t find anything in that regard about Bruce Catton.

    However, McPherson’s and Catton’s views appear quite similar when it comes to the notorious Forty-Eighters that Donnie Kennedy and I wrote about in Lincoln’s Marxists.

    A friend in New Jersey recently sent me a paragraph out of Catton’s The Army of the Potomac: Glory Road, from page 172 of the book. This is one I had not read, and it probably explains why I am glad I did not make the effort. Even when you research history, there are times when you can only stand so much propaganda and, though he probably did not intend to do it, that’s exactly what Mr. Catton gave us in this instance. I will comment here on some of what he said in this paragraph.

    Catton started out with: The nation inherited something rich and strange when the German revolutionary movement broke up in blood and proscription lists, with the best men of a dozen German states hastening to America. The 1848 revolts in Germany and several other European countries were socialist revolts. That being the case, it would seem that Catton is trying to tell us that the “best men” from a dozen German states were all socialists or communists, because that’s what took part in this revolution. Catton may not be aware of this–in which case you might do well to ask just what else he is unaware of. Either that or his worldview has no problem with socialists. I can’t say definitively either way.

    He continues: These Germans were deadly serious about words which Americans took blithely for granted, words like liberty and like freedom and democracy.

    It seems as if Catton is totally unaware of the fact that these words do not mean the same things to socialists and communists that they mean to us (Americans). When they use such terms they are not saying what we say when we use them. Lots of ignorant people who eulogize the Forty-Eighters make this grave error. They do not understand how the Leftists use language to confuse their adversaries–and if we are not Leftists, then we are all their adversaries. (That’s a primary trait of Liberal Socialist Marxists! They use, as Lincoln did, deflective rhetoric, propaganda, deceptive code words and outright lies to further their ideological revisionist activities.–Al Barrs)

    Catton says: They [the Forty-Eighters] made up a substantial part of the ground which the free-soil men had cultivated in the 1850s and when the war came they had seen the Union cause as their own cause, with freedom for the Black man as one of its sure ultimate goals. (That’s outright bullshit! Even Abraham Lincoln didn’t care about Blacks until he realized that he was going to lose his Tariff War. Then he used Blacks (Slaves) as a weapon to rally his military and base. Remember Lincoln had only won his 1860 presidential election with a scant 39% of the popular vote–that did not make Lincoln a strong nor capable President!–Al Barrs)

    “In 1858, Lincoln said, ‘…I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the White and Black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality’.”

    “On August 14, 1862, Lincoln invited free Black ministers to the White House to have a conversation. Lincoln did not hesitate to attempt to convince them of their inferiority when he candidly said the following: ‘You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffers very greatly, many of them, by living among us, while ours suffers from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated’.”

    “In his 1858 debate with Sen. Steven Douglas, Lincoln maintained, ‘And inasmuch as they (Whites and Blacks) cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the White race’.”

    “Lincoln was no supporter of racial equality! In fact, while debating Douglas in 1858, Lincoln declared the following: ‘I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the White and Black races’.”

    “Lincoln said, ‘I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery (It was very congenial of Lincoln to declare that he “had no inclination to interfere with the institution of slavery” because he had no power, but the gun, to take any action, except try to pass an Amendment, which neither Lincoln nor any politician in his new Republican Party introduced a bill to free all slaves before 1868 following Lincoln’s War. Lincoln knew that the Institution of Slavery was enshrined in the U.S. Constitution!–Al Barrs) in the states where it exists.’ (The Institution of Slavery existed at one time or the other in all thirteen colonies and all states of the United States!–Al Barrs) Lincoln continued by saying, “I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.’ (That was one of Lincoln’s rare truths, he had no lawful right to interfere with the Institution of Slavery in the United States of America.”–Al Barrs)

    “(Lincoln was called ‘Honest Abe’ because all who knew him called him that because he almost never told the truth about anything!–Al Barrs) Lincoln, in 1858, remarked, ‘I have never had the least apprehension that I or my friends would marry Negroes if there was no law to keep them from it, but as Judge Douglas and his friends seem to be in great apprehension that they might, if there were no law to keep them from it, I give him the most solemn pledge that I will to the very last stand by the law of this State, which forbids the marrying of White people with Negroes’.

    “Lincoln was not necessarily against the expansion of slavery! (Lincoln was against the expansion of agriculture, but only because he did not understand agriculture in the U.S.A. The South had become a productive and wealthy region because of its capability to grow non-perishable crops, such as tobacco, cotton and other products which could be shipped to eager foreign markets. The North had attempted to establish an agriculture region but had failed because the only agriculture products they could successfully grow was perishable crops, which could not be shipped overseas because the trip was too grains and vegetables and these by necessity had to be sold locally. The weather and soil was not suited to growing quality tobacco and cotton, the most lucrative non-perishable crops. And, the new western territories and later states could only grow grains, mostly wheat, and Cyrus McCormick had already invented the ‘Reaper’ in 1831, which meant that large numbers of untrained laborers were not needed. Southern agriculturists supported agriculture mechanization and understood that they would be able to reduce the numbers of slaves needed to operate plantations and farms as time went on and eventually to end the use of slaves in agriculture. It was estimated that the institution of slavery in the south would have ended because of agriculture mechanization with 20 years of 1860!–Al Barrs) But, Lincoln only had one primary request: Whites and Black could not mix in the new land. (That ‘new land’ was states being carved out of the 1803 Louisiana Territory purchase.–Al Barrs) When addressing the Dred Scott Decision of 1857, Lincoln said the following: ‘There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all White people to the idea of indiscriminate amalgamation of the White and Black races … A separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation, but as an immediate separation is impossible, the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together. If White and Black people never get together in Kansas, they will never mix blood in Kansas…”

    “Lincoln’s Position on the Threat of Biracial People on American Society
    Lincoln believed that Black people living in close proximity to White people would ruin the image of the pure White family that he found ideal. He felt the birth of mixed race children would cause family life to ‘collapse’. He said, “Our republican system of government was meant for a homogeneous people. As long as Blacks continue to live with the Whites they constitute a threat to the national life. Family life may also collapse and the increase of mixed breed bastards may someday challenge the supremacy of the White man.”

    This is yet another confirmation that the socialists/communists saw the Union cause as their own. As for “freeing the slaves” their motives were hardly humanitarian no matter what they said. (When the North came to their senses and admitted that tobacco and cotton could not successfully be grown in the north that had a huge impact on the large numbers of slaves many northern farmers owned. But, instead of “emancipating” their slaves they loaded them on northeastern slave trader ships and transported them to the South, Central America, South America and the Caribbean Island nations and sold them for huge profits–they were not a benevolent population.–Al Barrs) They were every bit as “racist” as those Southern folks they accused of “racism”. They felt that “freeing” the slaves would uproot the South and cause major problems for the Confederacy and so they endorsed it. The South was the part of the country that was the most Christian and conservative and the most opposed to the socialist designs of both the Establishment in Washington, D.C., New York City and London.

    As Catton wound down in this paragraph he stated: Their leaders were men who had lost their fortunes and risked their necks, taking up arms for liberty in a land of kings who resisted change, and these leaders called the Germans to the colors as soon as Fort Sumter was bombarded. Almost sounds as if Sumter was their signal to be up and moving! (There is much more to the “Fort Sumter” and Fort Pickens story than socialist Marxists have penned! See “Fort Sumter Plot” at my Website http://albarrs.wix.com/usandfamilyhistory–Al Barrs)

    What Catton seemed unable to grasp here is that the socialists/communists in Germany, as well as in the rest of Europe, did not fight for liberty for the common man, as we know it. They fought to centralize all the German states into one collectivist (Socialism) entity–with their friends in control of it! The same held true for what they sought to do all over Europe. They fought for collectivization–not liberty. And that’s what they fought for in America also. They knew, at least at the leadership levels, where Lincoln was coming from and they knew they had a shot at doing here what they had failed to do in Europe, because they had a leader in Washington City that agreed with them!

    Until we learn to get this history straight we will continue to make the same stupid errors that we have seen, purposely or otherwise, for the last 150 years. Unfortunately, authors like Mr. Catton who end up glorifying socialists and communists don’t help us much! (That’s why I have been pursuing period documents, which are the only historic information anyone interested in the truth of American and our leaders’ history they can rely on. I am proud of my sixty some years of researching TRUE AMERICAN HISTORY using period documents!–Al Barrs)

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